Populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians have, on average, declined by 60% between 1970 and 2014, the most recent year with available data.
The Earth is estimated to have lost about half of its shallow water corals in the past 30 years.
A fifth of the Amazon has disappeared in just 50 years.
Globally, nature provides services worth around $125 trillion a year, while also helping ensure the supply of fresh air, clean water, food, energy, medicines, and much more.
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.’
Earth has lost 60 percent of its wildlife since 1970. (The Living Planet Report 2018)
60% – More than half!!
Four years ago I was writing –
Earth has lost ½ its wildlife in the past 40 years: More specifically: ‘in less than two human generations, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half’ The Living Planet Report 2014-WWF
…. how can we help?
Green Christian produced a new leaflet in Sept 2019 on this topic: Please download it and use it in your church
► What is Biodiversity?
Bio-diversity simply means the variety of life on earth’. Bio-diversity means our Life-Support Systems. e.g without bees, there would be little pollination and therefore few fruit.
Populations of wild animals are falling because of the following: (from WWF Living Planet report 2014)
► What are the main causes of actual species extinctions?
– (As opposed to decrease in population size-)
a) Habitat loss, b) Invasive species, c) Pollution.
► How many species exist in the world?
Low estimate: 12 million, but many species have not yet been discovered. Humans, other animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms all depend on each other.
► How many species are threatened?
Over 18,000 species are threatened with extinction (IUCN 2010): 1 in 3 amphibians, ½ of all freshwater turtles, 1 in 8 birds, 1 in 4 mammals, 1 in 5 plants. Extinction means the final, irrevocable disappearance of a species from the earth. It is possible that we are facing a major extinction event.
► What is the UK habitat loss in the last 60 years?
|Lowland peat bogs: down 95%||Lowland heathland: down 40%|
|Lowland wet grassland: down 60%||Species rich grassland hay meadows down 98%|
|Chalk downland: down 70%||Native pinewoods: down 70%|
Local authorities have set up Local Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs) to protect what is left of these habitats.
Without plants, life on Earth would cease to exist. Biodiversity is not just about different species; it includes variation within species. This genetic diversity enables a species to survive in face of adversity, such as pests, disease, drought and climate change. Kew Gardens’ Millennium Seed Bank Project is gathering and storing seeds from plants most at risk across the world.
Regulations restrict the sale of vegetable seeds to a few registered varieties. The Heritage Seed Library at Garden Organic exchanges UK seeds from 700 unregistered vegetables they are not allowed to sell. National fruit collections keep our genetic heritage safe: Brogdale in Kent grows 2,500 different apple varieties, plus pears, plums and soft fruit; Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate preserves the UK rhubarb collection.
‘The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon which he planted. In them the birds build their nests; the stork has her home in the fir trees.’ (Ps. 104:16-17)
In the last 20-30 years the numbers of UK farmland birds have declined by 42% and woodland birds by 15%. House sparrows and starlings are in serious decline. Others like the magpie, carrion crow and woodpigeon are on the increase. The loss of farmland birds was largely caused by:
effects of pesticides on the insects eaten by birds
loss of mixed farms with their range of habitats
change to autumn-sown crops from spring-sown
► Other animals
‘The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the badgers.’ (Ps. 104:18)
Examples of UK Extinctions since 1900: Exploding bombardier beetle 1928; Horned dung-beetle 1955; Burbot (a fish) 1972; Ivell’s sea-anemone 1983 (now globally extinct); Mouse-eared bat 1990; Essex emerald moth 1991
World Extinctions since 1900: Passenger Pigeon 1914; Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) 1936; Caribbean Monk Seal 1952; Golden Toad 1966; Javan Tiger c1980; Tecopa Pupfish 1973; Pyrenean Ibex 2000; Baiji Rover Dolphin 2006; Zanzibar Leopard 2012
► Sea Creatures
‘Yonder is the sea, great and wide, which teems with things innumerable.’ (Ps. 104:25)
We know more of the moon than we do of the deep mysterious oceans. Industrial fishing and fish farming are increasing. Fish stocks are plummeting, coral reefs are being destroyed by pollution, dynamite fishing, tourism and souvenir hunters. Non government organisations and campaigning groups have battled long and hard to protect large sea mammals.
10 Top Steps for Saving Wildlife
Write down any you might plan to do
- Encourage prayers & church services to include God’s earth, & people struggling to protect bio-diversity e.g. farmers, politicians, lawyers.
- Encourage your church to have a fund-raising event for a habitat conservation charity in GC’s 100 Churches Rainforest Fund Project. Raise £100 to save 1 acre of habitat under threat or buy 1 acre of rainforest – thus showing that respect for Creation is part of Godly living. greenchristian.org.uk/100churches
- Support conservation charities local, national and international, and actively support their campaigns.
- Ensure any savings are ethically invested and not invested in firms destroying wildlife, e.g. land grabs to buy and destroy forest.
- Manage your churchyard to benefit wildlife. Plan a
Nature Trail. Carry out a GC Church Wildlife Survey
- Grow old, rare fruit varieties from Brogdale.
- Garden organically, use peat-free compost, dig a
pond; leave wildlife habitats. Remove slabs of
Allow plants to seed in the autumn for birds
to feed. Tidy up later! Compost. Grow vegetables.
- Play nature games at Sunday School & Messy Church. Enable old people in care to go on trips in the outdoors. Walk outdoors yourself each day.
- Learn to identify and appreciate local wildlife
- Buy food that is ‘Wildlife friendly’. Go more vegan!
Why does bio-diversity matter to Christians?
‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.’ (Ps. 24:1)
Some would argue that the extinction of a dung beetle is insignificant or that extinctions are all part of God’s plan. Psalm 8 describes people as ‘rulers over the works of God’s hands’. Everything is ‘under their feet’ (v. 6). But in the first and last verses the Psalmist proclaims that the earth is God’s. We are accountable to God for how we use other creatures. John Calvin (d. 1564) wrote in his commentary on Genesis, ‘The custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the condition that, being content with the frugal and moderate use of them, we should take care of what shall remain.’
No species lives in isolation. For example birds depend on a variety of other species to provide their food — from grasshoppers and seeds to fish and rabbits. We need biological resources to feed and clothe us and provide housing, medicines and spiritual nourishment. But according to the Bible all creatures are good in themselves. They are not just for our use. All creation from wild animals and cattle to fruit trees and people praise God by living their natural lives. As Pope John Paul II said, ‘Nature should be respected and preserved so that by establishing a healthy proper relationship with it, people can be led to contemplate the mystery of God’s greatness and love.’
Archbishop Rowan Williams has said: ‘The Earth is a gift of God to all creatures, and clearly our human duty is to appreciate it, cherish it, celebrate it, take care of it, and share it, not just amongst ourselves but all creatures of God, present and future.’
13. The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. Here I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share. Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest. Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.
To think about… Churchyards often contain the last ‘unimproved’ grassland in an area. Some parishioners want to manage part of the churchyard as a meadow, cutting the grass only late in summer so wildflowers can seed, and to encourage Sunday School children to observe wildlife. Others like the churchyard to look tidy with short grass and think children wandering around graves looking for insects and lichens is disrespectful to the dead. What do you think?
Global & national action plans
Along with over 100 other countries the UK signed the Convention on Biological Diversity at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. This led to the establishment of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) which aims to maintain and enhance bio-diversity. We are now in the United Nations Decade of Biodiversity 2011 – 2020
Useful website for news: http://bio-diverse.org
Useful book: The Death of Life: Extinction is Forever by Sean McDonagh
Organisations active in this area:
A Rocha; Biodiversity Action Plan, Brogdale Horticultural Trust; Living Churchyards Project; The Wildlife Trusts; Natural England; Heritage Seed Library (Garden Organic) Kew Gardens Millennium Seed Project; RSPB; Plantlife International; WWF; United Nations Environment Programme; IUCN