“Humanity does not weave the web of life. We are merely a strand of it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”
– Chief Seattle of the Suquamish and Duwamish Tribes in Washington State
Step outside for a moment. What do you see? Green grass? Tall trees? Buzzing bees? Vibrant flowers? How many different plants and animals surround you? All of these things make up biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth. Ecosystems require an interconnectivity between diverse species. From butterflies to alligators, every single species plays a role in their health and balance of. Biodiversity does not just keep our ecosystems healthy, it also keeps us and our planet healthy by providing food, resources and climate resilience. Let’s start to unpack these ideas.
There are three levels of biodiversity: genetic diversity, species diversity, and ecosystem diversity. Genetic diversity is the diversity between individuals within a species. A high diversity of genes makes species more adaptable and resistant to disease. Species diversity rises with the total number of species within a habitat. The more species in a habitat, the stronger that habitat will be when faced with challenges like destruction. Ecosystem diversity rises with the number of different habitats within a single ecosystem. Since the vast majority of Earth’s carbon is stored in natural ecosystems like forests and grasslands, greater ecosystem diversity means greater climate resilience. Together, these create the rich, delicate complexity and diversity of life on Earth.
Why does extinction matter? Healthy ecosystems provide humans with certain services too often taken for granted. For example, mangrove forests that line coastal regions act as a natural barrier against flooding. A 2020 study found that if current mangrove populations were diminished worldwide, 29% more land, 28% more people, and 9% more property would be damaged every year. As humans have always relied on nature for food, water, medicines, and materials — and continue to — reducing biodiversity limits the resources which keep us alive. Let’s work together in all corners of our planet across all of our communities to protect our planet and shared future!
What’s happening now? We are experiencing a mass extinction with dozens of species going extinct every day. An estimated minimum of 38,500 species are currently under threat of extinction. Unlike previous mass extinctions, the current loss of biodiversity is caused almost entirely by human activity. Deforestation, urban expansion, the spread of invasive species, and effects of climate change all reduce Earth’s biodiversity. Human activities directly disrupt nature through tourism, transportation, dams, and much more. But there is good news. Since human habits are a major contributor to biodiversity loss, changing those habits means we can have a profound positive impact on the world around us.
How can we make change? Preserving land, establishing protected areas, limiting tourism, water conservation, reducing specific threats, and shifting away from industrial agriculture are good places to start. Companies like our partner Nature’s Path outline how organic farmers protect biodiversity through practices like protecting soil health, maintaining diversity, retaining wetlands, and preserving organic seeds. This is vital in reducing the harm caused by our current food systems. Organizations like our partners Friends of the Earth and Re:Wild Your Campus lead critical efforts to help protect diverse ecological communities, including eliminating pollinator-toxic pesticides and herbicides to promote a safe environment for bees, butterflies, all species, people, and the planet.
Successful biodiversity projects often rely on the knowledge of Indigenous communities who recognize the importance of harmony between humans and nature. For example, in Northern California, the California Condor was recently reintroduced to its ecosystem. The condor was an apex predator (top of the food chain) in the region and its absence deeply harmed ecosystem biodiversity. On May 3, 2022, two were reintroduced to the region for the first time since 1892, a massive stride for protecting biodiversity and demonstrating that change is possible! According to the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe, Joseph L. James, “Condor reintroduction is a real life manifestation of our cultural commitment to restore and protect the planet for future generations.”
We can all help combat biodiversity loss ourselves by planting pollinator-friendly plants (especially native species), avoiding pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and shopping sustainably. You can even shape your garden or backyard to qualify as a wildlife-certified space.
With today’s challenge, we hope you gain an understanding of the breadth and magnitude of biodiversity. And with that, rise to assume your place in finding creative solutions to the climate crisis!
“Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature. Our food, our water, our health, our jobs – they all rely on the health of the planet’s ecosystems.” — Conservation International
Check out Conservation International’s video series “Nature Is Speaking” for insight into the many ecosystems that Earth’s species call home. Watch at least three videos.
In a short (100 word) response, share key takeaways. Which ecosystems are present where you live? What species live there? What major threats do they face?
Post a screenshot from one video on Instagram with a caption connecting it to #PGC2022. Use that hashtag and tag @TurningGreenOrg and @ConservationOrg in both the body and caption.
Upload a PDF Document with your short response and a screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, and school on your upload.
Although found almost everywhere, invasive species often have detrimental effects on biodiversity. While some may be minimal, others like the Asian Longhorned Beetle or Northern Snakehead wreak havoc on native habitats. It’s important to be informed about what invasive species are affecting your community — because even small actions, like reporting a sighting, can help mitigate negative impacts of those species.
Post your graphic on Instagram with your reflection as the caption. Be sure to tag@TurningGreenOrg and use #PGC2022, as always.
Upload a PDF Document of your graphic, reflection and screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, and school on your upload to be eligible to win.
Glyphosate is a toxic chemical threatening our world’s biodiversity and negatively impacting human health, and we can easily be exposed to it without even knowing. Countless schools, universities, and community parks use Roundup on green spaces, a weed killer made by Monsanto with glyphosate (a known human carcinogen) as the active ingredient. What can you do about this massive challenge to human and environmental health? More than you think! Let’s get started.
First, read articles here and here about the negative effects of glyphosate, the main ingredient in the pesticide Roundup. In addition, read this article highlighting the disproportionate amount of glyphosate in New York City communities of color. Then, get inspired by this piece about Turning Green heroes successfully banning glyphosate on the University of California campuses — and learn more about Re:Wild Your Campus (formerly Herbicide Free Campus!) Now, craft an awareness campaign focused on educating your community on the harms of glyphosate, as well as safe alternatives. Develop actionable steps a parks department or campus grounds office could take and how the community can get involved to make a difference.
Upload a PDF Document your response with photos and screenshots and post your picture on social media of your choice. Include your name (or team name), username, and school on your upload to be eligible to win.
Up to 10 Greener and 10 Greenest outstanding submissions will be selected as winners.
Each Greener Winner will receive:
Each Greenest Winner will receive: