"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it is attached to the rest of the world." - John Muir
In a resolution passed yesterday 28th July at UN headquarters in New York City, the General Assembly said climate change and environmental degradation were some of the most pressing threats to humanity's future. It called on states to step up efforts to ensure their people have access to a "clean, healthy and sustainable environment."
And earlier in the year, a landmark decision saw the United Nations Environment Assembly formally recognise nature-based solutions. Mitigating the climate crises by harnessing the incredible laws of nature is the most effective tool we have, and the restoration of our ecosystems will rely on us humans evolving in harmony with the planet.
70% of Planet Earth is covered in water and our oceans play a significant role in restoring and preserving the planet as a natural bioengineering blue sink. The value of global marine ecosystem services is estimated between $3-6 trillion, with more than 3 million people directly relying on oceans for their livelihoods. Despite marine ecosystems being proven to sequester huge amounts of carbon, dampening wave energy up to 70%, providing food security and enhancing water purity, only 7% of our oceans are currently protected. The UN OCEANS’s 2030 initiative will hopefully increase to 30% by 2030, with the implementation of marine protected areas, imperative for the success of marine nature-based solutions.
Although the agricultural and industrial revolutions have seen humans take what we need with little regard to the consequences, nature continues to demonstrate extreme resilience, exploding back to life when left alone. Our natural world is fantastically complex and interlinked. Peter Wohlleben’s book “The Hidden Life of Trees” showcases the intricate nature of nature's ability to communicate and connect. This connectivity is not limited to species, but throughout nature. One healthy habitat feeds another, creating a healthy and resilient ecosystem. This has been witnessed with the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone Park, which resulted in a trophic cascade throughout the entire ecosystem. As a result, beaver populations increased and there was a comeback of aspen and vegetation.
What makes a thriving ecosystem? Shifting baselines conceptualises the acceptance of shifting norms for existing ecosystems. Over generations, our perceptions of what is considered to be healthy and thriving have changed. What is an abundance of fish to us is a fraction of what our grandparents witnessed. This concept is dangerous as it increases our tolerance to environmental degradation. However, the mere acknowledgment of shifting baselines is a step in the right direction. In refusing to accept the new norm, educating younger generations and in allowing environmental restoration, we can avoid continuing degradation of the planet.
Nature-based solutions open the door for innovative and technological growth, a market that is estimated to be worth $28.96 billion by 2028. Environmental monitoring helps collect data, monitor environmental restoration, identify patterns, and quantify progress. It also helps protect against detrimental practices - illegal fishing, deforestation, and pollutant levels in terrestrial and water environments. Diligent and effective monitoring we give the environment the catalyst it needs to start healing. Once that ball starts rolling, nature takes over once again, exploding once again to its natural state and beauty.
Our Nature Works Podcast provides insight into our relationship with the natural world, and how we can go about improving it through a series of conversations with extraordinary people, working to protect, regenerate and better understand the natural world and nature-based solutions. To learn more, visit https://natureworks.tv/
Grace Smith, Director of Communications and Rebecca Whitbourn
Laconic Infrastructure Partners