Because we cannot afford not to.
Few people realise this but the biodiversity crisis will be even more disruptive than the climate crisis. While the climate eventually can evolve back to balance, species lost, cannot return. And this has serious consequences on many levels that matter to us. As the web of life is unravelling and species are going extinct, so is the health and resilience of our life support system, and in tandem, our own health and ability to deal with the turbulent times ahead.
BIODIVERSITY SUSTAINS HEALTH
So, why is biodiversity so important? First and foremost, biodiversity sustains health. That is because we humans are a product of nature. It is where we originated. Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that nature boosts our immune system and promotes our health. More than a 1000 scientific studies attest to this. For example, poor species diversity in our living environments is linked to the occurrence and magnitude of allergies. In other words, healthy biodiverse ecosystems are vital for our health because we now know that the human body itself is an ecosystem. There are more non-human cells than human cells living in and on our bodies. We call this our microbiome and it is an essential part of our own life support system. In short, we are an ecosystem and we are part of an ecosystem. This matters because it takes an ecosystem to sustain an ecosystem. If we do not halt and reverse species extinction, we will pay the heart-breaking price of seeing the health of ourselves and our loved ones deteriorate. Like Jay Harman, CEO of Pax Scientific, says: "If it is not sustainable it is terminal".
From Mother Earth’s point of view, there is no distinction between nature and cities. Everything is Nature.
The city of the future houses a wide variety of non-human life as well. Humans have learned to give nature the space to co-create cities instead of 'controlling and micro-managing' nature. Reverence for and co-existence with wildlife is the standard because healthy humans means healthy ecosystems. To achieve that, city governance is organised as a Zoöp, where non-human life is represented in the decision making processes and where nature is granted rights. Cities returned to nature become the best places to live as anxiety, stress & sickness dwindle while creativity and cognitive abilities are boosted. Reworked image of Midjourney (c)Centre4NI.
BIODIVERSITY INCREASES RESILIENCE
Secondly, we have, so far, been ineffective to halt climate disruption. This means that the weather extremes that our environments are going to have to deal with are getting extremer. Evidence of this can already be seen in the increase in extreme droughts, floods, fires, etc. This puts even more stress on the ecosystems that support us and our non-human relatives that share this planet with us. We know from science that high biodiversity ecosystems are better equipped to deal with disruption and extremes. The robustness and adaptability of species rich environments is higher so they can bounce back from major upheaval, whereas degraded ecosystems with poor species richness cannot. They collapse and thus no longer share their services which make up our life support system.
BIODIVERSITY IS VITAL FOR INTEGRATION & COMPLEXITY
Without (bio)diversity there can be neither higher level integration nor complexity. To go back to the human ecosystem: it is because of the collaboration with benign non-human species that our microbiome is able to digest such a wide variety of food. It is because of this capacity that we have become increasingly able to deal with complexity and higher level integration. In fact, evidence is mounting that our cognitive evolution has been sparked by fungi. It is because of the multispecies cooperation that ecosystems are able to deal with change and disruption, that they are able to become more than the sum of their parts and produce the ecosystem services on which life depends.
BIODIVERSITY IS THE ANTIDOTE TO THE GREAT UNRAVELLING
Communities with rich biodiversity, meaning high genetic and species diversity, are better able to avert extinction cascades than simple communities with low species richness. That is because in poor communities, the disappearance of one species can trigger a chain of events, or cascade, where one loss leads to another and another and another. In species-rich and biodiverse ecosystems, however, chances are that something else will take over its role. The lesson to be learned from this is that biodiversity inoculates against extinction cascades, because it increases resilience and robustness.
BIODIVERSITY IS ESSENTIAL FOR REGENERATION
To sum things up, biodiversity is simply essential for regeneration. Any given system that becomes more and can do more —which is what regeneration is about— depends on its elements coming together in new relationships, taking up new roles. Regeneration is a process of renewal that leads to a higher level of health, vitality and viability. And since biodiversity is crucial for health, this means that regeneration depends on biodiversity. Just imagine what would happen to your body if the bacteria of your microbiome involved in digestion go extinct. Biodiversity therefore does not only immunize against extinction cascades, it allows for increased capacity of integration and complexity, allowing the system to do more and become more.
According to the Living Planet Report 2022, biodiversity has plummeted with 69% the past 50 years.
So, frankly, we cannot afford to not rewild our cities.
Let's invite the wild back in.
Links to scientific studies in this book.
Learn more about the Zoöp model here.
Learn more about the ways in which species support our planet in this TEDx-talk.