Andy Lester, Head of Conservation, looks at the recent UN paper, unpacks what this means for the planet, and suggests how we can respond as Christians.
On the 6th May 2019, a summary of The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a land-mark UN paper, was released. In the report, which is expected to be published in its entirety later this year, 145 leading scientists from 50 countries share their findings on the rapid decline in biodiversity.
The paper makes for stark reading. Of the 8.5 million species on this planet, 1 million could be lost in our lifetimes. There are indications that an unparalleled extinction of species is already upon us, and collective action is required at every level to avert a catastrophe of truly Biblical proportions.
The Chief Executive of the intergovernmental panel reporting on biodiversity, Sir Robert Watson, warns that we are rapidly “eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life”.
Here in the UK, the impact of the loss of species over the past decades is most obvious when we look at birdlife. In the 1950’s the British Trust for Ornithology estimated there were about 80 million birds in the UK. In 2018 the revised figure was 40 million. In other words, nearly 580,000 birds have vanished every year. Habitat destruction, climate change, plastic in sea bird colonies, flooding of nest sites, disturbance by dogs, shooting of migrants, destruction of wintering sites – the list of causes is endless.
It is not just the Silent Spring of Rachel Carson’s prophetic 1962 classic that is now the big worry – but an entirely silent world; where our existence itself is threatened by the undermining of the building blocks of life on which we depend for food, water and ultimately survival.
So where do we go from here? There are four key actions we can all take that will make a considerable difference:
PRAY: The Bible is clear that prayer can move mountains. Since the beginning of time, people with nowhere else to go have got on their knees and cried out to God. Such are the times we are in – can we encourage all of you to pray regularly for the current crisis and for those on the front line tackling it?
PLAY: Get out there and enjoy nature. The more we collectively celebrate what we have, the harder it becomes for others to say it doesn’t matter.
PROTECT: Speak up for nature, raising your voice with others through campaigns, to tell politicians and business, locally, nationally and internationally, what really matters to us.
PAY: Consider how you can use your time or money to support environmental charities working for nature and influencing others – like churches, business or government – to do so.
There is still hope and opportunities for change, but time is pressing. Will you join us to protect the future of the planet?