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Biodiversity: An Introductory Video and a Chart of Industry's Impact
Amanda Reed, 14 Jul 10

The European Commission on the Environment's Biodiversity Campaign is a public outreach campaign to educate people about biodiversity. Their central message is "we are all in this together" so we need to act now and change our behavior to stop the current alarming rate of species loss; a worthy message and one that's likely familiar to Worldchanging readers. What the Biodiversity Campaign website does well is that it makes a basic introduction to biodiversity available to a wide audience; the content is available in 23 languages and the stories and recommended actions are targeted at both children and adults. For me, the most captivating part of the campaign comes from the "Biodiversity" video they produced, a haunting and beautiful piece that moves through a city connecting animals, plants and people together:

Music: Winter Family 'Garden' Sub Rosa/Volvox music

While the video above is more about a problem than a solution, I think it is a compelling way to communicate the issue of biodiversity and interconnectedness to a large audience, which in turn can perhaps spur greater action and interest in solutions. The trick though, is to grasp the large scope of the issue, and spur action at the right scale and speed.

The EU Commission's Biodiversity Campaign website tries to suggest actions for change in their 'what can you do' section, but most of the recommendations are too focused on small-scale individual actions. As the newly published graphic below shows, large-scale systems of industry are responsible for most of the environmental damage that stresses and destroys biodiversity worldwide. In order to truly tackle the large-scale problem of biodiversity loss, we need to make big changes in industry and business practices at a speed and scale that are much faster and farther reaching than individual actions like using mineral based sunscreen or planting flowers for bees.

Estimated environmental damages for the world's five major industry sectors. (via Yale University)

For more information and discussion about biodiversity I recommend reading these articles from the Worldchanging archives:

  • Biodiversity Triage and Frozen Zooz by Alex Steffen, 11 Nov 03: Alex explores what path or paths we should take to address biodiversity loss.
  • The Culture of Extinction by Alex Steffen, 18 Sep 04: Alex thinks about what it means to be living in the midst of the Sixth Extinction.
  • Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Scenarios by Jamais Cascio, 30 Mar 05: Jamais points out that most readings of the MEA report have seemed to miss that the listing of the ways in which we're harming the planet is not all the report contains and encourages readers to specifically check out chapter 5 for reminders that the future remains in our hands.
  • Biodiversity Farming and Restoration for Profit by Alex Steffen, 14 Apr 05: Alex grapples with mitigation as a conservation strategy and the efficacy of artificial replica ecosystems, and wonders what the future might look like if "we reimagined wilderness, not as a metaphysical category, but as a special kind of farm, a kind of farm which grew not crops, but biodiversity and ecosystem services?"
  • Biodiversity Meets the Bottom Line by Joel Makower, 26 Mar 06: Joel examines the unfolding of the field of hands-on knowledge on business biodiversity practices.

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Thanks for the heads up. Looking forward to discovering more about this European campaign.
FWIW, I'm about two-thirds of the way through UNEP's e-book and I'm liking it more & more = (it's got dozens of great and inspiring case studies : ) and wondering if you might like it, too. 
If so, I'd love to explore some ways we could help Students have some fun with it. Perhaps we can combine critical reviews of this e-book's content with a call for participation among Students to suggest themes for "serious games" derived from their study of biodiversity and ecosystem restoration.

Posted by: paul t. horan on 15 Jul 10

Are you supposed to be able to hear the words? I couldn't. Anyway, while I agree that the video is attractive to look at, I'm not sure it achieves any real impact. From a sparrow to me? I just don't find that realistic. Not least because although there has been a documented decline in house sparrows, I'm remembering the single dead bird (not a sparrow) at the beginning of the film, and wondering whether it is me that will be dead or the human species that will be extinct. I wasn't moved to act.

Posted by: Jeremy on 21 Jul 10

I think its great that this campaign is out, although I kind of agree that it could be more informative. I hadn't even thought about loss of biodiversity being an issue in our cities, given that it just seems to be one mass of humanity and sewer rats. I think the greater message is that, if we are first kicking all of these creatures out of our cities, then the impact of industrialism will soon kick them out of the world completely. I work on a project for an island in Panama, Isla Palenque, that has an incredibly bio diverse 220 acre nature preserve. To think that places like this could be lost one species at a time, just like in our cities, is horrible. It is definitely time to come together as a human race and save the world and species we have left. That is why we are developing our island community with sustainability in mind from step one.

Posted by: Emily on 22 Jul 10

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