As the scale of global habitat loss becomes clear, we ask the experts how we can answer nature’s distress call
In the run-up to COP26, there has rightly been much focus on the climate crisis and the urgent actions needed to avoid the worst impacts on humanity. But there is a parallel and related threat to humankind that deserves our equal attention: the unprecedented loss of biodiversity. We will explore biodiversity loss and seek expert opinions to inform the debate on the potential solutions, including rewilding, in our upcoming Green Dialogues webinar on rewilding the city, on 7 October.
What is the biodiversity crisis?
Scientists have been warning for decades that we are currently living through the sixth mass extinction event in the Earth’s history, and figures recently published by WWF in its Living Planet Report estimate that two-thirds of the world’s wildlife has been lost in the last 50 years, at an accelerating rate. Both this and the UN’s 2019 report are clear that human activity is the cause of this biodiversity crisis. Population growth and an explosion in mass consumerism are responsible for more species being threatened with global extinction than ever before.
The assault on biodiversity by human activity is multifaceted. The main causes are habitat destruction through industrial resource extraction or urban development; over-exploitation of natural resources; and chemical pollution via excessive use of pesticides.
Without urgent action, there is a risk that we will lose half of all of Earth’s species forever, with huge implications for human life. Losing so much of the biological system that powers life on this planet has the potential to disrupt our food supplies, our health and our economies. It’s a dismaying prospect, but it’s not too late to recover if we act now.
Is rewilding the solution?
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity published a draft proposal earlier this year to protect a third of the world’s oceans and land by 2030, to conserve and restore ecosystems and wildlife that human survival depends upon. As a major UN biodiversity conference is planned for next year, countries are expected to commit to actions to protect the natural world, in a similar way to the Paris Agreement of 2015 that saw countries committing to actions on climate change.
Experts worldwide have proposed rewilding: the intentional restoration of natural ecosystems, as a major part of the solution, along with the reduction of invasive species and addressing pollution. Some of this restorative action is already happening through the dedicated work of organisations such as Rewilding Europe, which aims to create at least ten large rewilded landscapes across Europe, and The Global Rewilding Alliance that has projects across 70 countries. It is likely that the work of many organisations focusing on conserving and enhancing biodiversity will become increasingly important as collective action is taken to tackle the biodiversity crisis.
“Can we rewild land in our inner cities?”
Given the success of rewilding efforts in rural areas, RSK wants to lead the debate on the interactions between the natural and urban environments in the context of the biodiversity crisis. On 7 October, join us for the next webinar in the Green Dialogues series titled “Can we rewild land in our inner cities?”, in which we will seek the opinions and expertise of leaders in the rewilding movement: Stephanie Wray, Managing Director of RSK Wilding, Sabine Hoefnagel, Board Member of Rewilding Europe, Dusty Gedge, President of the European Federation of Green Roof Associations and Elliot McCandless, Communications Manager of Beaver Trust.
In the webinar, we will discuss the challenges and benefits of rewilding high-density cities. How exactly would rewilding a city work? How would urban rewilding enhance the wellbeing of residents? Just how well can natural ecosystems function in the built environment of a high-density city? Where are the best places for rewilding, both in the UK and around the world, to prevent further biodiversity loss?
We have commissioned a report on rewilding in the UK that will be published alongside the webinar to further this debate. By sharing valuable knowledge, we believe we can create a sustainable urban ecology that complements the efforts under way in the countryside. By working together and sharing knowledge, we can support initiatives to help tackle the biodiversity crisis and answer nature’s distress call.
Sign up for our Green Dialogues webinar here.