How Biodiversity Impacts Climate Change
The Climate Clock in NYC is a widely-known symbol of climate change— a giant, ticking clock installed early in 2020 in the middle of the city showed just over 7 remaining years, urging millions to pay attention to what will soon be irreversible damage. We can expect to experience such damages in the form of rising global temperatures, the loss of biodiversity, rising sea levels, heat waves and long periods of drought, and more frequent and intense hurricanes – and these are just a few of the many. The climate crisis is a topic that demands our attention.
Biodiversity – a topic we have yet to explore on the blog, but one that is so very critical to the health of our planet – is the variety and variability of an ecosystem. You’re probably thinking, what does that mean? When referencing “biodiversity” we’re referencing the number of plant, animal, microorganism species, and if applicable, how many variations of each species there are. Each of these intersect with one another in some way to maintain balance in the ecosystem – making biodiversity critical to the sustainability of Earth over time. In other words: the loss of biodiversity can threaten the longevity of an ecosystem.
Why is Biodiversity Important?
Human reliance on pollinator animals for food (and vice versa) is an example of a symbiotic relationship in our environment. When humans plant pollinator plants, it strengthens the bee population, which in turn provides a pollination system for our food supplies.
Humans have become just as integral to the balance of our ecosystems as any other species— and we’re likely the only species that can save biodiversity. Our behaviors, such as deforestation, overconsumption of resources, and production of excess carbon emissions have proven to be unsustainable. These behaviors lead to habitat loss, resource depletion, and rising temperatures. Only we can achieve the balance needed to preserve biodiversity and fight climate change.
With the bee population in danger, our food systems are at risk as well. Trends of guerrilla gardening, popularly called “seed bombing” by user @sfinbloom, have popped up all over the social platform, TikTok. This method usually consists of a wildflower seed mix and utilizes any possible free space to maximize the prevalence of pollinator plants in an attempt to save the bees. Seed bombing increases the number of native pollinators in human-dense areas where they would otherwise be scarce. Seed bombing is wonderful for bees, soil, and communities.
Another important aspect of biodiversity is carbon sequestration; this is the process of taking excess carbon dioxide and turning it into oxygen. The report cited above by UC Davis states that “about 25 percent of global carbon emissions are captured by plant-rich landscapes such as forests, grasslands and rangelands.” Forests play a huge role in preventing carbon from going into the atmosphere! As consumers, we can be more active about holding companies who cause or fund deforestation accountable.
Important things we can do to increase biodiversity as consumers & community members are urging companies to prevent deforestation, planting native plants in your garden, and informing your community about the importance of biodiversity!
The Environmental Injustice of Low Biodiversity
Climate Change is not just an environmental issue – but also a social issue disproportionately impacting disadvantaged and marginalized members of our community.
Through housing inequality and hazardous facility development being more prominent in predominantly-black neighborhoods, communities of color are a large factor in the climate crisis. Through increased environmental toxins & carbon emissions paired with the lack of trees, disproportionate health outcomes are exacerbated in these neighborhoods. Environmental justice— addressing environmental racism and distributing environmental risks and rewards evenly— is extremely important to consider in conversations surrounding the climate crisis.
Further, an NPR study in Baltimore showed that in low-income communities, lack of trees and excess blacktop lead to temperatures ten degrees hotter at the coolest compared the predominantly white, upper-class communities nearby. With houses often being deprived by landlords of proper cooling mechanisms, his has led to extreme health disparities, with higher diagnoses of asthma, COPD, and heart disease.
Now back to guerrilla gardening— activists throughout the years, most famously Liz Christy, popularized utilizing the small gardening patches allocated on their sidewalks to grow large trees, native pollinators, etc. This method can be used to lower temperatures in non-white neighborhoods, increase air quality, and maximize pollinator plants for bees— each improving the social determinants of health for Black communities.
Intersecting with Colonialism
Isaias Hernandez, the environmental educator running social media accounts @queerbrownvegan speaks about the concept of Biocultural Conservation, stating, “Western conservation has often tried to separate humans and ecosystems as separate, deeming humans responsible for destroying ecosystems. In reality, many Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities have had intrinsic relationships caring for the land” (via @queerbrownvegan on Instagram).
Economic advancement was the key factor leading to deforestation, overconsumption, and exponentially increased carbon emissions. Socioeconomic status and holding or lacking privileges led to where your family lives and how the climate crisis now effects your household. Access to higher education, high-wage jobs, and upper-class neighborhoods mean that you have many environmental advantages over your neighbors.
The systems we have set up leave individuals without access and privileges are left to bear most of the weight of climate change. It is important to include the experiences of neglected communities in climate discussions and become intersectional environmentalists— something that Isaias speaks about often.
Separating humans from the ecosystem is a colonialist framework, and separates the role of humans in the climate crisis— especially what humans who hold lots of privilege have done to those who do not. We can work through this framework and once again live in balance with the environment we are in. Decolonizing environmental systems as well as centering BIPOC voices is key in fighting against the climate crisis.
by Logan Bryant