The Earth contains an incredible variety of life, from the diversity of species to the range of genetic differences within species. Biodiversity is the basis of life on Earth. It is also essential for our agriculture and food systems. Biodiversity loss, however, is a crisis occurring at an unbelievable rate. Earth’s rapid loss of biodiversity threatens both natural ecosystems and food and agricultural systems.
Renowned scientist, environmentalist, and activist Vandana Shiva says, “The failure to understand biodiversity and its many functions is at the root of the impoverishment of nature and culture.”
The WWF Living Planet Report 2020 presents a frightening picture of the rate of biodiversity loss. The authors write, “Biodiversity is fundamental to human life on Earth, and the evidence is unequivocal – it is being destroyed by us at a rate unprecedented in history […] Seventy-five percent of the Earth’s ice-free land surface has already been significantly altered, most of the oceans are polluted, and more than 85% of the area of wetlands has been lost.”
As Paul C. West of Project Drawdown describes, the crises of climate change and biodiversity are not independent. The issues can be tackled simultaneously, with solutions benefitting both the climate and biodiversity. Food systems play a central role in biodiversity loss in more ways than one. While industrial agriculture is partly responsible for biodiversity loss, healthy, resilient, regenerative, and diverse food systems can contribute to making solutions possible.
It is important to recognize that the crisis of biodiversity loss is inextricable from colonization, both past and present. The current crisis has been driven by colonial violence against Indigenous peoples and territories, the dispossession of Indigenous land, and the erasure of traditional ecological knowledge and practices.
While Indigenous peoples comprise only 5% of the world’s population, they protect 80% of the remaining biodiversity on Earth.
As Indigenous Climate Action asserts, the rights and knowledge systems of Indigenous peoples are critical for developing climate solutions. Recognition of and support for their efforts in protecting biodiversity is too often ignored. Acknowledgement and respect for Indigenous land rights and aspirations for their own land agency must be at the forefront of solutions to biodiversity loss.