21 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day: Protect Biodiversity

Each day of the month of April leading up to Earth Day (April 22), I will be offering a suggestion for how we can really honor the Earth this year. This list will go beyond the usual suggestions to change your light bulbs and take shorter showers. Instead, the focus is on collective action working toward radical social change.

We are in the middle of the Sixth Great Extinction of animals and plants, the highest rate of species die-offs since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.  Extinction is a natural phenomenon which occurs at a natural rate of about one to five species per year.  Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the the natural rate—literally dozens of species are going extinct every day.

And unlike past mass extinctions, which were caused by asteroids, volcanoes, and natural climate change, the Sixth Great Extinction is almost entirely caused by humans—human-caused habitat loss, introduction of exotic species, and global warming.

It is  a fundamental principle of biological evolution that diversity is the key to strong ecosystems.  Human beings cannot survive apart from the ecosystems of which we are a part.  In addition to destabilizing ecosystems, the loss of biodiversity has even more immediate impacts on human beings.  For example, the species most vulnerable to extinction are those that buffer humans against the transmission of infectious disease.  Loss of biodiversity also means loss of available sources for the production of medicines and the discovery of new drugs.

So this Earth Day, one thing you can do to honor the Earth is help fight the Sixth Great Extinction.  Here’s where you can start:

Go to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service endangered species page to find out what species are endangered in your state.  Click on a species to learn more about it and the efforts to save it.  Then contact your regional Fish & Wildlife representative to find out what you can do.

There’s also specific things you can do now, like helping to create habitat for Monarchs by planting Milkweed.  You can oppose the use of neonicotinoid pesticides which cause Colony Collapse Disorder in honey bees, and here are 10 more things you can do to help save the bees.  You can also oppose monoculture farming.

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