World Wildlife Day

How We Can Sustain All Life on Earth

World Wildlife Day

World Wildlife Day (March 3rd) presents an important opportunity for us to raise environmental awareness and to consider our responsibilities in protecting the surrounding ecosystems, and the diverse plant and animal species that inhabit them.

The theme for this year's World Wildlife Day is "sustaining all life on Earth". It has only been a few months since the start of the year but we have already witnessed a number of incidents and trends that are contributing to the detriment of wildlife species.

We gathered responses from seven experts and leaders within the conservation comumunity to get their take and suggestions on this year's theme. Here were some key takeaways that the contributors had in common:

Collective Impact: the smallest of changes to our everyday lifestyle can have a positive impact, especially if we view this from a collective perspective. Also think about the encouragement that your own sustainability efforts would provide to your community.

Balance: viewing the ecosystem as a holistic entity. Understanding the importance that each species, especially the keystone species, play in maintaining the ecological balance and diversity. The loss of one species can cause huge disruptions, both directly and indirectly.

Education: the need for effective education, especially on the everyday things that individuals can do in order to promote a healthier ecosystem.

The Contributors

Andy Rogan - Ocean Alliance

Virginia Busch - Endangered Wolf Center

David Wheeler - Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ

Roger Patterson - Bee Improvement & Breeders Association

Jacqueline Ramos - Great Ape Project

Shelby Serra - Pacific Whale Foundation

Paul Hetherington - Buglife

Andy Rogan Ocean Alliance

Andy Rogan - Ocean Alliance

Andy is the Science Manager at Ocean Alliance. He is responsible for data collection during regional and international expeditions, for ensuring the research programs have the maximum conservation impact, and for communicating with our research and conservation partners/collaborators.

Biggest Challenge in Sustaining Life on Earth

I think the key word here is sustaining - i.e. sustaining life to present or pre-industrial levels. The reality is that, short of an extraordinarily cataclysmic (and unlikely) event such as an enormous asteroid smashing into earth/changes in orbit/changes in the suns activity etc., life will find a way of sustaining itself on the planet.

Regarding humanity, and our efforts to sustain life as currently exists, I think the biggest challenge we face is overcoming the Tragedy of the Commons - whereby a common good is everyone's responsibility and thus no one's responsibility. The idea of the tragedy of the commons relates to a variety of environmental issues.

For example, climate change: for really decisive action to take place we need all world leaders to stand together - it will take massive unity, and when countries such as the United States and China (which not only have massive carbon emissions but also are important global leaders) take the backwards steps which they are taking now - shunning responsibility, it all falls apart.

Any one country cannot tackle this issue, and if any country shuns responsibility - they effectively score a win - win: they reap the short term economic benefits of burning cheap fossil fuels (for example), while also reaping the long term economic benefits of the rest of the world curbing their emissions.

The tragedy of the commons also relates to the ocean, and to issues such as over-fishing. Fish in the high seas belong to everyone. We all know that fish stocks are being depleted, but if one fishing company decides they are going to be more sustainable and take less fish, another company can simply step in and take more fish. Dealing with this, once again, requires massive cooperation between the world's nations.

One Simple Step to Grow Sustainability

I don't think we can afford to just choose One Simple Step anymore: aside from being generally more environmentally conscious. There are many basic steps we can take towards a more sustainable future in our everyday lives. Environmental advocacy groups need to do a better job of explaining what some of these small things we can all do are. Eating more sustainable fish, eating less meat, flying less, using less energy at home.

Climate Change Impact

I think graphics such as the one I have attached really help here - showing people the accumulative impact of different activities. We need more of these - there are many very small changes we can make in our every day lives that have a big impact.

However, if I had to choose just one action it would be to stop eating cow-based products: beef, dairy etc. Cows have an enormous negative environmental impact: through their emissions, and consuming fewer cow-based products I do not think is that difficult a change to make.

One Species that Need More Attention

Whales! I might be biased here, but whales are important animals. Recent studies have shown that whales contribute enormously to curbing climate change. They also stimulate healthy and productive oceans: which is good for all of humanity. They are umbrella species, meaning that when you protect a whale, indirectly you protect the entire environment/ecological system that whale lives in.

They are also beautiful and awe-inspiring animals, which have the capacity to stimulate connections between people and the environment. Protecting whales has so many direct and indirect positive impacts for our planet and our own species.

Virginia Busch - Endangered Wolf Center

Virginia Busch - Endangered Wolf Center

Virginia is the CEO of Endangered Wolf Center, a non-profit located near St. Louis, MO, which works to preserve and protect Mexican wolves, red wolves and other wild canid species through carefully managed breeding, research, reintroduction, and inspiring education programs. Open to the public, the EWC is a one-of-a-kind destination for conservationists and animal lovers alike (photo credit: Michelle Steinmeyer).

Biggest Challenge in Sustaining Life on Earth

There is not one answer to this question. Some scientists would say it is climate change, others would argue food sustainability for an ever-growing world population, habitat protection, clean water and air; the list goes on and on. Every factor matters because it is a combination of each that will sustain life on earth. When one system begins to erode other systems follow.

Conversely, when all systems are present, everyone benefits. We've seen this effect with the reintroduction of wolves back into the wild. They provide greater balance, helping to control the number of other species like elk and deer that would normally feed on plants that other animals need for a sustainable habitat. Ensuring that we sustain this diversity of species is what leads to a healthy ecosystem.

I believe the key to continued life on earth is respecting our resources and recognizing that those resources are not just for humans but all life on earth. Once we begin to understand that humans need wildlife and habitats to remain healthy ourselves, we will begin to make the best decisions for sustaining life on earth.

One Simple Step to Grow Sustainability

Everyone can contribute when it comes to living a more sustainable life. From the simple steps of limiting your time in the shower to reducing water usage, recycling and composting, to working on some of the world's most concerning environmental issues. Whether you are a scientist battling at the front line or an everyday eco-citizen your contributions matter.

For me, the most important component to living a more conscientious, sustainable life is communication. Talking with neighbors, friends, family, and your community about ways to co-exist with wildlife and wild places. Understanding that no one is perfect and their contribution to society is important and working together we can help affect change for all living things.

One Species that Need More Attention

A single species is only as strong as the ecosystem that it lives in. Protecting entire ecosystems and vast tracks of habitat are what will ultimately lead a single species to thrive. Human health is inextricably tied to ecosystem health. For our own preservation as humans, we must begin to protect every type of ecosystem that we can.

David Wheeler - Conserve Wildlife Foundation

David Wheeler - Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ

For the past eight years, David Wheeler is the Executive Director of Conserve Wildlife Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has worked to protect rare wildlife for the past two decades. He is the author of Wild New Jersey: Nature Adventures in the Garden State, and taught Environmental Communications at Rutgers University.

Biggest Challenge in Sustaining Life on Earth

I believe the biggest challenge that we face in sustaining a diversity of life on earth is a dual threat: the ever-expanding destruction of habitat, exacerbated by climate change. As we continue to pave over massive natural areas, we lose natural habitat and thriving ecosystems, and fragment what remains into increasingly smaller and less productive parcels. This threat is happening across the nation and the world as well.

At the same time we are losing vast populations of wildlife to habitat destruction, climate change has only added to the challenge by shifting migration patterns, geographic ranges, and the timing of species lifecycles that, in turn, impact other areas of the food web. As a result, we are seeing more and more of the generalist species - white-tailed deer, Canada goose, American crow - at the expense of the greater biodiversity that includes specialist species that are increasingly at risk.

One Simple Step to Grow Sustainability

The easiest step for anyone to take is to plant native plants in their yard, and encourage their communities to do the same - the company they work for, their neighborhood association, church, town, school or university, etc. It creates vital habitat for many of the declining pollinator species that need it most, and the benefits go right up the food chain. Each person taking that small step to plant native species can combine to literally change our landscape - and create a growing wildlife oasis in the process.

One Species that Need More Attention

Bats are some of humankind's best friends, yet often viewed as the Hollywood myth of sinister and creepy. Bats help keep insect pests under control, with an adult bat eating over 5,000 insects in a night. Without their help, we would be spending millions more on pest control to protect our crops and gardens, and in turn, those pesticides would then impact our waterways and potentially drinking water.

A number of species of bats - such as little brown bats and northern long-eared bats - have declined drastically due to white-nose syndrome, so it is more important than ever that people put up bat boxes and follow regulations in safely evicting bats if they are living in an unwanted location. Even for those who are repelled by bats, they should keep in mind that the free benefits that bats provide our economy, our agriculture, and our ecosystems are irreplaceable.

Roger Patterson

Roger Patterson - Bee Improvement & Bee Breeders Association

Roger started beekeeping in 1963 and is one of the most prolific beekeeping speakers and demonstrators in the U.K. He is an author and contributor to beekeeping magazines. He also manages Dave Cushman's website (www.dave-cushman.net) that is reckoned to be the world's most comprehensive beekeeping website.

Biggest Challenge in Sustaining Life on Earth

Poor use of land and resources. Much natural habitat is being destroyed. Rainforests are being clear felled, water polluted etc. Even hormones are getting into the environment.

One Simple Step to Grow Sustainability

Reduction of food waste would be a great benefit. People buy far more food than they need. If they don't use it and it goes stale, they throw it away. We all pile our plates up, then leave a lot. Go into a restaurant and see how much some people leave. If we wasted less, then we could produce less, putting less pressure on the land and less need for farmers to use chemicals.

One Species that Need More Attention

I am a long-term beekeeper (nearly 57 years), so you would expect me to suggest honey bees. There is quite a bit of publicity, but it is presented by people with little or no knowledge of beekeeping, hence much of the misinformation trotted out. There are massive problems with queen bees that I first noticed around 20 years ago, that doesn't get much publicity.

Jacqueline Ramos - Great Ape Project

Jacqueline B. Ramos - Great Ape Project

Jacqueline is the communication manager at GAP Project Brazil/ International and journalist at Ambiente-se Comunicação. The Great Ape project is an organization that aims to defend the basic rights to life, freedom and non-torture of nonhuman great apes - Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Orangutans and Bonobos.

Biggest Challenge in Sustaining Life on Earth

I believe the main challenge is to find the balance between the use of natural resources by a growing human population and the needs of the several other forms of living beings. In my opinion, this should begin with the raise of a new perspective, one which locates humans not as the superior form, but as one among a lot of others.

One Simple Step to Grow Sustainability

In general, rethinking consumption habits. Particularly and in special rethinking your diet. I would say that reducing the consuming of meat and prioritizing local food production, changing and enhancing the way you eat, is something that anyone can do for a more sustainable relationship with the planet.

One Species that Need More Attention

I have been working with the Great Ape Project for more than 10 years and I can say that it's extremely important to bring attention to our primitive relatives. Chimpanzees, Gorilas, Bonobos and Orangutans are struggling to survive and thrive in their habitats in Africa and Asia. The fact that they are very similar to us - or vice versa - helps us to connect back to nature. Apart from that, their preservation also means the preservation of our ancient history and is essential for understanding our origin and evolutionary development.

Shelby Serra - Pacific Whale Foundation

Shelby Serra - Pacific Whale Foundation

Shelby is the conservation coordinator at the Pacific Whale Foundation. Her role is responsible for coordinating environmental outreach and conservation messaging for the organization, identifying sustainability goals, and assisting with marine debris research studies and policy advocacy.

Biggest Challenge in Sustaining Life on Earth

I believe the biggest challenge we face in sustaining life on earth is simply living sustainably. Overpopulation is an issue we face and as such the human race has not collectively figured out how to populate this planet in a way that does not reap it of its resources. Modern day conveniences have taken away the necessity and therefore the motivation to make choices that do not strip the planet of its natural resources.

One Simple Step to Grow Sustainability

High amounts of the harmful greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, has innumerable negative effects on the planet that, left unchecked, will make life on earth unsustainable. Production of single-use plastics is a heavy contributor to these gasses as well. Because it appears to be convenience that is harming our planet, such as single-use plastics and favorable transportation, the solutions are easily employable.

Simple solutions like bringing your own coffee mug or take away container can reduce the amount of waste and production costs of that waste. Additionally, people can walk, ride bikes or use public transportation whenever possible in an effort to curb our carbon emissions.

One Species that Need More Attention

The ocean is the planet's lungs. It is simply the most important system on planet earth and works hard to sustain each and every life on it, those living both within and without it. The large species that traverse thousands of miles across vast expanses of the ocean are the beings that will save this planet. Massive, migratory whales, such as the humpback, capture literal tons of carbon from the atmosphere throughout their lifetimes just by breathing.

And when the whale dies naturally, it takes with it this sequestered carbon and sinks to the bottom of the ocean, sustaining various trophic levels for up to 100 years henceforth. In addition, phytoplankton, or tiny ocean plants, produce with every breath we take and contribute to at least 50% of all the oxygen in our atmosphere. Whale poop has a multiplier effect on phytoplankton, because it contains the nutrients it needs to grow. So, in essence, more whales means more life-sustaining oxygen.

Whale populations today are just a small fraction of what they once were. We need to preserve and protect whale populations by reducing the many dangers in our oceans, such as pervasive plastics and derelict fishing gear.

40 years ago, Pacific Whale Foundation was founded as an organization dedicated to saving the world's whales from extinction and since then we have evolved into a research, education and advocacy nonprofit that addresses these current threats. PWF has a mission to protect the oceans through science and advocacy, and to inspire environmental stewardship. We work to combat the threats posed against these great whales and the other marine species that give this planet life. Save the whales, save the planet.

Paul Hetherington - Buglife

Paul Hetherington - Buglife

Paul is the director of fundraising and communiations at Buglife, an organization devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates. Buglife actively works to save Britain's rarest little animals, including bees, beetles, worms, woodlice, jumping spiders, and jellyfish.

Biggest Challenge in Sustaining Life on Earth

Loss and fragmentation of habitat which has led to the break down in connectivity for wildlife.

One Simple Step to Grow Sustainability

Create linkages for connectivity even if this is a s simple as creating the equivalent of a service station such as an area of pollinator friendly flowers in a garden or even on a balcony.

One Species that Need More Attention

Invertebrate declines are significantly worse at present than those for land mammals and birds but if these declines are not reversed all will follow, the loss of pollinators alone would cause the collapse of global ecosystems with the loss of eight out of ten wildflower species and a huge number of essential food plants.