How can we best respond to the destruction of biodiversity?
“The true tragedy of our time is still unfolding across the globe, barely noticeable from day to day. I’m talking about the loss of our planet’s wild places, its biodiversity.” – David Attenborough, from A Life On Our Planet, 2020.
These are the words of a man who has seen the destruction of the world’s wildlife within his lifetime.
For me, being a person with deep feelings for the nature we’re part of, it felt heartbreaking to realize the vastness of the destroyed habitats on land and across the seas. Thankfully, after seeing over half of the movie, the future came into perspective. What is it we must do to combat this huge problem? I will come back to that.
I have read numerous reports, but the storytelling throughout David Attenborough’s life touched me in a very direct way. Since the 1980s when I studied to become an engineer, I wanted to make sure that what I did in my daily profession throughout life would support the environmental and social development of communities and the world. Since then, I have myself witnessed many biodiversity losses, such as forests and green areas. As a result, I’ve been part of local groups that have tried to defend them.
David Attenborough is a master narrator, as many of us know. At the beginning of his latest documentary, A Life On Our Planet, he says: “The natural world is fading. The evidence is all around. It’s happened in my lifetime. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. This film is my witness statement and my vision for the future, the story of how we came to make this our greatest mistake, and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right.”
Has anything changed?
In my daily work at Ericsson, throughout more than a decade of full time focus on sustainability, I have seen many fantastic changes in the corporate world. More and more, corporations are today taking on a wider responsibility to address the issues of the world, and are increasingly understanding the fundamental factors that secure the survival of business! Over the last decade I’ve also seen and have been part of ensuring a company strategic approach and goal setting in the area of sustainable development. It really is as though a new era of awareness and systemic knowledge has opened up.
What does the research say about biodiversity?
One of the best overviews for environmental sustainability was carried out by the Planetary Boundaries from the Stockholm Resilience Center, and was led by Professor Johan Rockström. One of the earlier research piece references is the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005. It concluded that changes to ecosystems due to human activities were more rapid in the past 50 years than at any time in human history, increasing the risks of abrupt and irreversible change.
For two decades, the Living Planet Index (LPI), from WWF, has provided a measure for changes in biodiversity that has helped inform the global debate on the nature loss crisis. The LPI tracks almost 21,000 populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians around the world, and the 2020 global index shows an average 68 percent fall in monitored vertebrate species populations between 1970 and 2016.
Action, action, action!
“To restore stability to our planet, we must restore its biodiversity. The very thing that we’ve removed. It’s the only way out of this crisis we have created. We must ‘rewild’ the world.”
As this quote suggests, all is not lost. Later in the documentary, Attenborough lays out what we need to do to reverse the damage we have done to the world, and its biodiversity. He outlines the following;
- Halt deforestation and replant native trees (the return of native trees would absorb as much as two thirds of the carbon emissions that have been released into the atmosphere by our activities to date).
- Grow food in new spaces (indoors and within cities).
- Reduce the amount of land we use to farm, which means changing our diet. And applying both low-tech and hi-tech solutions to produce more food from much less land
- Increase no fish zones.
- Invest in renewable energy.
- Prevent further investment in fossil fuels (much of this is done via banks and pension schemes).
Revitalizing the mangroves
One example of the action that Ericsson has taken is to actively be part of the connected mangroves reforestation project in Malaysia and the Philippines. Mangrove forests are important in the protection of seaside communities from typhoons, flooding, erosion and other coastal hazards, and serve as a crucial habitat for various aquatic life forms. Scientists say, however, that in the last five decades, an estimated 50 percent of the world’s mangroves have disappeared, and every year another one percent is lost, based on information by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
In partnership with Smart Communications Inc. located in the Philippines, and the Kampung Dato Hormat community, as well as the Global Environment Centre in Malaysia, we built an IoT solution that builds on wireless connectivity and captures data relevant to mangroves’ survival.
The impact is that survival rates have increased by up to 90 percent, resulting in improved flood protection and the ability for locals to catch shellfish. To support this further, volunteers from Ericsson and its partners have planted 4,400 mangrove saplings in Malaysia .
Confirming our commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement
Already in 2016, as part of Ericsson’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, we started to prepare for setting a Science Based Target, (SBT), setting a 1.5°C aligned SBT for Ericsson´s own activities that aims to reduce emissions by 35 percent in 2022, and a SBT for our portfolio, to achieve 35 percent energy saving in our Ericsson Radio System by 2022 compared to the legacy portfolio in 2016.
In 2019, Ericsson set a carbon neutral target for its own operations by 2030. This means that carbon emissions from Ericsson´s fleet vehicles and energy usage from our facilities will be net-zero by 2030. The target is a prolongment of our Science Based Target engagement and will be a long-term commitment to our engagement in reducing emissions within our own operations.
We can all take part in rewilding the world
“There’s a chance for us to make amends, to complete our journey of development, manage our impact, and once again become a species in balance with nature. All we need is the will to do so. We now have the opportunity to create the perfect home for ourselves, and restore the rich, healthy, and wonderful world that we inherited. Just imagine that.”
If you haven’t seen A Life On Our Planet, please watch it, share it, discuss it at home, with your friends, or on social media. I encourage you to explore nature, feel nature, see and hear nature. Also reflect on your inner nature, which is often easier to do in nature!
And if you can, participate in local efforts to protect and preserve the natural habitats around you, or in your country or region, as well as globally. I myself have engaged in reporting different species to The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences via an app, which contributes to citizen science. Maybe you can find something similar where you live…
Each one of us is instrumental to make this change!
Read more about climate action
Here are the 4 ways companies can take effective climate action.
Read Emelie Öhlander’s blog on what makes great innovation for climate action.
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