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Protecting biodiversity key to securing human rights
Mar 27, 2017

Protecting biodiversity key to securing human rights

By Steve Trent

new report from the UN Special Rapporteur on Environment and Human Rights has acknowledged, for the first time, the fundamental link between biodiversity and human rights.

It’s message is clear: the loss of biodiversity is undermining our human rights.

The right to life, health, food and water all depend upon healthy ecosystems and, put simply, healthy ecosystems depend on biodiversity.

This is why securing human rights depends on protecting biodiversity, and “the degradation and loss of biodiversity undermines the ability of human beings to enjoy their human rights”.  

Human health, our economies and livelihoods, access to adequate shelter, even our mental well-being and happiness are all dependant on the planet’s natural environments.

In fact, biodiversity is vital to our very existence. From the air that we breathe to the water we drink and the food we eat, our natural environment sustains human life.

As we erode our environment - wrecking the oceans, destroying our forests and agricultural land and fundamentally shifting the climate - the lives of millions of people are put at risk.

Yet, across the globe this is exactly what we are doing, as we rapidly degrade and destroy our natural world, putting short-term gains over the long-term sustainability of our shared planet in wilful acts of self-harm.

One in five species on our shared planet now faces extinction; a number that could reach one in two by the end of the century. In our oceans up to 90% of the larger fish species, like swordfish and cod, have been lost since the 1950s.  

Some estimate that around 27,000 species are lost each year, many before they have even been documented by science; that's 74 every day; 3 each hour - perhaps another lost before you finish reading this.

While we empty our oceans of fish and other wildlife replacing them with plastic and pollutants, our forests continue to decline as we clear them to make way for beef production and palm oil.  Meanwhile, our global climate shifts toward a devastating rise in temperature that will fundamentally alter the security of the planet’s natural systems which sustain us.

This is why, our collective failure to protect biodiversity will affect us all and as the UN report makes clear: “it is already having catastrophic consequences indigenous peoples and others who depend directly on ecosystems”.

It is the poorest and most vulnerable of our society that are already feeling the impacts of environmental degradation, who are affected first and worst.  

But it does not have to be this way.

The opportunity and imperative for action are present and clear - and we each have a role to play. Now is the time to make your voice heard for conservation and human rights. Get active, speak out; support those that already do.

Use your spending power to demand governments and companies act for the good, the long-term and our planet, not just for short-term profits or election results. Consume less, consume thoughtfully.

As the UN recognises, efforts to address conservation, human rights and development are interlinked. By addressing one we can help to address the others.

Since we founded EJF it has stood for the belief that environmental security is a human right.

We are working for each and every person living on the frontlines of environmental destruction, strengthening their call for a sustainable and equitable future. By supporting the defenders of the environment, we will also be supporting the defenders of human rights.

Collaboration and urgent action are needed. And with our natural world already disappearing before our eyes, we cannot wait. Join us and play your part in the most fundamental challenge of our times.

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