Earlier this week, a report from the World Wildlife Fund found that since 2015, a new species of plant or animal has been discovered in the Amazon every two days on average. However, many of them are already on the brink of extinction thanks to rapid deforestation. While harrowing, this narrative is sadly unsurprising.
Our planet is steadily losing biological diversity across all sorts of ecosystems—from jungles to coral reefs—thanks to a combination of climate change, habitat loss, pollution, and human intervention. If this trend continues, major ecosystems could soon reach a tipping point in which they experience widespread and irreversible degradation. We depend on these ecosystems a lot more than we may realize: Losing plants and animals along the coast could make coastal dwellers more susceptible to storm surges, while inland this shift could promote more pests on farms reducing the number of natural predators.
These projections read pretty doomsday, but experts in biodiversity remain hopeful that we can prevent them. Patricia Wright, a climatologist and conservationist biologist working in Madagascar, where 95 percent of the natural habitat has been destroyed, is one such optimist. "While 17 species of lemurs have indeed gone extinct, our team has discovered two new species of lemurs! This gives us hope," Wright tells mbg. "[People in Madagascar] are now implementing science and environmental education in schools and doing community training and sensitization along with outreach education to stop this cycle and find other ways for the people there to make a living while protecting their land and the biodiversity there at the same time."
These on-the-ground efforts are only half the battle, and those of us worlds away from endangered areas have vital roles to play, too. This summer, Wright joined forces with other leaders in the environmental field at Creating Equilibrium, a conference to address climate challenges with an emphasis on biodiversity. There, they shared information on how people who live in the middle of concrete jungles can take actionable steps to help lush green ones every day. Here are a few top take-aways from author and event creator Steven Kotler: