The extinction crisis – now is the time to act

Watch the excellent, compelling, and high performing documentary “Extinction – The Facts” by our President Sir David Attenborough on BBC One triggered a mix of strong emotions and reactions for me as I am sure it has for many of you. I was appalled, angry, and frustrated by the continued failure to capture the dire levels of biodiversity loss by governments around the world. Most of all, I was broken at the scale of loss and the relentless destruction of life on our planet.

The footage of the last white rhinoceros in the north was a healing reminder that “extinction is forever,” but as the program elaborated, this is only one species. A million species of animal and plant species are now critically endangered. At the current rate, future generations will not have the opportunity to marvel at the rich diversity of wildlife we ​​enjoy today.

The message is clear. Nature is in crisis and our misuse of the planet is causing unprecedented extinctions. But it’s no longer just about nature. As the program made clear, we are not separate from nature, we are an integral part of it. Our fate is linked to the fate of nature, with increasing threats to food and water security and an increasing spread of diseases and pandemics such as HIV, SARS and Covid19 that threaten us, our loved ones and our way of life.

Heath Fritillary, Copyright James Kennerley, from the Surfbirds Galleries

Butterflies are an integral part of this crumbling web of life, and we must do our part to turn things around. Butterfly Conservation may be a small organization, but I believe we outperform both with the quality of our data and with the evidence we use to educate our projects on the ground. A combination of this knowledge and understanding and the tireless and dedicated efforts of staff, volunteers and our partners across the UK has shown how even seemingly lost causes can be fixed. We kept Britain from becoming extinct for critically endangered species like this Heath Fritillary and New Forest Burnet (only found in Scotland!) and helped reverse terrifying declines in Duke of Burgundy, Big blue and the Moth with black veins. Successes like this bring hope. While we have shown that declines can be reversed, Sir David set an agenda that if we are to pass on a safe and wild planet to future generations, those successes must be replicated on a larger and larger scale.

Partnership work is an essential part of solving this challenge. Organizations like Butterfly Conservation alone will not be enough to deal with this crisis. We must continue to work together, but intensify these efforts to have an even greater impact. We need to work with a wider range of organizations and individuals, including faith communities, businesses and landowners, as well as our established environmental partners. Together we can prevent this catastrophic loss of wildlife from overtaking us, leaving a weakened and exposed planet for future generations.

We also need to deal with more people, reflecting a greater diversity of individuals and communities than we have reached so far. Nature is for everyone and everyone has to contribute to meeting the challenge by taking positive steps for nature in our neighborhood, through our consumer choices and through our political voice.

But none of this will do without the highest level of political will and leadership, starting with a truly green recovery. And the current response from global and national leadership is utterly inadequate. We need a much stronger visible commitment and leadership with the resources that are prioritized and tailored to the extent of the climate and natural crises. We cannot pretend to have a transformative green recovery when there is £ 640 million for nature and £ 27 billion for roads!

> We can all help nature too. Millions of small, individual actions around the world will add up and have an impact. Flying less, switching to a more sustainable diet, volunteering and campaigning, adding solar panels, and improving isolation and gardening for wildlife – these are all examples of small steps that, taken together, can really make a difference.

Although the scale of the challenge is immense, Sir David has left us a message of hope. With the political will and actions of millions of people around the world, we can turn things around. It is not too late, and the program has made me more determined than ever that Butterfly Conservation will be part of that solution.

The time is now #TimeToAct

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