The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds!
Biodiversity: 160,000 Canaries
Media coverage of recent Earth Day events served as a reminder (as if we needed one) that much work remains to be done. There were school kids urging more recycling, scientists worried about climate change, and officials wondering about clean water. All kinds of people were concerned about all kinds of things. But I didn't see anybody speak up for biodiversity. Yet the biodiversity crisis is probably the most serious of all we face because it's about the rapidly increasing number of Earth's species that are disappearing forever. When we lose a species, another strand of our planet's vital web of life snaps for good. Lose enough strands and that web will simply cease to exist. The problem is that the biodiversity crisis is hard to wrap your head around. Sprawling across seven continents from my own backyard to the ice shelves of Antarctica and encompassing hundreds of thousands of species, it's everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. So it's heartening to see a new initiative that seeks to create a Barometer of Life, which would serve as a gauge we all could use to see how things are going. Scientists would collect information on the status of 160,000 of the world's species, which together would form a representative cross section of all the life on Earth. Periodic updates would show scientists, policymakers, and citizens alike what's happening just out of sight in the natural world. The tool would serve a variety of essential purposes. It would help us prioritize funding and make better conservation decisions, improve the accuracy of environmental assessments, and allow us to more clearly understand our environmental impacts. But mostly what it would do is let us see and understand all that we lose when we tear even a single strand of the web of life. It would place unnecessary tragedies that are now almost always hidden in full view where everyone can appreciate their full dimensions and ultimate meaning. Such revelations will do more that build vital support for efforts to protect the world's great diversity of living things. Because that diversity includes us, they just might be what we need to save ourselves. photo: Michelle Tribe