Biodiversity. The word can’t help but fail to do justice to the myriad species of plants and animals, the fecundity of the natural world, the complex web of life. As a word, it’s easy to ignore.
But inattention equals extinction. Earth is experiencing its sixth mass extinction event, species winking out of existence before we even know them. And it is a mass extinction entirely caused by the relentless expansion of human habitat and agriculture, as well as human domination of the natural systems—such as the climate—that make life possible.
The Convention on Biological Diversity of the United Nations is the voice of the world’s flora and fauna. Jaded government officials and well-intentioned environmentalists natter on but nothing ever seems to come of these negotiations, despite the long list of signatures on said convention.
That’s because economic growth and human welfare must trump environmental stasis and ecosystem welfare. But it is not jobs or the environment. It is human wellbeing and biodiversity. Without the clean water, pollination and endless array of other services provided to humanity—for free—by our fellow denizens of the planet, our economy will not just stall, it will stop. Then who will save us, the whales?