Conservation does not get as much attention as climate change these days, mainly, I think, because people don’t realise how important biodiversity is to our survival. Without biodiversity of plants, animals and habitats, we’re finished.
One drought or infestation can wipe out an entire monoculture and bring about the collapse of a harvest or eco-system. But layered environments, with diverse microorganisms and plants – which in turn support multiple animal species – create robust, flexible and resilient ecosystems that can better withstand the effects of climate change.
It’s important to remember that climate change doesn’t happen in isolation. We are facing multiple issues simultaneously – human population growth, carbon emissions, biodiversity loss and climate change – which are all interrelated. So when we tackle these challenges, we have to do so holistically.
This is important because it’s so difficult to predict what the future will look like. We need to prepare for the range of conditions – colder, hotter, dryer, wetter – that we could find ourselves in, and the only way to do so is through biodiversity.
I read that China and India are now “greener” than they have been in years because they are planting more trees. While I laud these efforts, we must also ask whether they are creating plantations of fast-growing trees as opposed to enduring forest environments that can provide multiple habitats for animals.
32% of the world’s hard coral species is found in Sisters’ Islands Marine Park
Globally, we are beginning to understand that cities can do so much for conservation. Singapore sets a good example because our small size has always forced us to think multidimensionally. We have biodiversity in our parks, along our tree-lined roads, within buildings, on the sides of buildings and on rooftops.
Today, we have about 350 parks, including recreational parks and nature parks which act as buffers for the nature reserves, wrapping and protecting them. One of these is Sisters’ Island Marine Park, a 40-hectare park that’s home to more than 250 species of hard corals, over 100 species of fish and about 200 species of sponges. All this despite being at the entrance to one of the busiest ports in the world.
“Globally, we are beginning to understand that cities can do so much for conservation”
When it comes to our conservation efforts, we can’t do all of this ourselves. In this sense, Singaporeans are really behind the times. While there have been efforts to reduce the use of plastic straws, we still find widespread demand for plastic bags and packaging. We could also do more to prevent food wastage, which would create less impact on the environment by decreasing the demand for more farms and further land abuse.
It is important that every city finds its own unique solutions, because to solve these issues, it’s got to be a collective effort.
Illustrations by Stuart Patience
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This article was originally published in the May 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine