A question of time and space
Most people have read that much of the natural environment is under threat as a result of human activity. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is responsible for summarising our knowledge about how nature is doing, and their reports concerning recent years have made for frightening reading. Around a million species are threatened by extinction on a global basis, and humans are already impacting on three quarters of the world's land surface.
What I keep repeating in lectures, in my book and in meetings with Vestre is that this is a question of time and space. Nature needs time for its processes to work and for evolution to take place, as well as space to do it in. That is why land use by mankind, our utilisation of natural areas, poses the greatest threat to biodiversity. That is the conclusion of the reports from the IPBES and in the international and Norwegian red lists of threatened species. Land use involves the construction of urban areas, industry and infrastructure, as well as agriculture and forestry. Climate change is interacting with the harmful use of natural areas, and the two problems are exacerbating each other.
This means that the key solutions for looking after the natural environment are about giving it room. We humans must stop taking over new natural areas, and start using less land, reuse land and restore nature instead.
In addition to land and climate change, overexploitation, pollution and the introduction of alien species have a harmful impact on biodiversity. Overexploitation is about the species that humans eat or use for materials, such as fish and timber. Alien species, introduced species or “blacklist species” are animals, plants and fungi which have ended up in new places because humans travel round, moving materials and goods at the same time. When a species ends up in a place with favourable conditions, it can spread rapidly, which can have major consequences for species which already live there. An example of this is that many of the world’s seabird species are under threat from introduced cats and rats, which eat their eggs.
I am aware that these are depressing issues and that many people are very concerned. For my part, I have found that the best approach is to do something about the problem. Because when many people are doing something together to save nature, we can get the arrows pointing in the right direction. In addition, going for a walk in nature is perhaps the best comfort of all.