2010 – The Year of Biodiversity, but also the year biodiversity got destroyed by oil!

To celebrate the year of Biodiversity, JNM, a youth organisation in Belgium organised a 5 day conference called youPEC gathering 150 to discuss and share knowledge and experience on biodiversity conservation in July 2010.

Today we are facing the sixth mass extinction of species with species being lost at a

rate 1000 times faster than the natural background rate. In 2001, the EU set a target to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010, a goal they failed to achieve by general lack of implementation, insufficient funding, inadequate awareness and political will.

Europe is becoming increasingly dependent on imported resources and is currently consuming twice

as much as it can produce. This puts a lot of pressure on soil and resources and over consumption leads to low replenishment, another good reason to buy locally sourced goods.

I’ve gotten to like a man called Thomas Lovejoy, biodiversity chair at the Washington  DC-based Heinz Centre for Science, Economics and the Environment, and chief biodiversity adviser to the president of the World Bank.

He says: “you can clearly see the outlines of what could be the sixth great extinction event of all life on Earth”. Asked recently why biodiversity was so important, why species extinction matters when we have all kinds of technology, Lovejoy responded by saying: “You can’t eat the Internet.” Nor can we breathe without plants that supply oxygen. “But we can live without oil.”

Which brings me to looking at how much biodiversity was affected due to the oil spill at the gulf of Mexico. Nearly $2 million worth of livestock has been destroyed, not only due to the sticky goop of oil but also from the dispersants use to try break up the oil particles in the ocean.

Several species in the Gulf of Mexico are already endangered, including the Kemp’s Ridley and Leatherback sea turtles, the Sperm Whale, and birds such as the Piping Plover and the Gulf Sturgeon, according to the Arizona-based Centre for Biological Diversity (CBD) Assistant Professor Michael Blum of Tulane University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology warns that some species may be at risk of extinction. “The biological infrastructure of the planet is in jeopardy and it is in our direct interest to do something about it,” he concluded.

A Sperm Whale found dead at coast of Mexico

Dispersant chemicals and oil goop have reached marshlands and destroyed all planet and wildlife in its path.

roar said the crawfish

When I was in Louisiana 2 years ago, I got to try crawfish, a shrimp found in the marshlands of Louisiana, we went to a tavern- like restaurant by the bayou, they were served by the pound in a drinks tray and there was a hole in the centre of the of the table to discard the shell. Not the most romantic place to go on a date but was it fun… all those beady eyes. Now that the Louisiana gulf coast is contaminated, crawfish supplies have diminished. Dean Blanchard, the local ‘Shrimp King’ said in relation to the BP chief executive claiming that he wants his life back, “He took away everything I love most in the world. I am going to hunt that son of a bitch down like a ‘coon,” he said. “He wants his life back after all he has done to us? The hell with him.”  Here. Here.

To bring the issue back home, there are people just all around us just like the BP chief executive who expects us to understand them.

One example is a cattle farmer in Co. Wexford, who decided to farm over 200 cattle on a precious grey sand dune.  In 2004, A commissioned report from an agriculture agency revealed that the farmer had put no effort into collecting animal manure, so urine and faeces simply build up under the animals feet, with animal wastes likely to seep into nearby coastal and ground water, causing pollution. Not only is this cruelty to animals but it’s also destroying the biodiversity of flora and fauna on the sand dune. In 2005, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), rather than pursue any effective action, instructed the farmer to phase out use of the site completely by May 2006. The agreement was subsequently ignored by the farmer. Four years later, and a sand dune that used to be covered in marram grass and wildlife is now covered in weeds and nothing is being done by the farmer of the NPWS to restore the land.

So what can we do to help biodiversity?

  1. Coastwatch are working on trying to restore the sand dune in Kilmuckridge, Co. Wexford, email them to help out. If there’s something else bad happening in your area (i.e illegial dumping) do something about it.
  2. Cut out oil – Greenpeace have some great tips
  3. Visit pretty gardens in your area to see how important biodiversity is to create life – check out Botanic Gardens Glasnevin, Dublin 11!
  4. Buy local food – The Point Village have a market every Saturday and Sunday.
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