How Species Save Our Lives

I read a wonderful article today in the New York Times about the importance of protecting the great diversity of life on Earth, called How Species Save Our Lives. Although the article mostly focuses on terrestrial plants and animals, it’s a good read.

The field of bioprospecting (the search for potential medicines in the wild) may be even more pertinent in the marine world, as less of it is destroyed. Bioprospectors may not always have the best reputation in the conservation community, being generally known for sticking anything new they can find in a blender, they have their place. New cancer drugs are being developed from sea sponges. Our ability to copy DNA (one of the biggest advancements in biomedicine in the last 30 years) comes from finding an enzyme in hydrothermal vent communities.

The article ends with with a few things you can do to save our planet, and I thought I would share those with you here:

1. Reduce meat in your diet and stick to sustainable fisheries. (Find a pocket guide for your region.)

2. Buy less stuff, or buy it used.

3. Favor companies and countries that value the environment. (But beware of greenwashing. BP used to tout itself as environmentally aware.) Check the green rankings of top companies.

4. Add up your annual energy consumption (including air travel, gasoline, electricity, and heating fuel) and set a program to cut back by five percent a year. Be clever and you may hardly notice. Start by making a one degree change in the thermostat, and replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights. (Some energy audit programs will do it for you and you will spend less for the service than you will save in utility costs in the first year alone.)

5. Walk, bike, or take public transportation. The exercise will do you good (and you might see an interesting bird or bug on route).

6. Get acquainted with some of our weird, delightful fellow species. Any book by Gerald Durrell, for instance, “My Family and Other Animals,” is a fine place to start,

7. Learn to identify 10 species of plants and animals in your own neighborhood, then 20, and onward.

8. Stop using lawn pesticides and fertilizers. They contaminate nearby waterways. For the same reason, don’t dump old prescriptions down the toilet.

9. Reduce water use, particularly for lawns; it depletes a limited resource, sometimes directly damaging habitat.

10. Plant trees, and since maintaining them is the hard part, stick around to be a tree steward.

11. Lobby public officials to do smart things like installing more sidewalks, limiting carbon emissions, and investing in conservation of threatened species.

12. Adopt a species that needs help and actively support its conservation. Groups exist focused on tigers, rhinos, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, frogs, and so on.

13. Encourage your local zoo to focus on species conservation.

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