If we want to ‘Build Back Biodiversity,’ the theme of World Biodiversity Day on 22 May, we need to end human population growth, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).
The website of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) lists 22 actions to help protect biodiversity, including no. 14: “Change one habit that is negative for biodiversity”.
SPA national president Ms Jenny Goldie says the one habit that is truly negative for biodiversity is promoting population growth.
“It would be nice if the UN’s CBD had had the courage to spell it out, but they haven’t, so we will,” says Ms Goldie. “The UN Sustainable Development Goals, which are highly influential around the world, suffer from the same failure of nerve and honesty.
“Whether it’s urban expansion encroaching on natural habitat or farmland to feed ever more people, the effect of population growth on biodiversity is generally harmful,” says Ms Goldie.
“If you want to preserve species, habitat is everything. Other species, be they plants or animals, need their own space. Climate change, pollution, pests and weeds also adversely affect native species, but loss or fragmentation of habitat is the greatest cause.
“As the Australian Conservation Foundation notes on its website ‘What causes nature destruction?’:
…habitat is the most fundamental need of species, and its continued loss will result in ongoing declines regardless of how well other threats are managed.”
Ms Goldie says there are many causes of habitat loss including land conversion for development from growing populations, mining for materials, harvesting lumber for paper products, and agriculture.
“Whether it is mining or forestry or agriculture, it is all to satisfy human demand.”
The Canadian ecologist and ecological economist Professor William Rees, originator and co-developer of ‘ecological footprint analysis’, has written about biodiversity loss:
…the overall driver is what an ecologist might call the “competitive displacement” of non-human life by the inexorable growth of the human enterprise.
On a finite planet where millions of species share the same space and depend on the same finite products of photosynthesis, the continuous expansion of one species necessarily drives the contraction and extinction of others.