Our interdependence with nature
We rely on healthy ecosystems
We are part of nature and we need it for our survival. When we degrade nature, it will affect us. It is incredibly easy to assume that we as humans have evolved so far that we are independent of the things around us, yet in fact the opposite is the case. Different species have different roles in an ecosystem. Once the balance in an ecosystem is upset, the ability to succeed with these roles may be inhibited.
Pollination is an example of an ecosystem service. Lots of people aren’t aware that the continuous supply of our food, to a large extent depends on pollinators. In order for the plants to reproduce, pollinators such as bees, bats, beetles, flies, wasps, birds or butterflies carry pollen from one plant to another during their search for food. This in turn pollinates the plants and enables them to reproduce. While some plants can be pollinated by a wide variety of pollinators, others are suited to certain species, with some partnerships even being mutually exclusive. This is down to which type of pollination relationship has been more beneficial to both the pollinators and the plant, and results in physical characteristics that enable this. The disappearance of species may lead to the loss of the service they fulfil.
Consider one pollinator species being on the brink of extinction, it then seems crucial for its ecological task to be fulfilled by another species. Variety therefore matters greatly. Healthy ecosystems are more likely to house a variety of species and are therefore more equipped to buffer themselves against interferences and disturbances. We don’t really think about how many different ecological processes have to happen in nature in order for us to breathe clean air, drink clean water, eat food, or rely on medicine.
We cannot exist without nature.
Without nature continuously providing for us, we could not make use of any of its goods and services. We simply could not survive.
When we pollute the very soil in which we grow our food, these actions will in return affect our health and wellbeing. The same principle applies to any other natural source we impact. If we release hormones and antibiotics into livestock and human medicine, and pesticides from agriculture into our environment, we will undoubtably be among the species affected.
The balance in an ecosystem is incredibly fragile and complex. While we may not always see our impact immediately, it doesn’t mean that it is not there and that it won’t influence us in the long run.
So far, yet so close...
While different locations on this planet may seem separate from one another, they are in fact connected, on both a small and large scale. The poles for example remain one of the most pristine places on earth, yet unusually high levels of pollutants can be detected in this environment. Most of these originated from elsewhere, travelling vast distances with ocean and atmospheric currents and even in migratory marine organisms. Chemicals classed as persistent organic pollutants do not easily degrade but instead bioaccumulate in food chains. As a result, animals at the top of the food chain are the most likely to contain these toxins. These are then further passed on to people relying on consumption of predatory mammals such as whales and seals. Due to the climatic conditions in the poles, the pollutants get trapped in the environment, however they are released again through the effects of global warming. The poles control the climate of our entire earth, upsetting this ecosystem’s balance will also in turn affect our environment thousands of miles away.