Université catholique de Louvain / Ecology and conservation biology
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Biodiversity is going through the sixth extinction crisis in its history: since the disappearance of the dinosaurs, the species have never been going extinct so quickly. The cause? The human population is exploding and taking up too many resources for its own consumption: there are more and more people, and everyone of us wants a higher standard of life. To achieve this, humans convert the natural environment on larger larger areas, use gigantic amounts of energy and raw materials, pollute water, land and sea, move species all over the globe, hunt and fish without limit. This kills individuals, and drive species to extinction. The consequences? Biodiversity is the basis of the functioning of ecosystems and all the services it provides us. This house of cards is falling apart and humanity may not survive.
What can I do as a researcher in conservation biology? Develop scientific techniques to better predict where, when and how protect species and natural habitats? This is my everyday job. Can it contribute to save planet Earth? I strongly believe so. Will it be enough? For sure no, because scientists do not take political decisions themselves; they feed politicians with necessary information.
So what can I further do in my everyday life as an individual? As many people, there are sacrifices I am ready to make, but there are other aspects of my life I cannot or do not want to change for now. I have been profoundly shocked by the many studies documenting how much food and energy is wasted all over the world, gone for nothing. This is where I have decided to focus first: chasing all sources of wastage, because this means saving precious resources with a very limited change in my everyday comfort. For example, I pay attention to turn off lights when I leave a room, to never let the water running unnecessarily, to finish my meal and eat the leftovers later, recycle as much as I can… I also significantly decreased the consumption of meat. Given the ecological footprint of meat production, this is a significant point.
Still, I’d like to do (much) better. Just one example: I’m still flying a few times a year over the world for my work as a scientist. Alternatives are not easy to find, but I hope some will be created, such as virtual conferences when people gather using video-conference.