πŸ’‘ Optimist's Edge: Six good reasons for protecting more nature

πŸ’‘ Optimist's Edge: Six good reasons for protecting more nature

Most people believe that less nature is protected today compared with 20 years ago. But this is not what reality looks like. Read more about how we can boost both the economy - and our health - by becoming even better at taking care of nature.

Maria Eriksson
Maria Eriksson

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πŸ“‰ What people think

Many believe that protected nature has decreased over the past 20 years.

πŸ“ˆ Here are the facts

Sixteen percent of the world's landmass is considered protected. And of areas that are classified as particularly important from a biodiversity point of view, almost half are now protected, which is an increase from a third in 2000.

πŸ’‘ Optimist's Edge

Protecting natural areas is proven to affect both humans and nature positively.

πŸ‘‡ How to get an Optimist's Edge

Go for a swim, change your office location or develop new technology. These are some options available if you want to get the edge. Read on, and we will explain more.

Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash
What or who is this tree growing for?

πŸ“‰ What people think

Did you know that we're getting better at protecting natural areas? Despite this, we more often read news articles about the devastation of the Amazon or various species that are threatened with extinction. In other words, it is not very surprising that a minority believe that the protected nature in the world has increased in the last 20 years, according to a survey by Warp.

πŸ“ˆ Here are the facts

Globally, about 16 percent, or closer to one-sixth, of the world's landmass is classified as protected areas, according to statistics from January 2022. It is not dramatic, but still a specific increase compared to the previous year, but if we study the numbers more in detail, we will discover even more positive news.

Of areas classified as particularly important from a biodiversity point of view, almost half are protected (2017), an increase from a third in 2000. A corresponding increase has also occurred in mountain areas with vibrant biodiversity. We have become almost as good at protecting corresponding regions of lakes and rivers. The latter is significant as many freshwater species are threatened with extinction.

Here are a few examples of different initiatives to protect nature areas:

  • China plans to plant forests on an area equivalent to Belgium annually until 2025 and annually until 2025 and also create more national parks.
  • Have you heard of Europe's Amazon? It is a project that connects thirteen nature reserves along the rivers the Drava, Mura, and the Danube in the five countries Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia. The project strives to preserve important ecosystems and develop the region economically.
  • Protected nature is not just about national parks and large-scale political projects. One example is a foundation in New Zealand, named after Queen Elizabeth II, which documents land protected by private landowners. At present, 4,700 areas are included in the fund's network.
  • In Scotland, private individuals have contributed Β£ 3.8 million through crowdfunding to buy land that will become a nature reserve.

The list of positive examples could be made longer. But at the same time, we should not turn a blind eye to the significant challenges that lie ahead. According to the Living Planet Index, wildlife populations have declined by an average of two-thirds since 1970, and more than 3,000 fish species are threatened with extinction.

In other words, we need to become even better at protecting and preserving valuable nature. Many large organizations have supported the goal that 30 percent of the planet should be covered by 2030.

πŸ’‘ Optimist's Edge

Why should we protect nature? Perhaps the opportunity to wander in a pristine forest is enough of an answer. But here are six more good reasons:

For the sake of nature itself

Let's leave the anthropocentric perspective for a moment. It is difficult to ignore the fact that human expansion and activities have had a strong negative impact on the living conditions of other species. It is worth mentioning: By creating nature reserves, national parks, or other areas that are protected in different ways, we increase the space where wild animals and plants can live. We preserve nature for its inherent value.

Counteract global warming

We humans can also benefit from the ecosystem services that nature contributes; for example, clean water or forests that act as carbon dioxide sinks help slow down global warming.

Sports and leisure

We have already mentioned recreation in the form of forest walks. There is, of course, a wide range of activities in nature for us to engage in, such as hunting and fishing, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, photography, and more. In general, the interest in nature tourism is increasing.

Nature is preserved for multiple reasons.

Financial gains

Various ecosystem services, such as those we mentioned above, are examples of how it's possible to make money by conserving natural areas. For instance, it could include forests that prevent floods or storms, save money, and reduce human suffering.

Nature tourism is, of course, another example of how we can make money by taking care of nature, but there are plenty more. In a study published a couple of years ago, over a hundred researchers reviewed the economic benefits of conserving wildlife compared to the costs.

One might think that sectors such as agriculture, forestry, and fisheries that make a living from farming land and water would lose out on a conservation strategy, but this does not seem to be the case. Take, for example, the oceans. Due to overfishing and climate change, revenues in the fishing industry are expected to decrease in the future. But by protecting different areas better, the catches can increase in the long run and thereby the profits. In addition, prosperous sea areas can generate income from diving and other types of tourism, which are often more profitable for the local business community than fishing.

For our wellbeing

More and more research shows that being in nature is good for us. Listening to birds chirping, for example, can reduce stress.

In Japan, so-called forest baths were invented in the 1980s. The idea was that exhausted office workers would spend time outdoors to improve their health - and avoid premature death. There are even researchers who believe that doctors should prescribe these forest baths. In the small town of Biarritz on the French Atlantic coast, doctors have started prescribing surfing for various diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, stress, and depression, instead of pills.

In other words, by giving more people access to nature experiences, we can help prevent some of the significant health challenges of our time, such as mental illness and various lifestyle diseases, and thereby increase both our well-being and productivity.

Would you feel better if you could listen to more bird-song?

Read more about how we can live longer and healthier lives in the future.

Even more healing power

Many plants are used worldwide for medicinal purposes, and many essential drugs, such as morphine and aspirin, are based on substances that were first discovered in plants. Various substances produced by animals have also proved interesting for drug research. For several years, for example, there has been a diabetes medicine derived from the saliva of the Gila monster.

Various poisons produced by, for example, snakes and spiders can prove to be particularly valuable. DNA technology also makes it easier to detect and synthesize these substances.

We also reduce the risk of different species dying out by conserving nature so we get more time to discover what benefit they might provide.

Gila lizard saliva contains substances that can be used against diabetes.

Prevent future pandemics

More and more research points to a link between deforestation and disturbed ecosystems on the one hand and the development of various infectious diseases on the other. An estimated 60 percent of all infectious diseases are zoonotic; they have spread from animals to humans, such as Borrelia and Ebola. By becoming better at protecting nature, we can also reduce the risk of diseases spreading from animals to humans. At best, it could even prevent future pandemics.

πŸ‘‡ How to get Optimist's Edge

Did you know that:

Read more:

A 1,000 square kilometer nature reserve will protect the jaguars in Belize

The "sea motorway" for endangered marine life becomes a nature reserve

Forests larger than France have regrown over the past 20 years

Covering 30 percent of the planet for nature: costs, benefits and economic implications

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