A United Nations report on the decline of biodiversity is shining a light on environmental issues many associations hold dear, from the importance of plant life to the preservation of animal species.
Earlier this month, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a landmark report saying more than 1 million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction due to human action. And the hundreds of scientists behind the global assessment say that people and countries must act now in order to slow the destruction.
For associations representing the plant, animal, and environmental industries, the report has helped put a spotlight on their missions and their members’ work.
Andrea Wolfe, president of the Botanical Society of America, said the report is important because it reminds people that plants are an important part of the world ecosystem.
An ongoing challenge that BSA has faced is that both the general public and government seem to have a more visceral concern for animals than plants. “The reality of the situation, in the United States, to get a plant listed [on the endangered species list] is much more difficult than to get an animal listed,” Wolfe said. “It’s been an ongoing challenge for us to make the case that plants need to be protected.”
However, Wolfe is hopeful that the report, thanks to its scope and urgency, will bring more attention to plants. “The biggest impact on our members, is trying to convince people that the plants do matter,” she said.
It’s not just BSA that spoke out following the report’s release. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums wants the report to spur people to action.
“The conclusions in the United Nations’ IPBES Global Assessment are alarming,” said Dan Ashe, AZA president and CEO, said in a press release. “As the U.N. report outlines, we need to make major changes in our behaviors to protect wild animals and wild places. AZA and its members are cultivating passionate advocates willing to take action for wildlife.”
Since 2015, AZA has used its Saving Animals from Extinction program to aggregate member support on a national scale. Through SAFE, AZA members are focusing their collective expertise and leveraging their audiences to save more than 20 species and taxonomic groups from extinction. Vaquita porpoises and African penguins are two species the program has worked to protect in recent years.
The National Parks Conservation Association is also talking about the environmental health of the park system. Just days after the UN report, NPCA released it own report on air pollution.
“America’s national parks are some of the most beloved places on earth and provide once in a lifetime experiences, but the iconic wildlife and irreplaceable natural and cultural resources that make these places so special are being seriously threatened by climate change and other effects of air pollution,” said Stephanie Kodish, Clean Air Program Director for NPCA, said in a press release.