Desertification & Drought Day 2020: we must protect our landscapes in order to protect humanity

The focus for World Desertification and Drought Day 2020 is on the ceaseless production, development and consumption of the world’s populations. Communities are expanding, appetites are growing and consideration for our planet’s resources and health are diminishing at such a rate that we have transformed the face of the earth.

Why is this a problem?

By expanding our cities, towns, and communities and increase our consumption levels we put increasing pressure on areas of biodiversity which leads to an increase in human-wildlife conflict. Forests are replaced by areas used for grazing cattle, oceans are filled with toxic plastic waste and our air is polluted with greenhouse gas emissions. As populations grow and become more wealthier, the need for consumption becomes greater.

According to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, over 70% of our planet’s natural ecosystems have been transformed due to production and consumption. It has been estimated that by 2050, this could hit 90 per cent.

This shockingly high statistic lends itself to explaining the global pandemic we are currently living through. As humans encroach into areas of biodiversity in order to provide more for our own consumption, we expose ourselves to an invisible threat: zoonotic diseases (a disease that can jump from animal species to humans). SARS, Ebola and Coronavirus are all examples of this type of disease and each has desimated populations at local (and now global) levels.

How can we support biodiversity?

Elephant Family is working closely with the Wildlife Trust of India to build wildlife corridors in Assam, and in Kerala. These areas of land will enable species such as the Asian elephant, tiger, and a variety of species of deer and bison to roam freely, undisturbed by areas of development or human activity. In doing so, occurences of human-wildlife conflict are also reduced, thereby maintaining healthy levels of biodiversity.

As well as this, our support of the Nature Conservation Foundation is supporting research into the impact of large-scale landscape changes on elephant behaviour. By understanding these impacts, NCF are able to provide guidance to local development authorities on where wildlife is located, and therefore how best to progress with sustainable development which helps to reduce the occurrence of human-wildlife conflict.

This World Desertification and Drought Day, Elephant Family hopes that we can all reflect on and change our attitudes towards humanity’s reliance on our planet’s natural resources and our destruction of global biodiversity in order to benefit ourselves.

If we wish to have personal health and avoid future pandemics, we need to support the health of our planet first. Halting biodiversity loss through sustainable methods of development, and increasing local-level education to raise awareness of human-wildlife coexistence are key to reframing our attitudes towards consumption and production, and to the peaceful coexistence between humanity and the wildlife we share this planet with.