BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION: A Vital Path to Achieve Sustainability


The Sixth Mass Extinction: Humanity’s Unprecedented Crisis

In recent decades, the acceleration of species and habitat loss has reached unprecedented levels, marking what scientists dub as the sixth mass extinction. This unsettling trend is predominantly attributed to human activities, poised to extinguish three-quarters of the species we know within a mere few decades. 69% of Earth’s wildlife has vanished in the past 50 years. While some debate lingers among scientists regarding the classification of this event, the undeniable reality remains: Earth confronts a profound crisis of biodiversity loss, aggravated by climate change and environmental contamination.

The Perceptual Challenge: Understanding the Scale of Species Decline

The scale of this species decline often eludes immediate perception, unfolding across vast expanses of space and time. Consequently, the gravity of these ecological challenges often remains obscured behind abstract data and research findings. Regrettably, policymakers may choose to overlook this inconvenient truth if it contradicts their political agendas.

Resistance to Alarm: The Challenge of Acknowledging Crisis

Despite scientists consistently highlighting alarming findings, they often encounter resistance, being admonished not to perpetuate panic with their labeled ‘alarmist reports,’ which downplay the severity of the situation. Such dismissals only serve to perpetuate inaction in the face of impending ecological catastrophe. Up till now, the world is failing to address a catastrophic biodiversity collapse. In other words, humanity is running an ecological Ponzi scheme in which society robs nature and future generations to pay for boosting incomes in the short term.

The Prevailing Mindset and Bonaire’s Approach

The way Bonaire approaches the biodiversity and climate crisis is sadly no exception to the prevailing mindset that prioritizes growth and short-term gain, a stance shared by the majority of political leaders around the world.

News headlines in the local press celebrate the increasing number of planes and tourists visiting the island, and cruise passengers estimated to reach 400,000 in 2024 (*). However, amidst this push for growth, little consideration is given to the ecological capacity of the island, disregarding the long-term sustainability of the island’s ecosystem.

Habitat Destruction: A Key Driver of Extinction

At the heart of the sixth mass extinction lies habitat destruction, propelled by the exponential growth of the human population and our insatiable consumption of resources. This relentless expansion exerts immense pressure on ecosystems worldwide, driving countless species towards the brink of extinction. Numerous studies now document how natural soundscapes are changing, being disrupted, and falling silent. Sounds of the natural world are rapidly falling silent and will become ‘acoustic fossils’ without urgent action to halt environmental destruction.

Biodiversity Crisis: A Race Against Irreversible Loss

The loss of biological diversity could ultimately become the most pervasive global environmental change our species will face, as all taxa that disappear from Earth will be gone forever. Biodiversity loss is both a cause and a consequence of global environmental change. Despite its critical importance, the biodiversity crisis has received appallingly little attention compared to climate change. Stopping biodiversity loss is nowhere near the top of any country’s priorities. Consequently, none of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020, set at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s 2010 meeting, were met. However, in December 2022, governments worldwide agreed on new goals to guide global action through 2030, aiming to halt and reverse loss of biodiversity. This includes targets such as protecting 30% of the planet and restore 30% of degraded ecosystems by 2030.

The Role of Sustainable Development Goals

Most of the nature-related United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are also on track for failure, largely because most SDGs have not adequately incorporated their interdependencies. Recent studies on the interactions between the SDGs identify the conservation of biodiversity as one of the most potent levers to achieve sustainability. Progress on the biodiversity-focused SDGs 14 (life below water) and 15 (life on land) contributes in most cases to the achievement of multiple other goals.

Biodiversity Conservation: A Vital Path to Sustainable Development

The extent of the extinction crisis and its impacts on the loss of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human well-being are still rather ignored by most people. There is time, but the window of opportunity is almost closed. Sustainable development crucially hinges on nature and in particular on its biological diversity. The loss of biodiversity is irreversible on a time scale relevant to humanity. Ecosystems can endure, evolving over millions of years to find a new equilibrium. However, we, as humans, can’t afford it. We are dependent on ecosystems, while they do not depend on us. What is at stake, the fate of humanity and most living species. It is essential for future generations to inherit a world where nature flourishes, and where humans coexist harmoniously with the natural environment.

We still have six years to meet the SDGs lets take the urgently needed actions to correct the course and accelerate the implementations of the SDGs. A sustainable future is only possible with healthy nature at its core.


Note: * with still a meager tourist tax of $2.00 (head tax), plans to increase it to $10.00 have been indefinitely postponed in December 2023 (Z/23/009821).


Published in the Bonaire Reporter issue 11, 2024 page 6