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Biodiversity is the new black

Biodiversity is the new black

Says not so new environmental campaigner.

“We are part of nature’s rich diversity and we have the power to protect or destroy it.”

These are the words of Ian Kiernan, the man behind an organisation that mobilises 35 million people each year to protect, rather than destroy, planet life. The organisation is Clean Up the World.

“Biodiversity is the new black,” says Kiernan. “It’s fantastic to see global attention on such an issue this year. Protecting the variety and wonder of our planet is something we’ve been advocating since Clean Up the World began 18 years ago.”

2010 is the United Nation’s International Year of Biodiversity, a global effort to raise awareness of what biodiversity is and the importance of conserving planet life.

Reports show that much of life on this planet is under threat. Unsustainable methods of production and consumption, destruction of habitats, expanding cities, pollution, deforestation, and global warming are all contributing factors.

The sad fact is that biodiversity and species extinction means little in the daily lives of most people, despite the efforts of organisations such as Clean Up the World. However Kiernan remains positive, arguing that Clean Up the World participants are not most people.

“When we lose a species such as a type of palm tree, does it have a bigger impact on humans than when we lose our mobile phones?” questions Kiernan. “For some, mobile phones are more important but there are thousands of other individuals and groups who are working tirelessly in their communities to improve the well-being of local environments. We see this every day.”

This is a story of communities, all Clean Up the World participants operating, not for reward or recognition, at a local level.
From cleaning up local parks to implementing recycling programmes, tree planting to awareness raising events, each Clean Up the World activity protects, restores and/or promotes nature. “It’s the power to protect on a global scale,” says Kiernan.  

The Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan works both above and below the sea level to protect the country’s unique marine life. They are group of concerned divers that joined the Clean Up the World campaign 14 years ago to prevent further damage to the Gulf of Aqaba from underwater garbage and marine debris.

To protect the endangered forest of Africa’s second highest mountain, volunteers from the ‘Save Mount Kenya Forest From Extinction Group’ plant thousands of seedlings each year. They aim to improve Kenyan forest cover from 2% to 10% over the next ten years, restoring important ecosystems in the region.

Ecologia y Reciclaje de Sonora, a recycling and ecology organisation in Mexico, recently partnered with the community, government, business, media and schools to construct a house from recycled material for the indigenous community of San Pablo del Monte municipality in Tlaxcala. In an effort to raise awareness of over consumption, the house was made of discarded plastic and glass drink bottles.

At the grass-roots level, the Scout Association of Guyana work to preserve a local turtle population by clearing marine debris from beaches. In India, 100 families join forces to plant tree saplings across three different areas of Vasundhara in Ghaziabad. While in north eastern Romania, Association Iubim Natura works to educate the city of Bacau on conservation and recycling through festivals and films.

During the upcoming Clean Up the World Weekend on 17-19 September, these groups will again join hundreds around the world and support Clean Up the World to clean up, fix up and conserve local environments. 35 million volunteers in over 120 countries are involved each year.

“Environmental protection at a global scale often starts with small individual actions. We bring together those individuals and small communities with large organisations and government in a joint effort to make our planet a cleaner and healthier place,” said Kiernan.

Clean Up the World is a campaign held in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, who helped the campaign get started in 1993. On the organisation’s website, Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme quotes, “Clean Up the World brings the focus squarely on us – as people, as agents of change”.

Kiernan agrees. It is people, as he so aptly puts it, who have the power to protect or destroy. Habitat loss, over-hunting and deforestation are all human activities that contribute to biodiversity loss. Tree planting, reforestation and clean ups, however, are all human activities that are contributing to biodiversity conservation. The latter are activities that Clean Up the World advocate and support.

2010 is the year the world is invited to take action to protect the variety of species on our planet. Clean Up the World, through its participants and partners, is doing just that and they will continue to do just that well beyond 2010. 

Story by Lara Charles, a freelance writer based in New Zealand.
2010 © Clean Up the World Pty Ltd. This article is available for reproduction free of charge as long as acknowledgement is given to Clean Up the World and the author and the meaning of the article is not changed. Photographs are available on request.