By Luca Bonaccorsi
The good news is that more than ¾ of Europeans believe it is important to stop the loss of biodiversity. The bad news is… they do not know what it is.
These are just some of the startling findings of the special edition Eurobarometer “Attitudes of Europeans towards biodiversity” released last week (and largely ignored by the media). This is clearly food for thought for an organisaton such as BirdLife, which has the protection of biodiversity as its core goal. But there’s more in the Survey.
According to the survey, most Europeans (70%) are not simply ignorant of what biodiversity is (39% have never heard of it; believe it or not this includes 2/3 of Germans), but also think that the loss of biodiversity will affect them directly (35%) or affect ‘someone else’ (33%) in some distant future. Less than ¼ realise that they are being affected now, as we speak. It should come as no surprise then, that 60% of citizens think that institutions should do more to inform them.
Also, while most of them acknowledge the problem, they think it’s “far away from home”: only 35% think it’s a problem in Europe, 30% in their home country and only 19% in the area where they live. Basically, we all think that nature is doing poorly… somewhere else. We know the loss of biodiversity is a problem, but it’s not very clear what it is, and it’s certainly more serious in far away places on the planet.
Of course there is also more ‘reassuring’ news in the survey. Apparently, we are all on ‘alert’ for the threat to nature. And we all know it’s our fault: pollution, the pillage of our seas and the senseless exploitation of our natural resources. Most of us feel the ‘responsibility’ and 60% believe that our health and well-being depends on nature. All good pre-conditions for change.
Unfortunately, despite all good intentions, biodiversity is collapsing: the festival of life, the amazing variety of species that inhabit our planet (a beacon in this rather cold, lifeless and dark universe) is declining fast. The lights on the show of life keep dimming. And it’s happening here, in Europe, and probably exactly in the area where we live or, extensively, in the rural area next door where the food we consume is produced.
Biodiversity, sadly, is not a technical definition of an aspect of life: it is life. And we are losing it.
Europe is at a crossroads, the mid-term assessment of the European biodiversity strategy published last week by the Commission says we keep losing our nature. The Commission is also evaluating our main pieces of legislation to defend natural life, the Birds and Habitats Directives. We have a chance, here and now, to turn the tide. We don’t need new laws: we need funds and law enforcement. We need our institutions to understand that we care. We will shout it loudly, again and again.
Biodiversity, life, can be saved. We work for that every day, come rain or shine.
That’s what our newsletter is about this month.