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Relating Biodiversity to Other Environmental Issues

Explanations of the importance of biodiversity should also be contextual. How we deal with the synergy of destructive environmental forces will define our future. Importantly, the combined effects of climate change, fragmented and degraded habitats, and threats to biodiversity need a more compelling presentation to reach many audiences preoccupied with global warming as the one big environmental problem. Disturbing examples of synergistically driven devastation are all too common. The traumatic effects of both predicted climate change and the fragmentation of natural habitats may force near-term extinction of many species in the extraordinarily beautiful Fynbos flora of South Africa (Midgley and Miller, 2005). Overharvesting, pollution, ocean warming, and coral bleaching have irreparably damaged many of the world’s coral reefs (Pandolfi et al., 2005). Large-scale eutrophication in many coastal regions of the world has resulted in hazmat environments deadly to marine fish and plants and harmful to humans (Sellner et al., 2003). In terms of solutions that address global warming, biodiversity-enriched forests are important in reducing our carbon footprint (Lovejoy and Hannah, 2005) or in mitigating the effects of urban heat islands (Foley et al., 2005). Educational programming, media, exhibitions, and other means of public outreach should build on the welcome increase in public interest in global warming by demonstrating the synergistic effects of other environmental disruptions.


The next step in the process of engaging the public, the delivery of the message, is perhaps the most challenging to the scientific community. This endeavor relies on such activities as market testing and targeting; media networking; exhibitry; filmmaking; legal, policy, and economic consulting; and organizational and collaborative programming that generally lie outside the expertise and experience of scientists most familiar with the problem. At an early stage in the biodiversity conservation effort, this challenge was recognized. Strategies were developed for convening, collaboration, and communication among professional groups, NGOs, media, and others. Subsequently, many NGOs (including those staffed with biodiversity experts) have been active. A comprehensive examination of these mechanisms and strategies for delivering the message lie beyond the scope of this chapter. Here, I focus on some practical issues that involve a few key elements in the process: the media, venues for public science education, and public participation, sometimes also referred to as “citizen science.”

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