We're All Connected
How we fit into nature’s big picture—and what happens when our fellow species start to vanish.
The dazzling variety of life on earth, in all of its forms, is what we call biodiversity. The way living things interact is like an orchestra; each individual is dependent on the actions of others to succeed. Biodiversity is what gives us food, water, clothing, and shelter—the essentials of life—and so much more. And right now, our wild, intricate orchestra is losing its players, as populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians declined by 60% from 1970 to 2014. It’s time to sound the alarm.
Why Biodiversity Matters
E.O. Wilson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist and Harvard professor (more about him in a minute), describes species decline in these terms: “The loss of a keystone species is like a drill accidentally striking a power line. It causes lights to go out all over.” Here are some examples of what the loss of a species can mean to the world.
• Food Chain Breakdown
Bees and other insects collect pollen as they buzz from plant to plant, pollinating as they go. Pollination is what gives us flowers, seeds and fruit. Without the insects, we lose pretty much the entire produce section of the grocery store and the diverse nutrients we need to be healthy.
Insects of all sorts are a crucial food source for birds and fish—when the bugs vanish, they’ll go, too. Not too long ago, a car windshield at the end of a summer drive would be smudged with bugs; today, not so much. One study in Germany showed an 80% decline in insect volume from 1989 to 2013. Another in Puerto Rico showed up to 60 times less volume of bugs in the early 2010s than was recorded in the early 1970s.
• Natural Disaster Vulnerability
Coral reefs absorb the impact from hurricanes and tsunami waves, while providing a home for almost 25% of all marine life. As they die off, their inhabitants and our coastlines lose their protection.
• No New Medicines
According to E.O. Wilson, preserving species and supporting biodiversity is critical to humans if for no other reason than what other species could potentially offer us in the form of medicine. “The rosy periwinkle provided the cure for Hodgkin’s disease and childhood lymphocytic leukemia, the bark of the Pacific yew offers hope for victims of ovarian and breast cancer, a chemical from the saliva of leeches dissolves blood clots during surgery, and so on.”
• Widespread Extinction
Some scientists have begun referring to this era as the sixth mass extinction, due to the incredible rate at which the Earth’s species are declining. One study showed that, out of “nearly half of known vertebrate species, 32% are decreasing,” and in a group of 177 mammals, “all have lost 30% or more of their geographic ranges and more than 40% of the species have experienced severe population declines.”
Our Biodiversity Support Team
By supporting thriving ecosystems from the ground up, we support all life—including our own. We established the Burt’s Bees Foundation in 2007, and to date we’ve given $3.5 million in grants to support work at the intersection of human and environmental health.
Obviously, we’re wild for bees, so we’re trying to do our part to support our favorite pollinators. Since the onset of Colony Collapse Disorder in 2007, the Burt’s Bees Foundation and Rural Advancement Foundation International have planted more than 5,000 acres of pollinator plants, which support thousands more acres of nearby farmland with pollination services and pest reduction. We’ve also undertaken initiatives that have supported pollinator research, education and conservation, ultimately impacting over 145,000 acres of healthy pollinator forage on farms and distributing 15 billion wildflower seeds.
And, in 2018, Burt’s Bees joined the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation’s Half-Earth Project in their moonshot goal to conserve half the Earth. Why half? The Foundation has determined that if we protect half of the Earth’s surface, 85% or more species will be protected, too. “At one-half and above,” as their website states, “life on Earth enters the safe zone.” Scientists estimate that there are 13 million total species in the world—and we’ve only identified about 1.75 million of them. So, through this partnership, we’re supporting the mapping of more than 5,000 bee species to inform conservation priorities for generations to come.
What You Can Do To Protect Biodiversity
• Find Your Wilderness
Get acquainted with the great outdoors that’s right outside your door. Find a local park to explore, take a guided hike through protected lands, study up on local insects and birds, or spend some time sketching the flowers in your garden. The more you know, the more you’ll care.
• Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Un-Pollute
It may seem like common sense, but making an overall effort to do good for the environment directly benefits biodiversity. You can try to reduce your household waste and recycle more diligently, opt for low-emission transportation, install a rain barrel, switch to non-chemical sunscreen—any choice you make that helps you tread more lightly on the planet is a good one.
• Plant Local
If you’re ready to plant a garden, be sure to fill it with plants that belong where you live. Native plants are prepared to handle your climate, naturally support your local insects and birds, and can help manage your area’s extremes in water levels and ward off pests. (Plus, they’re just more likely to survive—you’ll be well on your way to a green thumb.)
• Plant For Pollinators
Another garden tip is to choose local plants specifically to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. You can plant a pollinator garden in containers (apartment-dwellers can use a windowsill or even a rooftop) or in the ground. The more varieties of flowers, plants and trees that pollinators have to visit, the healthier their environment and their ecosystems will be.
• Eat Local, Organic And Sustainable Foods
It might not be realistic to do all the time, but whenever possible, look for local foods that have been responsibly grown, support organic farms that don’t use conventional pesticides and fertilizers, and seek out sustainable seafood that hasn’t been fished in a way that damages the ecosystem.
Be A #ForceForNature
Maybe you’re planting an herb garden, or fishing trash out of a local stream, or buying your veggies from a local farmer’s market—whatever it is, share it with us! We want to see how you’re supporting your corner of the world and getting reconnected with the great outdoors. Share and tag your pics (we’re @BurtsBees on Instagram) and let us all see what a real #ForceForNature looks like.
Learn more about the values that drive our choices.
Our Values >
Mapping the bees for biodiversity’s sake.
Our Half-Earth Project Plan >