IUCN together with its Members and partners wants to see biodiversity at the top of the global agenda, leading to stronger action from all sectors of society including government and industry to safeguard it. To do this we have to show how biodiversity is essential for sustaining our natural living systems—or ecosystems—that provide us with clean air and water, food, building materials, fuel and medicine.

Humans are an integral part of biodiversity and have the power to protect or destroy it. Currently, our activities are destroying the natural world at an unprecedented rate through climate change, habitat destruction, over-harvesting, pollution and many other activities. We’re facing a global species extinction crisis.

But there is growing recognition that biological diversity is the lifeblood of sustainable development and human welfare. Well managed natural resources support peaceful communities, encourage well-balanced economic growth and help reduce poverty. Healthy biodiversity is essential to help us adapt to changing conditions, including a changing climate. This recognition must urgently translate into conservation action.

Biodiversity loss is not like climate change where people can see and feel the impacts: rising sea levels and increasing storms. In the western world, we have become so far removed from biodiversity that we’ve forgotten how much we use it in our daily lives from the food we eat to the clothes we wear to the medicines we use. When we eat wild salmon, we rarely think of the species that the salmon depends on to thrive. When we fell a mature tree to make a table, we lose a host of lichens and invertebrates; part of an entire web of life is lost. Yet people in the developing world know exactly what’s at stake as they set out each morning to gather fuelwood from a dwindling forest, travel ever further to hunt animals for food and collect medicinal plants to treat their sick children.

We need to do better at making the scientific, social, economic and cultural case for keeping diversity, and show just how much it supports nearly every aspect of human life and progress. Through our International Year of Biodiversity focus, we’ll be doing just that, starting with a look at IUCN’s projects relating to forest biodiversity in February.