When I think of imports I typically think of things that are positive. I would never have chocolate without imports for example. But new research shows that Canada, the USA, and a number of other countries are also importing extinction risks. This doesn’t mean that the imports are causing extinction at home, it means that because of what and how much we import we are driving extinction risks elsewhere in the world.
My PhD research was all about seeing climate change locally. People have a harder time connecting to changes that happen far away and seeing their own responsibility in that change. As a result, I used photography to see if outdoor educators could see climate change in their own lives. They could. I think that was an easier task than helping people see how their actions, primarily consumption, contribute to extinctions and biodiversity loss elsewhere in the world. How do I connect the banana on my counter to species disappearing in Ecuador without also seeing how the land and plants have been changed to suit my taste buds?
Seventy-six countries, mostly located in North America, Europe, and East Asia are net importers of extinction (we cause more extinction elsewhere). Sixteen countries, mostly in Africa, were net exporters, and the remaining of the 188 countries examined caused most of their own extinction risks. Think about that 76 countries cause more damage elsewhere. That’s like if just under half of employees caused more mess at the office than they do at home. Imagine what our offices would look like and consider how that would impact everyone else.
I actually don’t get bananas very often. I know too much about their impact for them to be common in my house. But how many other things do I purchase because I don’t know any different? It is very clear that personal connections help us to relate to and potentially take action on major issues like climate change and biodiversity loss. So the next time you have a minute see if you can do some research and find out how much harm will be done if you just have to have that specific item from somewhere other than where you are now.