Brentwood & Biodiversity

Monday, July 01, 2019 - By: Mr Michael Miller; Photo by Holly B, Allard '21

Below is the text of an speech made to the school by science teacher, Mr Michaal Miller.

1,000,000 was the number...

The preliminary summary of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services was released on 6 May, 2019. It was a difficult read. In it was a review of more than 15,000 scientific papers and reports from the last five decades and it indicated that 1 million plants and animal species, of the estimated 9 million species on the planet, are threatened with extinction within our lifetimes. Unprecedented in recorded history, Earth’s biodiversity, that is, the variability and variety of life scattered throughout all biomes, is becoming reduced at an alarming rate because of the direct effects of human activities. This loss of biodiversity is not only an environmental issue, but also a developmental, economic, security, moral and social issue. According to the report, this development is “a truly global and generational threat to human well-being” where “not only is our safety net shrinking, it’s becoming more threadbare and holes are appearing”. 

The environment branch of the United Nations which had prepared this report, indicated that the five direct drivers of this change in nature, beginning with the largest of the global impacts, are:

changes in land and sea use

direct exploitation of organisms

climate change


invasive species

In order to mitigate against these effects, the report mandated that we must first secure the biosphere in order to safeguard our climate, which will buffer us from extreme weather events. Furthermore, the report admonished us to change our economic and financial systems which currently work under the limited paradigm of economic growth so that we can construct a sustainable global economy, permitting a healthy, and ultimately, sustainable planet. The authors stressed that in order to meet this sustainable future, key solutions must include trade-offs in such diverse areas as in infrastructure, between food and energy production, management of coasts and inland waters, as well as in conservation of biodiversity. 

You may ask: what can we do about it? The report cautioned that “transformative changes” are needed to restore and protect nature. At Brentwood, our vision is to “set the standard globally for both inspirational and transformative learning”. At this school, we also work towards a global-minded outlook that others will look to for knowledge and best practices. 

The choice of words by the United Nations has not been lost upon me. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us, as Brentonians, to use our inspired and transformed minds to seek solutions to the crises that face us now and in the immediate and foreseeable future. Let’s not just talk about the elephant in the room, but also the cheetah, the baobab tree, or the condor. 

What can we do about it? 


Mr Michael Miller

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