The Big Picture: A Department of Conservation education programme

So What is it all about, eh? this Planet,
Life, Humanity? Who runs this Planet? The stockmarket? The
Media? The politicians and CEOs of large companies? Nah! Is it all about Nature? David Attenborough? Let’s face it: Plants and animals are everywhere
in our life. My jacket’s filled with down – from birds. The cord inside the hood is made from cotton
and silk: plants and silkworms. It’s nice and warm – insulation is a great
idea from animals that live in cold climates: like the sheep, down there. My boots are waterproof – so I can walk through
shallow rivers. It’s an idea invented by ducks, to keep their feathers dry and their bodies
buoyant and warm. Rivers – they’re like the veins of our planet
– channelling water in one of the most important cycles on earth. You see, good, healthy rivers originate in
healthy catchments and where do you think this stuff comes from? You really don’t need to go into the pipe
and find out. All you need to do is look up at the sky: Clouds – rain and snow – down streams and
rivers – or via ground water – lots of it is taken up by plants and trees (evapotranspiration
back into the clouds) – some is taken for drinking water – and the rest goes out to
sea – evaporation to clouds. Now, if our water in the soil and in streams
and rivers is of bad quality, the stuff that comes out of the tap will also be bad. If
the water is good – then everything downstream is good as well. As I said before: good, healthy rivers originate
in healthy catchments, and they are full of invertebrates that are food for small fish;
which are food for bigger fish, which are food for US. Talking about food: everything is food for
something else (have you noticed?) If I sit here long enough, I’d get bitten
by mozzies and sandflies – they want my blood – it’s their food – they need it to lay their
eggs in the water. People often ask me: “Bugman, Why can’t we
get rid of all those mosquitoes? Life would be a lot easier!” True. But their larvae clean
our water of bacteria and slime; these larvae are also food for small fishes. Adult mosquitoes are food for birds, reptiles,
bats beetles, mantids and spiders. Oh – and have a look at all those pretty native
wildflowers everywhere. Mosquitoes are also excellent pollinators of flowers; like most
insects they like pollen and nectar. So: “Why can’t we get rid of all those mosquitoes?” Why would we want to get rid of them? We’d end up with dirty water, bad drinking
water, no fish, hungry birds, geckoes and bats and far fewer insects and spiders! And wild flowers? Well, you can forget about
them too! Shows you, eh, everything is connected! We
may even be connected to life on galaxies far, far away – Who Knows? I suppose we could possibly live with dirty
water and hungry birds, geckoes. But, let’s step it up a wee bit and take a look at our
honeybees: They’re in big trouble, world-wide. Each year
30 to 40% of them die! Causes? Some say cellphone towers, pesticides,
exotic mites and predators on the bees’ bodies, foreign diseases and bad land use, without
flowering plants. We just don’t get it, do we? Bees pollinate one-third of all our food crops;
they even pollinate the clover that provide nitrogen in the paddock with grasses that
feed the beef and sheep that provide us with meat. Did you get that? Without bees, growing
food and farming meat is a heck of a lot harder!!! Under my feet live millions of tiny critters.
Some live in the fallen leaves; others live in dead branches; others again tunnel though
the soil. All they do is recycle, re-use and they reduce the final amount of rubbish. Heard
that before? The three R-s! Reduce, re-use, recycle! Mother Nature knows no waste; it has no landfills
and no toxic residues. There’s always another organism that uses
the waste products from somebody else. Slowly stuff turns into smaller and smaller fragments,
until it becomes food for plants again. So when we talk about our “throw-away Society”,
I always ask: “Where’s that magical place we call ‘away’?” What about recycling dung? That’s the hard-core
bug work we often don’t even think about on a daily basis. Yet a great number of invertebrates
do exactly that sort of work. Scientists have calculated that if there were no dung-processing
organisms on earth, we’d be covered in 7 feet of poo within a few years. Just make a cup of tea and think about that
for a while, will you. How will you get to work, to school, to the cinema? And playing
a game of rugby would be an even messier affair. Just think about it: there are creatures that
distribute seeds, pollinate flowers, get rid of rubbish, do our pest control for us, help
other creatures in all sorts of ways, act as a bus-service or even an airline! We know that every creature is food for a
bigger creature, some plants and animals are providing us with new medicines and technology
or even new materials! So what is it all about then? You know – it’s not just Nature that runs
this planet. It’s the variety of life and the interactions or connections between all
these millions and millions of species that makes this place a well-oiled machine. A living ecosystem. We’ve got a word for that: biodiversity biodiversity It literally makes the big picture. It’s what it’s all about – it’s the balance
and it provides our well-being. But are we looking after our biodiversity?
Do we really value it? Or have we lost the operating system of Mother Earth?

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