Australian dragonflies

Putting Insects On The Political Agenda

The truth is that we need invertebrates but they don't need us.’

An important quote from the famous American naturalist and ecologist, Edward O. Wilson, from his article ‘The Little Things That Run the World’, published in Conservation Biology in 1987. Wilson went on to say: ‘If  human beings were to disappear tomorrow, the world would go on with little change. [...]. But if invertebrates were to disappear, I doubt that the human species could last more than a few months… Within a few decades the world would return to the state of a billion years ago, composed primarily of bacteria, algae, and a few other very simple multicellular plants.

As Wilson argued, invertebrates may be small but they are not insignificant. They are linked to a third of what we eat, are fundamentals to our forests, oceans, rivers and the broader ecosystem. And many live in urban areas and we can support them. 

PlantingSeeds, through the B&B Highway, is working to not only implement practical measures to support invertebrates and other pollinators by planting habitats in urban and peri-urban locations in three Australian States. We are also advocating to raise the agenda of this vital conservation issue.

When it comes to legal protection, non-human species are in the wilderness – which is in itself disappearing! Human issues are naturally prioritized in our legislation, but non-human species are only supported by very limited legal protections. 

Insects, in particular, are rarely featured in biodiversity protection, and are seen as a resource to exploit and manage rather than a crucial part of the ecosystem. In a review published by Austral Entomology, 15 scientists from Australian universities pointed out after an investigation (2018): ‘Insects and allied invertebrates are often excluded from traditional conservation management practices currently employed in Australia’.

The lack of legislative regulations and rules speeds up the demise of insect species and the shrinking of insect habitats, as they remain ‘unseen’ even though they seem everywhere. Actions from the Federal and State governments to solidify the legal foundation for insect diversity management is needed.

The legal basis to intervene in deteriorating urban biodiversity and wildlife protection is overall inscribed in the EPBC Act (The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999), the central piece of Australia’s environmental protection framework.

Yet the fact is that “Australia holds the world record for the most mammal extinctions and is ranked 4th for animal extinctions globally”, according to the article published by Australian Conservation Foundation in 2022. According to the report on the EPBC Act reviewed independently by Professor Graeme Samuel and released in Jan. 2021, the Act fails to prevent the loss of habitats caused by ongoing and widespread land clearing. 

In his independent review appointed by the Minister for the Environment and supported by an expert panel, Professor Samuel advocates that, ‘National Environment Standards must be supported by a broader framework of reform’. His report is based on a national-scale open call of submissions on the EPBC Act. In their Submission to the EPBC Act Review Discussion Paper, Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO, the environment-related legal advice provider claims that, ‘The EPBC Act is now 20 years old and is in need of reform. It is lengthy, complex, inefficient, fails to address major challenges, and its implementation has been undermined by resourcing issues’. 

Invertebrates are the backbone of our lives – it’s time to provide support.