The vital role of our wetlands in balancing our planetary health and climate (Interview with Max Finlayson of the Society of Wetland Scientists)
This is a conversation on Green Dreamer with Kamea Chayne, a podcast and multimedia journal illuminating the path towards environmental regeneration, intersectional sustainability, and true abundance for all. This preview has been edited for clarity. Subscribe to Green Dreamer Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or any podcast app to stay informed and updated on our latest episodes.
As the President of the Society of Wetland Scientists and an advisor to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, wetland ecologist Max Finlayson (@maxfinlayson) has participated in global environmental assessments and site-based appraisals and written extensively on wetland management. Notably, he has expertise on the relationship and interconnectedness of water pollution, agricultural impacts, invasive species, climate change, human well-being, and our wetlands.
On this podcast episode, Max sheds light on how cities were often built on flood plains and wetlands where the flooding was essential to supporting their biodiversity of life; why the preservation and restoration of our wetlands are key to stabilizing our climate; how wetlands impact people's livelihoods and our public health; and more.
To start, get a glimpse below into the conversation between Max and Green Dreamer Podcast's host, Kamea Chayne.
On the role that wetlands play in our planet's ecosystem:
"Wetlands encompass a whole series of aquatic ecosystems, including marshes, swamps, lakes, ash trees, and coastal areas that are wet; and they can have trees, shrubs, and grasses.
Wetlands have very diverse ecosystems and they support a huge amount of the species that make up the biodiversity of the world.
To me, the ethical aspect that all of these animals and plants [are relying on wetlands] is important. We should leave room on the planet for other organisms."
On our need to both preserve and restore wetlands:
"We can restore wetlands. The U.S., in my opinion, is the global leader in wetland restoration. But it costs a lot of money to put the ecosystems back and it takes a long time to restore the actual functions and value.
You can build a pond—you can build a large pond—but it takes a long time to get the biodiversity and chemical processes operating to give us all of the benefits.
So it's a time issue and a money issue. We can [restore these wetlands], but that's not an excuse, because we've lost about 30% of our wetlands to our knowledge.
And we know that [losing wetlands] is detrimental to us in modern society. We need these ecosystems to help us survive."
On what we need most at a societal level to protect wetlands:
"I think we need to take more action.
The climate change issue, at the moment, shows this. Schoolchildren in various countries around the world are going on strike, walking out of schools, and saying, ‘you people aren't looking out for our future and we're going to tell you, and we're not going to budge.’
This has had a huge impact.
Some of our politicians don't like it, but I think we need more people shouting in the streets about these types of issues."
Final words of wisdom:
"There is hope. And that hope comes from people being knowledgeable, aware, and working together.
I'm an optimist. I think we can do it—humans are a smart species."
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