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Earth Day 2019 - Cork's Role in Protecting Our Species

April 17, 2019

Earth Day 2019 - Cork's Role in Protecting Our Species

Earth Day is an event that started on April 22nd 1970, when millions of people joined hands to protest the environmental impacts that were a result of 150 years of industrial development.

Since then, it has become a global movement, with over 1 billion people in 192 countries taking part each year. The theme for 2018 was End Plastic Pollution, and it led to more awareness than ever before, with many countries taking the long overdue decision to ban single use plastics, and people opting for more eco-friendly and zero-waste alternates in their lives.

The theme for 2019 is Protect Our Species. Did you know that we are currently facing the greatest rate of extinction since we lost the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago? The difference of course, is that this time it’s caused by human beings. There is rapid environmental destruction happening worldwide that is directly linked with human activity - climate change, habitat loss, pollution and so much more.

There are over 40,000 species now on the IUCN List of Endangered Species - including species of bees, coral reefs, whales, giraffes, sea turtles and more.

Iberian Lynx living in the Cork forests of Spain and Portugal

One of the species on the Red List happens to be the Iberian Lynx - a wild cat that happens to have a special place in our hearts. The cork forests of Spain and Portugal almost the exclusive home of the Iberian Lynx - which is probably one of the world’s rarest cats. Habitat Loss and illegal traps were two of the reasons for the diminishing population of this beautiful species. While they were previously classified as Critically Endangered, they have now been downlisted to Endangered, but there is still a lot of work to be done. As per the IUCN Red List, the population is increasing, but there are currently only 156 mature individuals surviving.

Another species belonging to the cork forests, with a Vulnerable status, is the Iberian Eagle.

Spanish Imperial Eagle photo by Jesus Rguez Osorio

While the Cork Oak Trees (Quercus Suber) are not yet Vulnerable or Endangered, their population is decreasing and this poses a serious threat to the creatures who call the Cork forests their home. Though the cork forests are not much discussed outside the Mediterranean belt, it’s important to know that they support one of the richest biodiversities in the world, second only to the Amazonian Rainforests. The Cork Forest Conservation Alliance has been working actively in ensuring that people are educated about the importance of these forests and the environmental benefits of using cork as a raw material.

For example, usage of aluminium and plastic screw caps on wine bottles was started to cut costs, and consumers were given the wrong impression - that usage of cork would involve cutting down cork trees and harming the forests, when that is far from the truth. The cork bark is a renewable resource, harvested ecologically by hand with no modern-day polluting equipment. The stripping the bark of the cork tree sucks tonnes of Carbon Dioxide out of the atmosphere and in fact helps the trees survive longer.

Natural Cork lifestyle accessories by Arture

And as far as lifestyle accessories are concerned, a lot of customers tend to opt for plastic based alternates to leather - like PU or faux leather. We urge you to choose natural materials over synthetic alternates whenever possible. Though the price may be slightly higher, it pays for itself over time by being longer lasting, more durable and a more responsible purchase towards this one planet that we call home.

Remember, There is No Planet B.





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