By Jock Gammon, 31 October 2019

The demand for meaningful action to combat climate change and its effects is growing, and so is the pressure on government and industry worldwide to do more to combat climate change and its effects.

Sydney Climate Strike, photo credit: Suzie Barnett

During the Global Climate Strike on 20-27 September, over 7.6 million people took to the streets to demand climate action in more than 6,000 protest events across 185 countries. Children, parents, students, workers, trade unions and businesses all took part in what has become one of the largest coordinated global protests in history.

Now more than ever, environmental sustainability, biodiversity and positive climate and social action is an expectation across society. It’s no longer a ‘nice to have’ or ‘feel good’ addition to high-end goods and services. Environmental sustainability is a consumer requirement and businesses (and governments) that fail to meet these demands will not survive.

Industry must lead the way

As governments around the world fumble and deflect responsibility, it is up to industry to lead the way combatting climate change. Stephen Choi, Executive Director of Projects at Living Future Institute Australia (LFIA) comments:

“Private industry and caring individuals need to do it all – nearly everything – to address [climate change], because recent governments are not leaders, and likely never will be.

“The problems have been very much made by the ‘free market’, and government intervention has been sorely insufficient. I believe it is the same market that has a role in turning the disaster around, through accurately putting a price on pollution and the myriad risks created by our changing climate,” he says.

Manly Vale commuter car park

Time to rethink urban design and ‘business as usual’

“Given that we’re living among more than seven billion people, our communities are long overdue for a redesign… Access to real wilderness areas is not usually available to the majority of society, so biodiversity in the built environment is increasingly important to connect people to the natural world,” Choi says.

“The built environment needs to play its part in seriously reducing and ideally reversing human-caused climate change and ecological system decline.

“At LFIA, we envision healthy workplaces, communities that are more connected rather than isolated, inspiring building products that actively participate in the circular economy, and genuine integration of biophilic design in every project at every scale,” he says.

Biodiversity, species preservation in the built environment

One of the issues raised at the Global Climate Strike is the large-scale species extinction predicted to take place without intervention. A daunting prediction, but one we can change with concentrated effort and a commitment to do every little thing a bit better than before. After all, the Global Climate Strike started with a single girl protesting outside Swedish parliament in late 2018. Less than a year later, the strike in September saw her joined by millions of people around the world who share her desire for climate action and demand change from governments and big business. From little things, big things grow.

Clay nest in Biodiversity Wall

Junglefy’s new pollinator module is a small action that can lead to big biodiversity and ecological outcomes. It actively provides an urban habitat and a food source for some of nature’s best workers. Designed to be used alongside their plant modules, the new pollinator modules provide bees and other pollinators with a space to nest and thrive in the urban environment and this leads to broader biodiversity, pollination and a flourishing ecosystem.

“Biodiversity is a big part of what we do at Junglefy and I think these pollinator modules are representative of that commitment to the broader ecology of each site,” says Chloe Brant, Junglefy’s pollinator expert.

“We want to enrich each site and do it holistically – we select plants and substrates carefully, we consider position, light and water availability, and we look at the environment beyond the site to see how we can encourage biodiversity in the area,” says Brant.

Did you know? There are at least 1,700 native bee species in Australia. Most Australian bees are solitary bees – meaning they don’t hive in large groups like honey bees. Instead, solitary bees raise their young in burrows in the ground or in tiny holes in timber.

The pollinator modules ensure bees, particularly solitary native species, have a place in the urban environment. Bamboo cuttings, rammed clay and soil, twigs and branches are strategically and artfully placed in modules to create habitat for bees including the beautiful blue banded and reed bee species native to Australia.

Accompanying plants are selected not only to suit the climate and location of each project, but also for their ability to attract and support pollinators with a year-round food source:

“Pollinators need a mixed food source so they have the nutrients they need to thrive and feed their young. For bees, this means plants that provide pollen and others that provide nectar … Providing a dense food source in one concentrated area makes foraging easier and that ultimately makes the site attractive to pollinators,” Brant says.

Why are pollinators important?

Pollinator species provide an essential environmental service. When these species forage for food they transfer pollen from the male to female parts of flowers, enabling plant fertilisation and reproduction.

While pollination can be achieved by wind and water, the majority of cultivated and wild plants around the world depend on animal pollination, and bees have been found to be the most prolific pollinators, ‘visiting more than 90 per cent of the leading 107 global crop types.’[1]

Food security

Another concern for strikers at the Global Climate Strike is food security, as habitat loss and species extinction takes its toll on human survival. Stephen Choi, Executive Director of Projects at the Living Future Institute of Australia comments:

“Selfishly speaking, we likely need [pollinators] for food security. Somewhere between one and two-thirds of Australia’s food benefits from, or indeed has some dependency on pollination – and this is not limited to bees. Beetles, birds, and bats for instance, also play a role.”

It’s true. Pollinator-dependent plant species make up a large proportion of fruit, vegetable, seed, nut and oil crops, and these provide essential micronutrients, vitamins and minerals in the human diet.[2] In fact, it is estimated that one of every three bites of food eaten worldwide depends on pollinators like bees for a successful harvest.[3]

Pollinators are ‘inextricably linked to human well-being through the maintenance of ecosystem health and function, wild plant reproduction, crop production and food security.’[4] Their decline could lead to lower crop yields, reduced agricultural profits and higher food prices for consumers.[5]

Pollinator modules in the field

Working on a few pilot projects in Sydney, Junglefy have teamed up with bee and biodiversity experts, scientists from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to develop, test and measure the success of the pollinator modules.

At Barangaroo, Junglefy transformed a worksite hording with a Breathing Wall and biodiversity green walls. Here, some of the modules that would have featured plants were converted for pollinator habitation.

Junglefy also recently completed a massive 1,800m2 green roof with a bespoke pollinator habitat interspersed with a carefully selected range of native and exotic plants.

Plants for the project have been chosen for their ability to support pollinators and biodiversity. 80 per cent are native, while the remaining 20 per cent are exotic species known for their ability to attract beneficial insects and thrive in low-growing conditions. The mix of natives and exotic plants also provides a year-round food source for the bees.

Hive thinking – sharing data, getting results

“Beekeepers and ecologists have a lot of information and expertise. We’re finding that that knowledge can really reinvigorate biodiversity in urban environments. We are working with these experts, experimenting and sharing data to get the best possible outcome and we are already seeing positive results. In as little as six months we’ve seen evidence of bee habitation in these modules. It’s exciting because it can take up to two years for a habitat to become established,” says Brant.

“With the development of mega cities and increased urban density, it’s important to think holistically. It’s not about one thing, it is a combination of elements that make a habitat successful… Our pollinator modules offer another opportunity for nature to thrive in cities,” she concludes.

Sydney Climate Strike, photo credit: Suzie Barnett

New dawn

The Global Climate Strike in September was an important indicator of public sentiment and values. It showed that people across the world (with diverse socio-political, economic, cultural and religious backgrounds) are dissatisfied. They want a change to the way things are, they want better leadership on climate change from government and the private sector – they want it now.

The organisations and individuals that produce, implement and advance positive environmental outcomes will reap the rewards of this new dawn of environmental responsibility. Will you be one?

[1] Potts, S. G. et al. (2016.) Safeguarding Pollinators and Their Values to Human Well-Being. Nature 540 (7632): 220-229.

[2] Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). (2016.) ‘Press Release: Pollinators Vital to Our Food Supply Under Threat.’ Accessed 26 August 2019.

[3] Grossman, E., (2013.) ‘Declining bee populations pose a threat to global agriculture.’ Yale Environment 360. Accessed 26 August 2019.

[4] Potts, S. G. et al. (2016.) Safeguarding Pollinators and Their Values to Human Well-Being. Nature 540 (7632): 220-229.

[5] Grossman, E., (2013.) ‘Declining bee populations pose a threat to global agriculture.’ Yale Environment 360. Accessed 26 August 2019.