By Jessie Crow Mermel
(April 2011)

The Chicago region was once teeming with biodiversity. Prairies, oak savannahs, wetlands, rivers, and one Great Lake made this area not only biologically diverse, but incredibly beautiful.  Many people are surprised to hear that the Chicago region contains the highest density of rare and endangered natural communities in Illinois (Sullivan 1997). “Biodiversity,” a term coined in 1985 as a contraction for biological diversity, has gained widespread use among scientists, environmentalists, and even the general public as a critical piece to sustainable systems. Scientists Paul Erhlich and Edward O. Wilson’s writings have helped to bring awareness to the general public about biodiversity loss (Beatley, 1994, p. 146). We are experiencing a “biodiversity crisis,” where not only single species, but biological diversity itself is endangered (Faith, 2008).

Although more people know of biodiversity loss now than ever before, many people consider it as a problem that is facing other countries, as in the biodiversity loss because of rainforest destruction. While there are huge threats to biodiversity loss globally because of over-exploitation, there is also biodiversity loss right here at home – in Schaumburg (Beatley, 1994, p. 146). As more people begin to realize the importance of living more sustainably, biodiversity must be addressed on a local level.  It is an essential point whether discussing conservation of nature, the health and viability of plant and animal populations or the sustainability of agricultural practices.

Next page: The Land Ethic

Banner photo credit: Prairie meadow and woodland at the Schaumburg Park District’s Spring Valley Nature Sanctuary, summer 2010 (M. Bryson)