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Scientists estimate there are 8.7 million species of plants and animals on Earth, and we depend on every one of these species for a healthy ecosystem. Without just one, an entire ecosystem might not function properly. We need animals of all sizes, shapes, colors, sexes to make the world run smoothly.

A red winged blackbird perches alertly on a log.

For the animal world to run smoothly we need animals of all sizes, shapes, colors and sexes.

Photo by: © passion4nature/Getty Images

  • We need animals that can change sexes, like male clownfish that can become female to ensure the species can continue reproducing.
  • We need bigger animals, like whales that cycle critical nutrients into the ocean when they breathe at the ocean surface.
  • We need animals of all colors, like “super black” fishes, butterflies and birds that use their dark colors for contrast, dazzling mates with small colorful patches. (“Super black” animals also inspire the world of engineering that create lightweight black materials).
A clownfish sits nestled among the fronds of an anemone.
Baby beluga whale surfaces with the support of mom.

Discovering the adaptations animals are capable of reminds us that diversity is natural and it is important—in the animal kingdom and in our human communities too.

Today, as we face massive environmental challenges, nature needs all of us. We need to bring our strengths, our ideas, our cultural perspectives and more to change our collective ways toward a more harmonious connection with our planet.

Unfortunately, not all of us have the same relationship with nature, in part because some groups have historically been intentionally excluded from outdoor spaces and environmental efforts. Today, many communities don’t have easy, safe access to natural spaces and many individuals don’t feel welcome in them.

Communities of color are three times more likely than white communities to live in nature-deprived places, and those that seek out nature-based activities are often treated like they are out of place.

Similarly, people within the LGBTQIA+ and plus-sized communities, and other marginalized groups, also experience prejudices or microaggressions when participating in outdoor activities or find it more difficult to take part because of other factors like expense or availability of gear.

Just like these species, every life on our planet is vital for the health of the whole. As we surge forward to tackle environmental issues, we must ensure communities of every identity, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, background and culture are included and welcome in nature-based activities and natural spaces. That starts by ensuring equal and safe access to and inclusion in the outdoors—for all of us.