Celebrating Future for All Inhabitants of the Global Biosphere
| Category: Science and Technology
It was just over three months ago that we celebrated World Biodiversity Day, on May 22, and reminded ourselves of yet another opportunity to celebrate our rich heritage, our rich biodiversity. That day gave me a chance to reflect upon India’s constant efforts in fulfilling her commitments toward conservation of biodiversity, its sustainable use, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of biodiversity and natural resources. India, a megadiverse country, with forests spread over an area of 692,027 km; harboring seven-eight percent of all recorded species in the world, including over 45,000 species of plants and 91,000 species of animals; holding exceptionally high levels of endemism of both plants and animals, along with microbes too; and being amongst the few countries that have developed a biogeographic classification for conservation planning; and possessing four global biodiversity hotspots out of 34 global hotspots, shows its true prosperous and progressive nature.
Now with such a great diversity and heritage, how do we not celebrate biodiversity? Being part of the team that prepared India’s Fifth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), not only gives me a huge sense of pride but also helps me recognize and cherish the diversity that our ancestors passed on to their successors, and those successors preserved it. That legacy is now being entrusted upon us, the present young generation. This responsibility of preserving and conserving our rich biodiversity to the best of our abilities is now our endeavor.
Staying and studying away from my motherland, in one of the most glamorous places in the world, the United States, in a speeded-up, highly complex society, which constantly rushed us to keep up with it, majoring in conservation biology and sustainable development, was no less fueled by the grandiosity, deepening experience, and the wild rush for progress. During my master’s program, almost every class reminded me of my motherland. The stories and case studies I had heard and read since my childhood came so alive that I took extreme pride in narrating case studies from India in almost in all the relevant discussions. As a pragmatist, it many a time made me wonder that so much good work has been already done in terms of biodiversity conservation in India, and that so much more needs to be done to explore ethical and economic constructs that address the legitimate concerns over biodiversity and natural resources.
We do somewhere acknowledge that we live in a changing world. But things are different now. At the beginning of third millennium, we have a network of social, economic, technological and environmental trends the like of which has not been seen before. Population growth has brought us to the point where we are the dominant and hyperactive species on this planet, and there is growing evidence of our power to modify the global climate. Human activity is affecting the global biosphere in even more complex ways as a result of technological development, resource use and industrialization. We are approaching global constraints on our activities, particularly through our modification of global cycles of energy, water and nutrients. We have unprecedented global connectivity through advanced transportation and telecommunications systems. Our social organization and our economic activities have grown to the point where we have reached and exploited just about all the potential usable natural resources. In the past three decades, there has, therefore, been a sea change in our relationship with the planet on which we live. We now have a much more complex and recursive relationship with ourselves and with nature.
This is not what I want to argue through this column today, however. On the contrary, I want to leave all the readers with a thought about how do we weigh the needs of people against those of nonhuman species? How do we protect the interests of future generations of wild nature and meet the needs of humanity now?
We are aware that the process of growth and development has not been linear or constant. There are both long-term trends in the human condition—population growth, cultural development, global exploration, resource use, economic activity and technological development. Human societies have grown and collapsed many a time in human history. The causes of growth and collapse are many and varied, arising from a mixture of intrinsic and extrinsic factors.
All that is needed are new concepts and new methods. We need continuous adaptive agents to steer the direction of the environment we are creating for ourselves, which is complex, defenseless, fragile and highly unpredictable.
So, what we are aiming at and what we intend to celebrate in coming times is our rich biological diversity. We need to celebrate a more sustainable future for all inhabitants of the global biosphere requiring some reconciliation and consilience between these various time-varying drivers and responses.
Ideas are changing rapidly, long-standing theories and practices are being overturned and new concepts are being developed. Raising concern over sustainability merely adds to the complexity of our daily decision making, so we can add environmental factors to the social and economic challenges. Above all, we must now accept and cope with greatly increased complexity at all levels in our lives: individually, at the level of the community, nationally and even internationally. Do we as individuals and institutions have the capacity to adapt and grow under these circumstances? For that to happen, there must be a strong dialogue between institutions and individuals in a changing world. This isn’t rocket science—it is much harder. If it was easy, we would have figured it out by now.
So, let us celebrate not just May 22, but every day, working hard through these issues to develop solutions that meet the needs of human populations and conserve the broadest spectrum of biodiversity for ourselves and the future generation. I hope that each person chooses to make both personal and professional efforts to help the larger conservation fraternity find better solutions.
Biba Jasmine is a Fulbright-Nehru Master’s Scholar with a major in sustainable development and conservation biology from the University of Maryland, College Park.