The year 2010 is dubbed the International Year of Biodiversity -- intended on focusing humanity on solutions for doing more responsible -- and respectful -- job of coexisting with the spellbinding array of beings that we share the planet with.
As this piece from The Guardian reminds us, protecting biodiversity is also protecting our well-being:
Biodiversity is integral to our daily lives. It is not about the loss of exotic species which have been the focus of conservation activities by the foundations and trusts of wealthy nations. It is about the vital resources which underpin the wealth and health of the world's poor and that provide the vital needs for the heath and wellbeing of us all.
The equivalent to the Stern report for biodiversity is called The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB). It warns that our neglect of the natural services provided by biodiversity is an economic catastrophe of an order of magnitude greater than the global economic crisis. Year on year, the irreversible loss of natural diverse genetic resources impoverishes the world and undermines our ability to develop new crops and medicines, resist pests and diseases, and maintain the host of natural products on which humans rely.
Equally significant, are the vital natural services that the world's ecosystems provide. These include providing vital oxygen, decomposing waste, removing pollutants, providing the natural buffers that help manage drought and flood, protect soil from erosion, ensure soil fertility, and provide breeding nurseries to maintain fish ocean stocks. The list goes on, and among these immeasurable vital functions of nature is of course its ability to absorb carbon dioxide. The ability of forests, bogs and salt marches, tundra, coral and ocean plankton to sequester carbon should be our greatest ally in managing the increased emissions of fossil fuel activity – a key theme of the climate negotiations in Copenhagen last month.
Rather than seeing biodiversity and ecological mechanisms being eroded, we need to see a massive effort towards finding a more effective sustainable relationship between human society and nature. This is not a scientific or environmental issue, it is a social question and an ethical one about what our generation leaves for those in the future.
We'll keep you posted on the emerging array of efforts to make conservation both possible and profitable. You can track our reporting about the ecosystem services that nature provides to humanity right here...