The scientific communities across the globe have in almost unanimity concluded that the relation between man and nature is fundamentally flawed which has resulted in a pandemic. Unlike other disasters, the devastation of Corona has gone beyond all protocols or man-made distinctions on the lines of race, power, occupation, social status, sex, age etc compelling us to accept the fact that we all are equal and we all are connected and interlinked with each other including all life forms or in other words human existence is linked with its interaction and connection with biodiversity. The more we attempt to disregard and disturb this link with our acts or omissions, the more we cause damage to our existence. Playing with nature with scant regard to rejuvenation and healing can lead to catastrophic consequences for the survival of mankind.
When we refer to nature, the most relevant explanation goes to Biodiversity which in layman’s term is the variety of all life forms of the earth in land, water and air such as plants, animals and other minute life forms like fungi, bacteria etc. As per UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Biodiversity of all life forms is so diverse, complex and unexplored that out of nearly 13 million species of total plants and animals available on earth, majority of them (around 11.25 million species) are yet to be identified and only 1.75 million are known to us. India, which is one of the 17 megadiverse countries and ranked 10th among plant rich countries, has 4 biodiversity hotspots. Concerning agrobiodiversity, India once used to be home of around 1.1 lakhs rice varieties before the green revolution and presently 33% of the world’s plant species are found only in India. It is this complex interaction and interlinkage between man and other life forms that have made earth worth living since time immemorial.
Burgeoning human population, increasing consumption and decreasing resource efficiency are the main factors responsible for the loss of habitats, uncontrolled exploitation of resources, pollution, the prevalence of invasive species and climate change prompted challenges like global warming which are causing biodiversity loss across the globe. The arrogant association of man with nature has fuelled these challenges enormously. The loss of global biodiversity is the most challenging and a major threat to the very existence of human being, even though it has received much less attention than climate change. As per Living Planet Report, since 1970 there has been a 58% decline of global species population while the freshwater species have declined by 83 %. Added to this, the ever-increasing and never satiating greed of man has increased the global demands for food and other commodities causing degradation, depletion of natural resources and widespread primate habitat loss. The current crisis also has been attributed as a result of habitat changes forcing animals and their pathogens (virus) to shift their base, including those areas which are populated by people.
A moot point worth pondering is the fact that despite repeated policy commitments be it the CBD Aichi Target 5 aiming to reduce the loss of all-natural habitat by 2020 at 50 % or Target 12 aiming to prevent the extinction of species or the recently SDG goals 14 and 15 aiming at conservation and sustainable resources use for halting biodiversity loss, the declination of biodiversity is continuing.
The present scenario of corona crisis is akin to what famous conservationist Rachel Carson once stated: “…man is part of nature and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself”. “Our Solutions are in Nature” is the theme of this year’s Biodiversity which very aptly reiterates the importance of biodiversity as the solution to sustainable development challenges arising mainly due to anthropogenic acts including urbanisation, desertification, deforestation causing climate change and other problems relating to the security of food, water and livelihood issues.
India with age-old traditions of adopting principles of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” ( the whole world is one single family) and “Sarve Bhavantu Sukhin”: (May All become Happy) had always been championing and practising the conservation of biodiversity and environment. This had strongly determined the lives and activities of people in the past. The concept of conservation also gets reflected in ancient Indian texts like Arthshastra, Veda and, Manusmriti.
Two main concepts of Gandhian doctrine which have most of the solutions to meet the present challenges of biodiversity loss are related to consumerism and ahimsa. Gandhi’s idea of adopting sensible consumption (enough for everyone’s need) and Ahimsa which prohibits the consumption of other life forms including wildlife have more relevance in the present circumstances of the pandemic. The sensible consumption and waste reduction which involve the active participation of all stakeholders apart from strong policy intervention with genuine concerns are the only way forward to address the challenges of biodiversity loss and are a step towards sustainable management of natural resources.
The solutions and strategies to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss are very complex which involve participation and action form multiple groups including civil society. While attempts to revive the economic growth are inevitable and need of the hour, we should also ensure that our actions and strategies should not go against the grain of nature. It is high time to take cognizance of natural services and ecosystem services while planning for revival interventions for ensuring a balance between economics and the environment. With recent experience of pandemic and significance of the environment in the overall well-being of humanity, the corporations across the world need to rework their strategies towards conservation of biodiversity. The continued poor allocation to environment-related interventions under the CSR has to be re-evaluated and accordingly reworked. The Indian government’s recent intention of seeking CSR funding for Biodiversity protection is a welcome beginning to celebrate this year’s Biodiversity day. The dreaded pandemic has reminded us to bring transformative changes with due consideration to environmental ingredients. Let us tread carefully while adopting the approach of “business as usual”. Let the learnings from past experiences, successes and challenges, fortified with the dedication to build back better, lead us to enter into a new era of a balanced world by creating more sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies.
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