Over 2000 years ago, the conservationist, E.O. Wilson raised a serious alarm that the earth is losing its biological diversities. He then admonished that ‘unless we move quickly to protect global biodiversity, we will soon lose most of the species composing life on earth.’ This was as a result of anthropogenic activities on the planet earth. Our ecological footprints are reaching irreversible degrees. We are already feeling the impacts across various parts of the globe. In a response to this alarm raised by Wilson, the United Nations (UN) declared every 22nd of May as International Day for Biological Diversity. Today, this is pioneered by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The theme of this year is: ‘Our Solutions are in Nature’. This year’s theme is ad rem and reflects the challenges of the time with special reference to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is the current burden on the globe. It is a burden from all angles of life. It has jolted the globe. Our technological expertise has failed us suddenly. Many remembered nature. Those who respected nature, were in return saved by nature. As I maintained in other fora, the COVID-19 pandemic is attacking according to responses and calls to protect the environment with special reference to reduction in carbon emissions. The call for the respect and protection of the environment, is invariably the call for the preservation of biological diversity. That the theme of this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity reflects the present challenges is not a mere coincidence. It is a call by nature, to respect nature.
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be anthropogenic, as popular opinions have it. It has taken a frightening toll on many countries and have dealt with the highs and lows of the society. In a desperate effort to find solutions, many have resorted to nature. Nature will only respond to those societies that respected it. To better appreciate this perspective, it is good to recollect that majority of the drugs used by humankind today and in the past came from different biological diversities some of which are disappearing. Many plant and animal species have gone extinct due to anthropogenic interference. The efforts to look for natural solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic can only yield results in societies that respected nature and has high percentage of biological diversity. Nature may reward such societies through the natural solution that may be found. A typical case in point is the purported Madagascar natural solution to the treatment or prevention of the coronavirus. Africans are said to be closer to nature, whether it is a mockery or a commendation, nature will never forget to reward us. We cannot fail to acknowledge that nature has been rewarding and protecting us in many ways and from many fronts. In many societies, there are many natural solutions to many of the ailments afflicting humans. These come from both animal and plant species. Unfortunately most are disappearing. This is one of the ways of making the average citizen to appreciate biological diversity. It helps us to save a lot.
Our ecological footprints have taken serious irreversible tolls on biodiversity. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its 2019 report and publication, only nine out of 6,000 plant species account for sixty-six percent of total crop production across the globe. It further said that out of this nine species, we only have three crops which are: wheat, maize and rice accountable for global dietary energy supply. With such a trend, humanity is challenged health wise and our food options are being limited.
The International Day for Biological Diversity is a day that demands that we increase our understanding of biodiversity in any possible way. It is a day to create more awareness of the essence of biodiversity. There is no gainsaying the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic makes the atmosphere conducive for the appreciation of the message of this day’s occasion. Many are searching for different herbs and roots for both prevention and treatment of the coronavirus. There have been several unsubstantiated claims from many societies of successful treatment of the virus. The question that we all should be asking in the face of this pandemic, especially those who claim to have successfully treated themselves and recovered from the infection, is: what would have the situation looked like if these species that constituted our natural solutions were not available? They may never be always available unless we begin to take and make extra efforts to ensure their preservation and propagation.
The International Day for Biological Diversity is a day we need in our lives to reexamine our relationships with nature. How do we treat nature? The answer to this can be deduced from how we treat our immediate environments. One of the major ways that humans have adversely decimated and affected biodiversity is through deluxe farming methods. When it comes to the drivers of biodiversity loss, deluxe farming is at topmost level because it has almost become a global culture. The introduction of chemicals into our systems of food production has remained toxic to biodiversity. Deluxe farming has serious multiplier effects on the pollution and degradation of our environments. It affects many ecosystems. Chemicals on farmlands become toxic to many plant and animal species. These chemicals are later washed down to the rivers and streams, there also they attack the lives in such ecosystem. The cycle continues. That there are high cases of cancer today may be attributable to the high levels of carcinogens we have introduced into our natural environments and food chains. It is good to note that we are equally part of the biodiversity. We can be inadvertently attacking ourselves through actions that attack the several ecosystems.
Many edible species that kept our forefathers strong are fast disappearing. They hardly went to hospitals for the treatment of majority of health issues besieging us today for which we are spending fortunes. Many natural foods are fast becoming history. We have ignored natural ‘precautionary’ healthy feeding and embraced the Macworld culture. Our health and food security depend on the level of biodiversity available for humankind.
According to E.O. Wilson, there are three levels of biodiversity that needs urgent attention. These are: the ecosystems; the species in the ecosystems; and the genes that prescribe traits of the species that make up the ecosystems. The ecosystems are involved in a sort of structuralism. The sustenance of one structure determines the survival and sustenance of the other related structures. The same goes to the destruction side of any of the structures. This is a challenge to a holistic approach to the preservation of biodiversity by all possible means. It is also a call for solidarity with nature.
Dr. Nneji writes from the Department of Educational Foundations, Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, Imo State