Are we the next dinosaurs ?

nicolas pinceloup Authors:

Nicolas Pinceloup graduated from a master’s degree in plant biology at the University of Strasbourg. Resolute to dedicate his life to the protection of the environment, he is currently looking for the appropriate job opportunity. At the beginning of 2015 he joined CliMates and is now involved in the Responsibility project and in the OceanAcidification project.

Clementine_CahierClémentine Cahier has a Bachelor in foreign languages and is currently studying International Relations in Paris. She is the director of Climates’ human resources and is equally involved in the Heat Wave in MyCity project.

Today, May 22nd,  is the international day for Biological Diversity. It is the occasion to question our development and the importance of biodiversity in our societies. This article aims to enlighten the link between biodiversity and sustainable development.

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If you were born in 2050, you might not know what a giraffe actually looks like, except for an old picture from your grandparent’s basement. Your dinosaures are lions and hippos, rhinos and whales, they are tales long gone. If you were born in the 50’s, you’d probably believe that storms are meant to be that frequent, that air saturated with CO2 is a fatality and that the oceans are as a matter of fact too acidic to shelter life. Scattered forests are silent and dreary, and you wonder how it would be like with more animals and plants. But it is too late, ecosystems collapsed and humanity is running out of ingeniosity to replace what life forms used to provide. In the 50’s, the news are pessimistic, scientists desperate and religions are seeing the End. Because in the beginning of the century, people did not fight for the environment.

This scenario is not yet a reality and might still not become true but we need to have the courage to stand up and say what we want for the future. Here, what we want is what we need. In 2015 we take for granted the services provided by nature. Clean air and water are obvious, as are crops transforming into food. But it is in fact the result of a singular and quite wonderful process orchestered by life in its diversity of forms that needs to be preserved.

What is biodiversity ?

‘Biological diversity’ {or biodiversity} is the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

       (Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992)

Today, we are losing biodiversity at an alarming rate, due to our business-as-usual and our carelessness. This loss is repercuted into the services provided by nature, eventually it will exhaust and like a too old horse, it will collapse under our magnificient bottom. There is scientific evidence that loss of biodiversity affects agriculture and farming as well as fisheries. For example bees are a major pollinator and an approximate 130 000 plants depend on them, many of them being fruit trees or animal fodder. It means that the whole of our agriculture would be threatened by the collapse of beehives around the world and therefore our livestock. Food security is strongly linked with biodiversity. The amazonian forest shelters more biodiversity per square kilometre than any other biome in the world, and it is suspected to be our future drugstore, because plants produce secondary metabolites that can have medicinal properties. But right now, we prefer to tear it down. Deforestation not only kills a variety of living forms, it also alters the climate of Brazil, which has lower precipitation since deforestation began. Lower precipitation means lower agricultural yields in the region. Rainforests regulate the climate at local and global scale  thus the loss of the amazonian bassin will in turn also affect the climate worldwide.

We are part of ecosystems, as humans beings in interaction with nature : e.g we eat animals and plants, breathe the oxygen produced by trees and algae. Ecosystems provide services, they provide us with pretty much everything we need but the myth of an infinite amount of resources is weakening. The truth is we are disturbing these systems with our disproportionate use: degrading them, destroying them, polluting them and thus cutting the grass under our feet, litterally.

Our relationship with nature goes so deep that any damage done to the environment has direct consequences on our ways of living. In fact, for every damage done to the environment, in exchange for a short-term benefit,you get at least three unexpected and possibly harmful consequences.

What would it cost to lose these services? Because everything is interconnected, the more nature loses, the less we get. We benefit from nature, thus if harm is done to trees and animals, it affects us eventually. And if we, humans, are the origin of this harm no matter why, it can be compared to a long-term suicidal behavior.

Sustainable development

By 2050, predictions indicate that human population will reach 9 billion people. How are we going to feed the world and provide it with clean water and energy ? Additionally, the boom of population will occur in the most vulnerable countries to Climate Change and in the poorest and least developped countries. Let’s rethink our development.

A sustainable development will go through the preservation of animals and plants from which interactions produce services. It will use the creativity of living forms to increase food production, to depollute rivers and streams, to secure precipitations and protect our shores. Nature has developped strategies on which we rely, from mangroves against tides and storms to forests blocking the advance of deserts or algae creating tomorrow’s fuel. There is more to gain from living sharks than their fins and there is more to gain from wealthy forests than wood.

There is this old saying in France: “you don’t get to be buried with your gold”. However rich we may be, however wealthy our nations are, the loss of biodiversity would be the starting point of our decline. It is easy to wait, or like the 2050’s kid, to be nostalgic. Sure, it is much harder to take action for what can still be saved. But it is the only option for a sustainable development. It is the only right option.

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