Extinguishing elements of biological diversity which possess vast untapped potential to provide the world with new medicines, genetically superior crops, valuable industrial products, cultural as well as scientific enrichment, and many other benefits -- that is the mistake.
Blindly, much of this. By that we mean that when agencies, corporations, individuals undertake any project, make any decision, that impacts nature they are so often acting without knowledge of what the full effects will be -- because they simply do not know all of the species which will be affected, how imperiled each of these species is, where exactly they are located, and what could be done to eliminate or moderate the loss.
Requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment can, perhaps, generate new data about the elements in the impact area, but the significance of this data, and of the EIA itself, cannot be found solely in the impact area. That is because this significance depends on the status of the elements found outside the impact area. Is this plant found only in the impact area or is it found elsewhere? -- and, if so, is the plant abundant elsewhere or rare? How abundant, how rare? And what about these other plants and these vertebrates and invertebrates and these ecosystem-types? Without answers to these questions an EIA opens no eyes, and is simply a requirement fulfilled rather than a meaningful guide to decisionmaking.
It is this blindness that we, The BioDiversity Conservancy, have tools to prevent, successful tools which have for more than four decades now proven their utility in a network extending across much of the New World. We seek now to extend these tools and this network to Asia. We know that if the goal is to save biodiversity, it is necessary to create a data system which will document which biodiversity elements are most imperiled and where -- exactly where -- they are located, so that concrete plans for singling them out and saving them can be created. And so that they will be protected against the blindness of so many decsions which alter the landscape.
Species, after all, do not come with tags that say "Help, Help, I'm about to become extinct!" Certain elements. like the panda or the Kakapo, are so well known that they might be said to wear, virtually, a tag like this around their neck, but there are thousands and thousands of "elements of biodiversity" (species and ecosystem types) whose imperilment status is unknown. Thousands and thousands! Why not develop a data system which will take on the challenge of knowing each and every element's degree of imperilment? And exact location? Why not populate each jurisdiction with such a system, a permanent one, and create a network capable of sharing data?
That's our only hope. That is our mission. The good news: we have decades of experience in doing this. But we are now trying to bring that experience to a new continent -- and we need help.
Here is some background:
The term "biodiversity," short for biological diversity, can be thought of as a modern version of much that is intended by the term "nature." This is because the new term expresses perhaps the most salient fact that scientists have found about nature over centuries of research, investigation and analysis: its stunning diversity. Stunning also is the way this diversity interacts with itself and with its physical environment.
The more scientists learn about nature, the more impressed they are with its variety, its multiplicity, its diversity. The fundamental elements or atoms of the biological weltanshauung are species (genes are, in a sense, the subatomic particles). Species, as they become known -- many await discovery, even today -- are grouped into genera and families, then into higher levels of classification. To this is added the diversity of ecosystem types, each type in some ways similar to a species and in other ways vastly different. The number of these atoms is literally countless, countless not only because of the incredible size of the number, but also because the number is constantly in motion as new species blink into and other species blink out of existence over time. "Biodiversity" is a term invented to get at this cardinal fact about nature.*
Along with wonder at nature's diversity comes wonder at the immensity of the benefits this diversity brings now and has the potential to bring in the future.
Links to extensive analyses of these benefits are found on our Links page, including a link there to our FAQ, but here we must note there is literally no aspect of human life that cannot be benefited by some aspect of biodiversity. A Director of the UN Food & Agricultural Organization emphasized the benefit to our food resources, more and more important every day as the world's population grows. Another common example is health, new medicines in particular. Biodiversity saves lives. It is a main source of anticancer medicines, for example, when all the drugs derived from it (and even in imitation of it) are taken into account. Many other types of medicine, including those which fight increasingly common drug-resistant strains of major killers, derive from biodiversity. Artemisinin, which fights malaria and which derives from a Chinese herb, is an important example. Benefits to manufacturing and to industry, not generally thought of in this context, are in fact legion, including enzymes, innumerable chemicals, fibers, types of wood and rubber, plastics, oils, lubricants, dyes, fragrances, paper, waxes, poisons, resins - too many to list.
"Biodiversity is the world's most valuable resource, but the least valued. This is a strategic mistake."
Nor should we forget the role that the beauty of natural diversity plays in human life, nor how it inspires the arts and even philosophy. Per molto variare la natur Ã¨ bella.
All this directly depends, of course, on conservation of the underlying biodiversity resource and the myriad elements of which it consists. Each element lost is a lost opportunity for some form of human enrichment.
The BioDiversity Conservancy (BDC) is the action program of The BioDiversity Institute (BDI), our 501(c)(3) charitable organization and mother ship. Contributions to BDI are fully tax deductible, greatly appreciated, and all funds go to the work of BDC. BDC has been created to bring proven methods for preserving biodiversity to new lands and then to build bridges linking to the existing network, making possible productive sharing and interchange of knowledge and experience. BDC enables all stakeholders to participate in natural resource biodiversity decisions, including those such as ethnic minorities effectively excluded by lack of information. Initial contact is by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. BDC's central email address. BDC's main mailing address in China is The BioDiversity Conservancy, Yunnan Da Xue, Xi Yuan 7-02, Kunming, Yunnan Province, 650091 China. Further information can be found on our About page here.
The results are better decisions, policy reform, more intelligent land management and use. The new methods also have implications for climate change research and sustainable use.
BDC is new, yet vastly experienced. It builds on a tremendous reservoir of experience and talent currently centered in the US, Canada and parts of Latin America, a reservoir which has been increasing for four decades now. BDC is starting its new journey by traveling to Asia, taking its first steps in exploring the languages, cultures, and environments of China and Central Asian.
But the methods BDC brings with it are of universal application,
Like any other organization, of course, BDC's goals have to be brought into line with the budget in fact available to it. The hope is that this website will stimulate those interested in the vital -- literally vital -- matter of biodiversity preservation to help BDC help those who will benefit from new methods, new knowledge, new bridges, new outlooks, new instruments for participation.
Grants from foundations and other organizations are needed to sustain our major biodiversity goals. But individuals can provide useful support. When shopping use AmazonSmile, from which we receive a percentage. Our web host, alas, prohibits direct links, but here is the format: https://smile[dot]amazon.com/ch/65-0564353
(That last is the number assigned by the IRS to our parent organization, BioDiversity Institute, BDI; all proceeds go to us, as we are the action project of BDI).
* We like to emphasize that "biodiversity" is the words "biological" and "diversity" put together and that both are important: that's why in our name, at least, we capitalize the D in the middle: The BioDiversity Conservancy and BioDiversity Institute.
* The headquote from E.O. Wilson is from his book, The Diversity of Life (1992).
Jacques Diouf, Director, UN Food & Agricultural Organization
The Guardian, Nov. 2009
Gerald Durrell, A Zoo in My Luggage 1960