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Showing posts with label Biodiversity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Biodiversity. Show all posts

Biodiversity - The Nature Based Solution for Pandemics and Human Wellbeing

Diversity is variety and variety is the essence of life. Diversity adds hues to monotonicity and not only augments the aesthetic value of the biosphere but also plays a pivotal role in maintaining the balance in nature. In the words of Thomas Eisner, the father of chemical ecology “Biodiversity is the greatest treasure we have… Its diminishment is to be prevented at all cost.” Biodiversity is not just an ecological term, it is the ultimate truth, the sole force, which arises from the distant past but leads us to a sustainable future.

Biodiversity is the ultimate source, the ultimate giver as it provides food, fresh water, fresh air and the ultimate armor which protects the life against natural calamities such as flood, storms and cyclones. It is a note-worthy point that biodiversity ensures socio-economic security as the services provided by it such as support, regulation of various activities in the biosphere, provision and recreation, all of these accounts for a value generation of around 44 trillion US dollars which is more than half of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which sums up to around 85 trillion US dollars. In today’s time around 70% of the poverty driven people depend solely on natural resources to obtain their livelihood through biodiversity.




Biodiversity’s another attribute is its role in therapeutics, as it is the source of essential drugs in modern medicine and around 80% people in rural region depend on the local biodiversity and folklore medicines for primary health care. In fact, the cradles of Ayurveda lays in the lap of biodiversity. Forests are the preservers of biodiversity as they function as refuges, housing around 68% of mammal species, 75% of bird species and 80% of amphibian species. The plants, animals and the microbes are a way of enhancing the knowledge pool of mechanism and disease treatment. Biodiversity offers the anecdote for the most fatal disease as around 70 % of the cancer drugs are either naturally obtained or synthetically produced based on natural products.

Nature has enough for a man’s need but not enough for a man’s greed. Man is a composite of emotions, where, as the selfish desires exceed all emotions, it gives rise to a tendency where humankind wants everything for itself without being bothers about its future generations. In such a scenario, biodiversity lies at the heart of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which directly or indirectly relates to several goals of SDGs such as SDG 1 (No Poverty); SDG 2 (Zero Hunger); SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being); SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation); SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth); SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure); SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities); SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production); SDG 13 (Climate Action); SDG 14 (Life Below Water); SDG 15 (Life on Land).

The “Crisis of 21st Century” includes several global crises such as pandemics, climate change, water scarcity and issues related to global food and nutritional security. All of which, are an outcome of loss of biodiversity, which has increased manifold in the last few decades. The current rate of loss of species due to evil quartet which includes habitat fragmentation, overpopulation, alien species invasion and co-extinction of species is 1,000 times greater than at any other time in recorded human history. About 1 million species face extinction which indicating the threat to biodiversity and the crisis ahead is due to this current trend. The loss of biodiversity acts like a catalyst providing required activation energy for the vicious cycle of climate change, extreme weather events, decreased resilience of ecosystem. As in most conditions, in this situation too, the only resolution lies in the fact that the CURE can usually be found in the CAUSE! The only resort lies in the restoration of biodiversity as it is the ultimate tool or solution for all the crises and human well-being.

Climate change either directly or indirectly affects the transmission pattern and rate of infectious diseases. This can be substantiated with the fact that, with 1℃ rise in global mean temperature, there is significant change in the abundance, genetic composition as well as behavior and survival of some species. Thus, again biodiversity comes into the picture. The loop of services offered by biodiversity obtained from the ecosystem is downgraded due to decline in the species which is linked with climate change hence the vicious cycle becomes copious. Biodiversity loss has a butterfly effect over the entire ecosystems leading to an apparently never-ending cycle of climate change and biodiversity loss. Hence justifying that loss of biodiversity leads to change in climate which in turn accelerates the pace of biodiversity loss thereby not only reducing the benefits of ecosystem but also contributing to the rise of pandemics such as Ebola, Zika, Nipah and of course the much dreadful Coronavirus, which in form of COVID-19, predominates the year 2020.

The global loss of biodiversity is due to the rat race between the countries to become global super power which has forced them to reach the remote areas for logging, mining, road building, irrigation, urge of rapid urbanization and some of these have led to the havoc of burning inferno in wilderness for clearing huge stretches of land such as the curious case of “The Great Amazon Forest” which is being cleared with increased rate for cultivation of cash crops, the fire that set out in Australia, leaving the marsupials and other animals to ashes as well as the recent case of Uttarakhand fire. Apart from clearing cultivable lands and trees, shrubs and bushes, these events have had adverse effects and shall continue to have a huge impact on the availability of resources to fauna for survival thereby sending them in search for the same to different area thereby increasing the probability of human- wildlife interaction resulting in vectors/carriers for zoonotic diseases. According to a report of World Economic Forum (WEF) around 60% of all wildlife is lost in past 60 years while the incidence of novel infectious diseases has quadrupled in last 60 years.

Ecosystems rich in biodiversity can protect against the spread of diseases. Wherever native biodiversity is high, the infection rate for some zoonotic diseases can be lowered. It is extremely important to understand that zoonotic diseases are an outcome of overexploited resources due to anthropogenic activities which lead to climate change. The apt example to explain this is the bat- associated viruses that over the years have been making an appearance and creating a havoc worldwide. It has been observed that a novel infectious disease emerges once in every four months and most likely (almost 75%) the incidence of these diseases is animal derived, that is zoonotic. These diseases affect the human race when due to anthropogenic activities, destruction of animal habitat is caused or illegal animal trade is carried out. Hence, our exposure to pathogens increases and in such a set up the only weapon that nature presents to us to combat the pandemics is BIODIVERSITY!

Nature-based solutions offer ways to promote human well-being, tackle climate change and protect our living planet by keeping the diseases away. If biodiversity is preserved and promoted, it would not require the excess technological innovations employed to mitigate the environmental issues. Around 75% countries find it cheaper to use plants in mitigation of air pollution in comparison of technical instruments. This way is definitely not only the cheapest, but natural and in fact the most convenient way to combat environmental issues. Adding more factual light, according to IUCN Nature-based Solutions are defined as cumulative efforts actions that are taken to protect, “sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems” that play a very crucial role in addressing the societal challenges, namely, climate change, human health and well-being, food security, natural disasters or pandemics, which seem to have fallen on mankind as a curse by the nature, effectively and adaptively simultaneously providing human well-being and the biodiversity services. 

With all the facts and debates, the conclusion stands at a point that it is only BIODIVERSITY which can bring us out of the doom into which the entire world is moving, which is sure to get worse if we do not mend our ways. The scenario of apocalypse is such that merely the thought of which is enough to have a hair-raising effect on us due to fear. This apocalypse, which at present, is theoretical but the prolonged unassessed and faulty activities of today, shall definitely transform it to reality. Biodiversity conservation and protection is the only way in which human race stands a chance for survival. We need to realize that nature does not solely belong to humans, but we humans definitely belong solely to nature and its mercy. If we fail to nurture the nature, in no time it will permanently decide to give upon us, to abandon us forever.

Suggested Readings:

  • https://www.iucn.org/commissions/commission-ecosystem-management/our-work/nature-based-solutions
  • https://www.genevaenvironmentnetwork.org/events/nature-based-solutions-and-health-geneva-nature-based-solutions-dialogues/
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378778819337922

Author


Amit Kumar Bundela

Amit has completed his M.Sc. in Environmental Sciences (Environmental Technology) from Banaras Hindu University and is currently Enrolled as PhD. Student at Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development, Banaras Hindu University.

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