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1 April 2011 Biodiversity: Not Wrong, Just an Unfortunate Distraction
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I am grateful to my colleagues for confirming so candidly the extent to which governments around the world have been misled. Can 193 nations make a credible commitment to preserving all of life over decades without stabilizing climates and controlling toxins?

The world has a serious problem with rampant biotic impoverishment, an insidious process that undermines all life, including humans. The cause is cumulative chronic disruption. The disruption is physical, chemical, and biotic. It includes the climatic disruption and the cumulative chemical poisoning of the earth with industrial and agricultural toxins. The impoverishment leads to dysfunctional landscapes and water bodies…and to economic impoverishment and political chaos. For an example of extremes of biotic impoverishment we might look at Haiti, sitting on our doorstep and largely ignored. The cause there was physical, human disturbance, but the effect is the same. Ask what prating about biodiversity and ecosystem services has done there or can do now to restore a landscape to the point where it can support a viable economic system and a stable government. Both economic vitality and political stability are being sought there this week—and have been sought for decades previously, sadly, without success. Haiti is in an environmental, economic, and political abyss (Woodwell 2009).

Solutions in Haiti and elsewhere lie in leadership from the scientific community, especially the community of conservationists, in establishing a firm understanding of the dependence of this civilization on reversing current trends. In Haiti the solutions require early reestablishment of landscapes that restore stable water supplies, for instance. Globally, an early step will be the preservation of all remaining primary forests. The move could start in the United States with a presidential edict involving governmentally owned forested land and spread to other nations as we set the example. A solution also requires stabilization of climates and stopping chemical intrusions from leaky industries. Preserving a chemical environment appropriate for plants and animals preserves the human environment as well. The transition will come only from the scientific community and would have emerged long ago if we had not fumbled so badly.

Yes, the demands are restrictive. Yes, effectiveness requires a new departure.

Yes, it is the business of ecology and conservation. Yes, it is politically difficult but essential. And yes, we can rise to that challenge. Yes, the challenge is far above the objectives outlined in the most aggressive applications of those leaning so heavily on “biodiversity” as tool, objective and explanation all in one. No, it is not too late. It is time to get busy bringing earthly life and its preservation into the core of governmental purpose.

Reference cited

  1. GM Woodwell . 2009. The Nature of a House: Building a World That Works. Island Press. Google Scholar

George M. Woodwell "Biodiversity: Not Wrong, Just an Unfortunate Distraction," BioScience 61(4), (1 April 2011).
Published: 1 April 2011

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