To make substantial strides in conservation, we must consider biodiversity as more than a commodity

Considering Canada’s recent COP26 pledge to allot 20 per cent of climate funding to address biodiversity loss, we must revisit the reasons why this issue is substantial.

Defined as the variety of life on earth, biodiversity underpins the health of our planet. When it comes to biodiversity loss, most arguments only mention natures “usefulness” to humans. We must step away from this anthropocentric, materialistic world view and toward considering ourselves a part of nature to invoke meaningful change.

Certainly, there are practical ways to understand why biodiversity loss is important. Global health implications mean millions of people face a future where food is limited and more vulnerable to pathogens. It means freshwater will be in short supply, and we will see more frequent health epidemics. Not to mention that ecosystems and biodiversity have an economic value more than 100 times greater than what it would cost to conserve them. However, biodiversity is more than a commodity.

We must first recognize that all life is interconnected. Nature is not something separate from us. We are a part of nature. We must consider nature as our home, not just a place we visit. Until we realize that we are one part within a larger whole, we will keep failing to preserve our planet for future generations.

All species play a critical role. Some are larger, such as keystone species and ecosystem engineers, and some are smaller, such as contributions to the food web, like seed dispersal or pollination. A diverse abundance of species supports essential ecosystem functions. When biodiversity is lost, we see cascading ecosystem failures and a loss of resilience.

Life on earth has existed for millions of years before humans. In centuries, we have caused considerable harm to the planet. Biodiversity is one of the myriad ways the universe evolved, and we should be the part that admires it. We can learn about the past from nature. Lake sediments provide insight into the climate and ecosystems of the past. Some reptiles have been around for thousands of years before the dinosaurs. Fossils are snapshots of history, showing how species evolved. Alas, the geological legacy of humans will be causing this planet’s sixth mass extinction.

Everything has a right to exist outside of the ability of humans to commodify it.

We are lucky to coexist with nature. Beautiful, strange, and diverse species of plants and animals invoke feelings of wonder and connection to the natural world. Nature provides enrichment that makes life meaningful.

Humans are not the central, most important entity in the universe. We do not exist among disposable resources created for us. Canada has taken a step in the right direction, but more action is needed than planting trees and funding “nature-based” solutions. Biodiversity must be conserved for its intrinsic value, not only for the resources it provides.

“Only when the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream poisoned, will we realize that we cannot eat money” — Indigenous proverb

Olivia May Galloway is a biology student at the University of Ottawa.

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