Wednesday, May 22, 2013

International Day for Biological Diversity

"Biodiversity is the totality of all inherited variation in the life forms of Earth, of which we are one species. We study and save it to our great benefit. We ignore and degrade it to our great peril." --E.O. Wilson ('Father of Sociobiology')
Today, May 22nd, is celebrated worldwide as International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB). This day was declared by the United Nations to commemorate the implementation of the Convention of Biological Diversity in 1993. Earlier, it used to be celebrated on December 29th but in 2000 the date was changed to May 22nd in order to make it easier for the various nations to plan events around it, since there are many other holidays in December.
Conservation of biodiversity is important for many ecological, economical and spiritual reasons. A diverse ecosystem is a productive ecosystem in which each small part plays a vital and important role in keeping the system functioning. The millions of species in the world form our biggest economic resources for medicine, food and natural materials. Not to mention the various flora that help in absorbing greenhouse gases and maintaining the natural beauty of the environment. With so many species still undiscovered, biodiversity could very well provide the cures for the many illnesses and diseases we suffer. A healthy and diverse ecosystem is also a lot more likely to withstand and recover quickly from natural disasters.

However, the natural biodiversity of the world is facing a serious threat from human activities. Many of the world’s species are on the brink of extinction. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has determined that the threat of extinction faced by various species is as follows:
  • 1 out of 8 birds
  • 1 out of 4 mammals
  • 1 out of 4 conifers
  • 1 out of 3 amphibians
  • 6 out of 7 marine turtles
Here are some statistics which give insight about the gravity of the situation.
If the extinction continues at the same rate, very soon we will not be able to enjoy the beauty of the Earth, which lies in its varied species and ecosystems. Some examples are given below, as captured by Greenpeace:
The theme for this year’s IDB is ‘Water’. UN has designated 2013 as the International Year for Water Cooperation, and it hopes that the various countries around the world will raise awareness about this vital issue and will take positive action towards implementing water conservation.

Water is essential for life. No living being on planet Earth can survive without it. It is a prerequisite for human health and well-being as well as for the preservation of the environment. Despite its importance, all of us are so casual about conserving water. We don’t even pause for a second before turning on the tap and using it at will. So many times we leave the tap on while brushing our teeth, simply because we are in a hurry and cannot waste 2 seconds to turn it off and on again later. We stand for hours under the shower, not caring if we are emptying the entire tank. All of us are aware that using a shower results in more water wastage than using a bucket, but it simply does not matter to us because we don’t think about the people in other parts of the world, where there isn't enough water to drink, let alone bathe in. Maybe for now it doesn't matter, but what will happen when there isn't sufficient freshwater to support the world’s population? Where will we turn to then? Maybe, it’s time that we gave it a thought.

On this day, let us play our part in helping conserve water. Let us pledge to use only as much water as required. Let us also spread the message to our friends and acquaintances. We can make a difference. Remember, a small stone is enough to start an avalanche.
Contributed By: Neha Khapre, PGP 2012-14, she can be reached at