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COLUMN RELATED TO THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT DAY, JUNE 5: BIODIVERSITY: OUR REAL CAPITAL, OUR REAL INSURANCE

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NEW DELHI, May 29 2007 (IPS) - Fifteen years ago at the Earth Summit in Rio the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on Climate Change were signed. While they have evolved totally independently, they are intimately connected, writes Vandana Shiva, author and international campaigner for women and the environment. In this article, Shiva writes that while reducing climate impact, biodiversity also increases climate adaptation. Decentralised biodiverse systems are more resilient to climate change than centralized monoculture systems. Biodiversity provides an important adaptation strategy for climate chaos, and yet it is not even included in the discussion on climate change, which is focussed on pseudo-solutions such as industrial biofuels and carbon trading. We need to put biodiversity at the centre of climate solutions. Biodiversity conservation protects the diverse species that maintain the web of life on the planet. Biodiversity conservation removes poverty. And biodiversity conservation reduces the risks of climate change. These ecological and economic reasons should propel us to commit ourselves to the protection of biodiversity everywhere.

Biodiversity and climate are connected in the generation of environmental problems and the search for environmental solutions. The destruction of local, sustainable, biodiversity-based economies is at the heart of climate chaos. As local biodiversity economies are replaced by global fossil fuel economies, greenhouse gas emissions increase, which accelerates and aggravates man-made climate change.

Biodiversity economies are multifunctional. Biodiversity provides food, fodder, fuel, fibre, and medicine. Biodiversity creates culture. Cultural diversity and biodiversity in fact go hand in hand. Biodiversity is the real capital of indigenous, tribal communities. It is the real capital of peasant societies. Biodiversity economies provide all basic needs – from the brooms that clean our homes to the medicines that save our lives and the seeds that give us food.

Conserving biodiversity is therefore central to an anti-poverty agenda. Poverty is the denial of basic needs, and basic needs are provided by biodiversity. Therefore protecting and rejuvenating biodiversity reduces poverty, if wealth and poverty are measured in real terms, not the fictitious constructions of growth and GDP.

Besides being the basis of real wealth, biodiversity is also a source of productivity. Biodiverse organic farms produce two times more output and income for farmers than chemical monocultures. Biodiversity rejuvenates soil fertility, eliminating chemical fertilizers. Biodiversity controls pests, thus eliminating chemical pesticides as well. The removal of chemical fertilizers from agriculture removes one of the most noxious greenhouse gases, thus reducing the impact on the climate.

Navdanya is an organic farm cooperative actively involved in the rejuvenation of indigenous knowledge and culture, in creating awareness of the hazards of genetic engineering, defending people’s knowledge from biopiracy, and protecting food rights and water rights in the face of globalisation. Our research in Navdanya has shown that biodiverse organic farms increase carbon absorption by more than 50 percent and soil moisture conservation by 10 – 20 percent. Biodiverse organic farming does mitigate climate change. By conserving biodiversity we can literally have our cake and eat it too. We can have more and better food produced at lower cost with less energy inputs.

While reducing climate impact, biodiversity also increases climate adaptation. Decentralised biodiverse systems are more resilient to climate change than centralized monoculture systems. Diverse varieties of salt-resistant seeds are needed for resisting cyclones and hurricanes. Drought-resistant seeds are needed for drought. Flood-resistant seeds are needed for dealing with floods. And these seeds need to be in farmers hands. That is why we in Navdanya have started to create seed banks for climate change.

Biodiversity thus provides an important adaptation strategy for climate chaos, and yet it is not even included in the discussion on climate change, which is focussed on pseudo-solutions such as industrial biofuels and carbon trading.

Industrial biofuels are destroying biodiversity while contributing to climate chaos. In India, jatropha plantations are appropriating village commons from local communities, leaving them poorer and more ecologically vulnerable. In Indonesia, indigenous people are being uprooted to expand palm oil plantations for biofuels. In North America, the use of corn for biofuels in the US has doubled the price of corn in Mexico. This is a climate disaster, a biodiversity disaster, and a social disaster.

We need to put biodiversity at the centre of climate solutions. Biodiversity conservation protects the diverse species that maintain the web of life on the planet. Biodiversity conservation removes poverty. And biodiversity conservation reduces the risks of climate change. These ecological and economic reasons should propel us to commit ourselves to the protection of biodiversity, wherever we are, whatever we do. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

 
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