Biodiversity Conservation By ‘Opposition To Blind Progress’
Some of the causes of loss in biodiversity in India include habitat fragmentation, overexploitation, ignorance, loss of traditional knowledge, unplanned development, pollution, climate change, some agricultural, industrial and forestry practices, unsustainable natural resource consumption, inequities and global trade
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As I did my Masters in Environmental Economics from Ashoka University, I am deeply interested and intrigued by the concept of sustainable economic progress, one which is inclusive, as well as is conscious of its environmental impact.
Back during my Master’s I came across this very interesting concept called Planetary thresholds which was introduced by a Swedish person called Johann Rockstrom. It was in an article called ‘a safe space for humanity’ back in 2009, and it talked about these 9 planetary boundaries upon which the ecological resilience of Earth exists. The crossing of any these boundaries would have wide ramifications and repercussions on the other thresholds, given the complex interlinkages and how tightly woven these boundaries are, so it is better not to tamper with these ecological balances. 8 years back, he elucidated that 3 of the thresholds have already been crossed, which is climate change, nitrogen cycle, and most importantly, the rate of biodiversity loss. So at pre-industrial levels, with the metric used, the rate of biodiversity loss was 0.1-1, and the proposed boundary was set at 10. In 2009, the status was at more than a 100, which is more than 10 times the required limit. And it must be much more now, which will have reverberating effects on the entire ecosystem, as we have entered the Anthropocene stage in humanity, where human impact defines the entire world.
So the issue of biodiversity loss, as explained by Mr Sinha is already at an alarming rate, and most of which can be attributed to the unperturbed economic growth of countries, which has led to an extrapolated rendering of the ‘tragedy of the commons’, the commons being our earth and rich biodiversity. Biodiversity is an important element of the carrying capacity of any region, and it is important to preserve it. There are more than 93 species of mammals and 216 fish species endangered in India. Industrial output, waste creation, land degradation and water pollution due to unfettered consumerism will invariably alter the resilience of biodiversity, and negatively impact them.
Some of the causes of loss in biodiversity in India include habitat fragmentation, overexploitation, ignorance, loss of traditional knowledge, unplanned development, pollution, climate change, some agricultural, industrial and forestry practices, unsustainable natural resource consumption, inequities and global trade.
There should be proper auditing and certification of industrial processes, construction, development to ensure they do not affect the environment and biodiversity, for example, a consumer should know whether the fish they buy is MSC certified for sustainable fishing. There needs to be an end of rampant, mindless consumerism, and conscious choices made on an individual and business level, keeping the environment and biodiversity in mind.
As Dr Randall said, there is tremendous economic value in the services the ecosystem offers, and there is a need for information dispersion of the huge economic value offered by biodiversity and nature services, and there is ample opportunity for businesses in the biodiversity realm. As Dr Randall said, there should be early consideration of biodiversity and ecosystem services in feasibility & planning phase, ensuring rigor in environmental assessments, mitigation, monitoring and adoptive management, applying the mitigation hierarchy (avoid, minimize, restore, offset), carrying out ecosystem services review, developing and implementing biodiversity management plans, providing opportunity for community/industry engagement and education in biodiversity-related initiatives and so on. In fact, the very ethos of business should be based on sustainability and biodiversity conservation. It has to go beyond mere CSR compliance.
It is heartening to see the biodiversity policies and efforts made by the various companies here, but these efforts need to be scaled up to monumental levels, going by the rate of biodiversity loss in our planet. Again, I would like to add that just a copy-paste of best-practices will not work here, as this leads to something called ‘isomorphic mimicry’, which might have unsustainable results. Instead, a searchers’ approach rather than a planners approach should be used to craft biodiversity policies, based on contextual information, indigenous knowledge and locality-specific data. There needs to be in-depth research and knowledge dispersion, as well as proper measurement of each company’s impact ecological footprint and impact on biodiversity with their operations, and sustainable efforts made to preserve the biodiversity.
Another dilemma which often arises is the dilemma between environmental protection and poverty alleviation, as raising the standard of living of a population will naturally increase their ecological footprint, and harm biodiversity. Protection of a forest and its species may even hurt the marginalized tribes and indigenous folks who depend on it for their living. This dilemma should be properly addressed, which allows for sustained economic progress, along with protecting the environment and biodiversity. I would like to commend the work done by IUCN and the presenters of the private sector here in this realm.
Progress and economic prosperity is great, but it should be conscious of the underlying ecosystem it affects. I would like to end by referring to a quote by Donella Meadows, that the motto should not be ‘blind opposition to progress, but rather opposition to blind progress’.
(As spoken by Anurit Kanti, rapporteur-speaker during the ‘Business and Biodiversity for Environment Sustainability: Issues, Resolutions and Actions’ session at the India and Sustainability Standards 2017 Conference organized by Centre for Responsible Business)