Tag Archive: preserving the natural world


Celebrating Biodiversity

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY – June 5, 2020

VIRTUAL INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW: CELEBRATE BIODIVERSITY

Gujarat National Law College, Gandhigram, Gujarat

CELEBRATING BIODIVERSITY

by

Nanditha Krishna

In 2002, the Indian Parliament enacted the Biological Diversity Act followed by the National Biodiversity Rules in 2004. The main objectives of the Act were the conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. Earlier, the Wildlife Protection Act, 1973, and its 1991 Amendment provided for the protection of birds and animals, while the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, a vast improvement on the earlier Act of 1927, was intended to provide a high level of protection to the forests and to regulate diversion of forest lands for non-forestry purposes.

Biodiversity – or biological diversity – includes all the organisms found on our planet, the plants, animals and micro-organisms, the genes they contain and the different ecosystems of which they form a part. India is one of only seventeen mega diverse nations in the world, with over 85,000 out of 12,00,000 animal species in the world, and 45,000 out of 3,90,000 plant species. It is estimated that the world knows only about 17,70,000 species out of 5 to 10 million. We hardly know what we have, leave alone what we have lost.

Biodiversity is essential to the survival of every species, as each organism is linked to another in a fragile web of life. These form a food chain that links food producers to consumers, and maintains ecosystem diversity. The amount of green plants in any environment should be much more than the animals or insects that feed on them. Humans are only a strand in this delicate web of relationships. Every living creature is a part of a food chain. There are several food chains which, depending on the environment, could be simple or complex. But all food chains are fragile, and if even one link is broken, it sets off a series of reactions that could cause the collapse of the ecosystem. If predators are killed, the herbivores will multiply and eat up green plants and grains, leaving the land barren and unproductive. This is how a biologically-rich region like North Africa became the Sahara Desert. What would happen to public health if scavenger birds like the vulture were wiped out? Every species has its role, making species diversity essential.

Loss of biodiversity impacts immediately. There is the example of the genetic similarity of Brazil’s orange trees causing a terrible outbreak of citrus canker in 1991. The rapid deterioration of the ecology due to human interference is aiding the rapid disappearance of several wild plant and animal species.

As natural resources are depleted, there is less to go around, less to share. Economic, social and political problems are a natural corollary. Water, the most important natural resource which comes from hills and forests, is a source of discord today.

Loss of biodiversity is a threat to civilization, second only to thermo-nuclear war in its severity. The consequences could be quite incalculable. Other environmental problems like pollution, global warming and ozone depletion could be overcome, but not the erosion of biodiversity or extinction of species. Species once lost cannot be brought back.

The current Covid 19 pandemic, which has emerged from the wet animal markets of Wuhan, China, is the result of human interference with nature, the destruction of the intricate web of life and the loss of biodiversity. The virus always existed. Its predator is missing. Habitat destruction, air and water pollution, indiscriminate poaching and killing of wildlife, intensive farming of animals and the disappearing green cover have combined to cause global warming, climate change and now this destructive pandemic.

In this lockdown, people are celebrating the return of avian and terrestrial wildlife, or birds and animals in cities and in the countryside. Air and water pollution have decreased, while the North Pole’s largest-ever Ozone hole has finally closed. What humans could not achieve despite spending millions of dollars or rupees, Nature has achieved – a rejuvenation of planet earth. Humans are a very small part of the web of life, but cause the greatest damage. Celebrating biodiversity is celebrating Mother Earth.

I would like to end with a hymn to the tree and the forest from the Rig Veda (IX 5.10.):

The cosmos is a tree with a thousand branches…

The tree is the lord of the forest…

Which is a symbol of life that is self-regenerating and immortal…

And a Hymn to the Earth from the Atharva Veda’s Bhoomi Sukta (XII.I.26, 28):

Earth, my mother, set me securely with bliss…

The earth, which possesses oceans, rivers and other sources of water;

Which gives us land to produce food grains on which human beings depend for their survival;

May it grant us all our needs for eating and drinking: water, cereals and fruit.

​Let us celebrate biodiversity by making time and space for nature, by remembering that the earth was made for animals and plants too. Ahimsa is non-violence in thought word and action, and non-violence to all creation would be the best celebration of biodiversity.

June 5, 2020 global online broadcast, World Environment Day, 2020:

https://www.wedonthavetime.org/events/worldenvironmentday

Hinduism and Nature, as well as several of Dr. Nanditha Krishna’s other

books, can be found on Amazon.

Indian palm squirrel eating papaya

When Lord Rama and the army of monkeys led by Hanuman were extending a bridge to Sri Lanka so that Rama would be able to go to the abode of Ravana, the ten-necked demon, to defeat him and to get back his wife Sita, who had been abducted, a little squirrel played an important role in building the bridge.  He ran along to the end of the bridge and shook sand out of his fur.  This sand provided the binding material that held the building blocks of the bridge together.

The bridge did hold together, Rama killed Ravana, and Sita was returned safe and sound to her husband.  In gratitude, Rama thanked the little squirrel, affectionately running his hand along his back.  This is the reason that today the Indian palm squirrel has three stripes on his back.

Because of the squirrel’s hard work and devotion to Rama, squirrels today are protected by Indian households, and no one would harm them.

This story, and many others, are recounted in the book by Dr. Nanditha Krishna, “Sacred Animals of India”.

Rama

It is a true story.  It is true because, of course, the incarnation of God on earth would feel love and appreciation towards a little, innocent creature like a squirrel.  A squirrel is indeed very hard-working, and makes a positive contribution towards the environment and towards life on earth (thereby assisting in building a bridge to defeat the arch-demon Ravana, the author of evil).

Science, when it is true to its origins, respects and values all life from the squirrel to the eagle – from the mushroom to the ficus tree.  All is valued and preserved.

But there is another kind of science – it’s a kind of pseudo-science, though it has in many ways taken over the place of the rightful, true science.

This pseudo-science began probably in Europe around the time of Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes in the seventeenth century – and its doctrine (it does have a doctrine, just like a religion) is that human beings are the dominant species and have the right to mastery over all other creatures on the earth. In order to pursue that goal more effectively, it is useful to deny that animals have any level of sentience or consciousness—and there is an implicit denial of any genuine spirituality.

There is really nothing “scientific” about that kind “science.”  True science, meaning wisdom and knowledge, does something quite different in quite a different way.  It observes, watches, notices, catalogues, and seeks to understand the natural world, with respect and open sincerity.  Following from this approach, it values and appreciates the natural world, and as a consequence, it seeks to preserve it.  This science, which is the real science, is oriented towards conservation, towards the preservation and restoration of eco-systems, of forests, of all the natural habitats of the earth, of the plants, the forests, the birds, the animals, the geological formations, the rocks, and the mountains, and ultimately the people because we need the earth too.

It’s a good idea for us to notice that these two kinds of science are not the same.  They are in fact opposite.  One seeks to understand.  The other seeks to dominate, and when dominance is the goal, really, the less understanding there is the better, because understanding can only get in the way of carrying out that harmful goal.

Ravana

If one’s purpose is to dig a mine on top of a mountain or a dangerous oil well deep into the earth or under the sea, then the less one knows or understands about these fragile eco-systems, the easier it will be to destroy them without a second thought.

One of these kinds of sciences is life-giving and life-affirming.  The other, the false science, is death-dealing and is contributing to destroying the planet. It is helpful not to get them mixed up.

India has always been a life-affirming land, with a philosophy and a culture that values really everything, that sees the validity, the worth and the sacred nature of all things, all animals, and all people.  It is a culture that gives warmth and inclusion, that recognizes the consciousness, the sentience, and the value of all beings on all levels.

The ancient Vedic science was alive and well long before the beginnings of modern “science” ever came into being. Many thousands of years in the past, there was an understanding of astronomy, of the stars and the planets, a system of medicine, a practice of metallurgy, cartography, and the development of a number system that the world still uses today.  There were surveying instruments, navigation, advanced mathematics, and eye cataract surgery. Along with a great many other advances that we still may not recognize as having originated in India.

All this knowledge is laid out in the ancient Hindu texts. When we see clearly the antiquity and the source of much of the world’s knowledge, that will enable the life-giving essence that was always there within this true science to prevail over the forces of environmental destruction.

Then there can be life, energy, and a restoration of hope and well-being to the planet earth.  Then we’ll be honoring the squirrel, and Rama, and the victory of goodness and kindness over evil.

Top photo: Ashraaq Wahab / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ Indian palm squirrel

Second photo: Painting done around 1860 / Wikipedia / public domain / Rama

Third photo: Painting done around 1920 by an unknown Indian artist / Wikipedia / public domain / Ravana