CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL VALUES OF BIODIVERSITY, A COMPLEMENTARY CONTRIBUTION TO THE GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY ASSESSMENT·edited by Darrell Posey·UNEP·Intermediate Technology Publications· UK
The meanings of the word 'biodiversity' are diverse. For some, it means an array of genes, species and ecosystems; for others, a means of livelihood. For those who live close to, and nurture biodiversity, the meanings are cultural, ethical and even spiritual. Biodiverse regions are often areas with indigenous populations. Even the languages are diverse. There is, however, a common thread that runs through- that of erosion. As cultures decline and values erode, so do languages and biological resources. Commerce takes over and knowledge and resources are privatised.
This book on biodiversity is a mosaic: contributions are from people all over the globe. It describes the link between nature, society, language and culture. It informs us about the role of indigenous people in biodiversity conservation, the need for the use of traditional knowledge in conservation strategies and the consequences of biodiversity loss. There are chapters devoted to specific cases where traditional knowledge is used in agriculture and soil management, in mountainous and other fragile ecosystems and for the conservation of aquatic and marine resources.
The chapter on Rights, Resources and Responses emphasises the point that if conservation has to be at all successful, people must have rights over their land, knowledge and genetic resources. The tragedy of the commons contributed by George Monbiot describes how their enclosure and privatisation is really at the heart of many global environmental crises. As land changes hands, so does power. When communities own land, they make laws, developing them to suit their own need. Everyone is responsible for ensuring that everyone else follows these laws. As landlords take over, it is their law that prevails, whether or not it leads to protection of local resources.
The greatest of ironies face traditional communities: as the use of their knowledge finds increasing use, human diversity is eroding at an accelerated pace. As their knowledge is being commodified, these communities now have to pay for products based on their knowledge. While efforts have been made to share benefits with these communities, some of them find that cashing in on their resources as against their very religion.
Anyone who reads this volume assumes the moral and ethical obligations of bioresponsibility.
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