A day in your life – actually… a day for wildlife

A thought came to me while I was powering up my PC this morning: This is just another day in your life. That may be so, but then today is also a day for wildlife.

A day for the wolves, the elephants, the tigers, the sharks and the whales, in fact for all the wildlife I have been working for decades to protect… but the changes are so small, just as the birds outside my window may appear to behave little different today from yesterday, or as the radio news appears almost the same over the last few days or even weeks.

On this day the world really should revolve around the beauty, grandeur and protection of the diversity of life… really, because today is the International Day of Biological Diversity, with many and varied campaigns to remind us how important the retention of “biological diversity” is for our “sustainable development.”

In the name of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) this day was declared by Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, the new Executive Secretary of the CBD. Even when he and I do not always share the same opinion, we discuss things and work together; and he very much appreciates the work of IFAW and all the efforts we make to gain protection for wildlife and nature.

Actually, the “Day of Biological Diversity” does not sound wildly exciting, so I am all the more pleased to find a good report about it in my newspaper. On the Internet I spot further background reporting and great deal of information is circulating about the topic among my colleagues and my circle of friends. That really is something!

The German Ministry for the Environment offers us further information: “Biological diversity is the treasure of the whole of humanity. Despite numerous national and international countermeasures, biodiversity is dwindling worldwide on a dramatic scale.

The losses are truly alarming.

For us as humans, nature provides the foundations of our existence, because it supplies all our food, water, medicines, fertile ground and fuel.” Correct: when we talk about biological diversity we mean nothing less than an abundant variety in nature, which is essential to sustain human life.

Whenever I have the chance to take part in international conferences for IFAW and speak out for animal protection, it gladdens my heart that there is a growing consensus of how important it is to protect the biological diversity of nature. In the light of this consensus, I fail to understand why governments do not do more to protect wildlife.

They are the true representatives of their habitats and protectors of biological diversity – in reality and quite naturally, if only we respect them and let them live. If governments honestly mean the words they say, at the very least it should follow that we stolidly protect our remaining ancient forests, end the hunting of whales and prevent the carnage of ivory poaching, should we not?

Despite all my doubts, I remain hopeful that over the next few years we can achieve a lot. In recent times I have seen how even some of the toughest environmental opponents have shifted their positions and now start to support protection measures.

This is decisive, even when their changes of mind are not (yet) motivated by wildlife protection, rather due to bleak economic prospects. The cost of the loss of biodiversity due to the destruction of natural habitats worldwide is already estimated at many billions of euros per year, which is exerting a mounting influence on markets and profits.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that it is not from destroying nature, but from conserving it that we all stand to profit – in economics terms, at the least.

I am no economist. For me, nature and wildlife possess their own intrinsic value, which can never be reduced to purely monetary terms. Nonetheless, I am heartened that eminent economists realize that intact nature produces profits for us, purely from an economics standpoint, returning a hundredfold on the investment to conserve biological diversity.

Such economics arguments make it easier to convince government representatives about the benefits of nature conservation. Once we all agree on this point, we can begin to talk about how we achieve our then shared goals. I would then enjoy describing the practical approaches for solutions learned from successful IFAW projects and have the feeling that we are on the right path. At our next meeting, I am sure to discuss this further with Braulio Ferreira.

And now it looks as if the birds outside my window are also pleased about this day. Actually it really is a day for wildlife…

With the terms “biological diversity” or “biodiversity” we refer to the diversity of habitats (ecosystems), the variety of species of all living organisms and the genetic, age and social variety within species and populations.

--PP

Translation from the original German: Alan Frostick

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