How The Universe Expresses Itself On Earth: Biodiversity In Crises
Ven. David Xi-Ken Shi
You hear us often at EDIG referring to both ourselves and all earthly phenomena as “expressions of the Universe”. A large portion of this expression is made up of biological species, both animal and plant life. Biodiversity refers to the variety of this living life on Earth. But a more encompassing definition of biodiversity includes diversity of ecosystems, species and genes, and the ecological processes that support them. This natural diversity in ecosystems provides basic economic benefits and services such as food, clothing, shelter, fuel, medicines, as well as ecological, recreational, cultural and aesthetic values - and because of this it plays an enormous role in human sustainable development and quality of life. It is the foundation upon which human flourishing stands.
According to a new study, the planets biodiversity has been decimated to a new level over the past forty years by 30 percent. The largest segment of life effected is that of tropical species which have declined by 60 percent. Freshwater tropical species are the hardest hit as they have declined by 70 percent. Think about that for a moment. This is a very bleak picture as much of the planets oxygen producing plants as well as source for medical-base material comes from this group. The 2012 Living Planet Report produced by the World Wildlife Fund tells us that humanity is outstripping the Earth’s resources by 50 percent using as a base figure one and a half Earth years. When considering that we humans must share this planet with all other species, we are very bad houseguests. Colb Loucks, the director of conservation science at the WWF, says “We’re emptying the fridge, we’re not really taking care of the lawn, we’re not weeding the flower beds and we’re certainly not taking out the garbage.” The sad reality is that most mammals won’t flee climate change fast enough.
Another interesting word is “biocapacity”. It refers to the amount of renewable resources, land, waste absorption like carbon dioxide, that the Earth can provide. Using the figures above, it takes about 1.5 years to restore what humans consume in a year. As we are nearing a global population of nine billion individuals, the need to find global solutions will soon become a crises of great need. The challenge is to find a long-term solution, something that our political and greedy cultures are not good at these days.
From a Buddhist point of view, finding the causal nature of the problem is an easy one. Working to promote a global encompassing and corrective course of action is not. We are living in a time where awareness and acceptance of the problem has arrived. But quite frankly, seeing a time where we work as a global-family to act in productive ways to reverse this trend of willful destruction is unclear. We may be reaching the time where nothing we do will stop the decline. Nature has its own laws and time tables, and as humans, that reality is never clear.
I call your attention to the date June 20, 2012. This is when the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development is set to meet in Rio as I understand it. We all need to make an effort to actively connect with this event. While the results may take time to report, we can begin to make ourselves, our families, and our communities aware of the importance of the effort. Don’t just let it slip into history. Keep it alive in creative ways among your Sanghas. This will be a struggle that will not be resolved in our life time. That is the problem. We all like to see our actions get results in as short a time as possible. This is not one of those types of problems. It is a process that is needed; a change in the way we live and interact in our environment. And that is what human flourishing is all about.
Remember, as Buddhists, we are agents for change. Push the thought, push the self, push others, and push back if necessary. It is not about us, it is about all the connections that make Universal expressions a single reality.