2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity (国際生物多様性年) and in October around 7,000 UN officials, NGOs, and governmental officials from around the world will be in the City of Nagoya for the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 10).

You are biodiversity. Most of the oxygen you breathe comes from plankton in the oceans of the world and lush forests around the globe. The fruit and vegetables you eat were likely pollinated by bees, and the water you drink is part of a huge global cycle involving you, clouds, rainfall, glaciers, rivers and oceans. Your diet depends almost entirely on the plants and animals around us, from the grasses that give us rice and wheat, to the fish and meat from both wild and farmed landscapes. Your body contains up to 100 trillion cells and is connected with everything around you and the wider world in a wonderfully complex and timeless system. You share your atoms with every being and object in the natural world, you are both ancient and inconceivably young. Biodiversity is life, your life is biodiversity and biodiversity is you.

You share the planet with as many as 13 million different living species including plants, animals and bacteria, only 1.75 million of which have been named and recorded. This incredible natural wealth is a priceless treasure that forms the ultimate foundation of our human wellbeing. The systems and processes these millions of neighbours collectively provide produce your food, water and the air you breathe – the basic fundamentals of life.

As if that was not enough they also supply you with timber and plant materials for furniture, building and fuel, the mechanisms that regulate your climate, control floods and recycle your waste and the novel compounds and chemicals from which medicines are made. You may take biodiversity so much for granted, and it is so obviously all around you, that it is sometimes easy to forget it’s there – that you are a part of it and can’t live apart from it.

Biodiversity’s contribution to your life is not just practical, physical and utilitarian, it is also cultural. The diversity of the natural world has been a constant source of inspiration throughout human history, influencing traditions, the way our society has evolved and supplying the basic goods and services upon which trade and the economy is built. The disappearance of unique species is a loss that cannot be calculated and leaves us all much poorer. The loss of iconic and symbolic species is not only a cultural tragedy; it also undermines our own survival. The beautiful, bountiful diversity of the natural world is being damaged as a result of human activities. Felling or burning of forests, removal of mangroves, intensive farming, pollution stress, overfishing and the impacts of climate change are all destroying biodiversity.

We can stop this loss, the question is will we? The International Year of Biodiversity is our chance to prove we will.


henri daros

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