Working for a shared and sustainable future

The UN proclaimed the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. When it was created by the Second Committee of the United Nations General Assembly at the end of 1993, December 29 (the date of entry into force of the Convention on Biological Diversity) was designated as an observation day. However, in December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted May 22 as the BID, in part to alleviate the problem faced by many countries struggling to organize programs due to the holiday season. As the text of the Convention was adopted on May 22 (1992), it has been designated as the International Day for Biological Diversity.

The importance of biodiversity and why we need to protect it has been further highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the biggest lessons the pandemic has taught us is that we need to develop a strong and sustainable ecosystem to ensure our survival against any similar global threat in the future. And to achieve this, experts say, we must ensure the health of planet Earth’s biological diversity.

According to a note from UNICEF, “Biodiversity is essential to human health and well-being, economic prosperity, food security and other critical areas for all human beings and all human societies. Organisms, ecosystems and ecological processes provide us with oxygen and clean water, they help recycle carbon and fix nutrients, they allow plants to grow, they control pests and diseases, and they help protect against flooding and regulate the climate.”

UNICEF has also warned that biodiversity is declining faster than it has at any other time in human history. Humans make up just 0.01% of all living creatures, yet have caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants in the past 100 years alone. The way we grow food, produce energy, dispose of waste and consume resources destroys the delicate balance of nature that all species, including our own, depend on for their survival. Also, scientists say, climate change is happening far too quickly for species to adapt and survive.

The UN website pointed out that “biodiversity resources are the pillars” on which civilizations have been built. Fish provides 20% of animal protein to about three billion people. More than 80% of human food is provided by plants. Up to 80% of people living in rural areas of developing countries depend on traditional herbal medicines for basic health care.

Therefore, the loss of biodiversity threatens everyone, including our health. It has been proven that loss of biodiversity can spread zoonoses (diseases transmitted from animals to humans) while, on the other hand, if we keep biodiversity intact, it offers excellent tools to fight against pandemics like those caused by coronaviruses, according to the UN website.

Each IBD has a specific theme. For 2022, the theme is “Building a Shared Lifetime Future”. According to a press release from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

“To achieve a sustainable future for all, we must act urgently to protect biodiversity, the web of life that connects and sustains us all,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his message for IBD 2022. “We must end our senseless and destructive war on nature. The rate of species loss is tens to hundreds of times higher than the average for the last 10 million years – and accelerating.

He also said: “Biodiversity is essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, ending the existential threat of climate change, halting land degradation, enhancing food security and supporting progress in human health. And biodiversity offers ready-made solutions for green and inclusive growth.

In her message, CBD Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema also emphasized solidarity, emphasizing the importance of addressing the biodiversity crisis and building a shared future for all life. “Wherever you are in the world, each one of you matters and every action you take matters,” she said.

It is interesting to note that in India, private companies have been working towards a sustainable lifestyle and raising awareness about the protection of biological diversity in various ways. Here are five organizations working for a shared and sustainable future. And if you want to learn how you can work to protect biodiversity as a traveler, you can sign up for their workshops or join a volunteer program as part of your itinerary.

Environmental organization based in Darjeeling Tieedi (founded in 2016) practices permaculture to pave the way for the sustainable use of natural resources. They work and provide training in experiential environmental education, regenerative tourism, natural agriculture, decentralized waste management solutions, and consultation on sustainable land and building design. They also offer volunteer opportunities where participants learn about permaculture while working on one of their projects. And if you’re not sure you want to volunteer, you can spend a few days at their home to observe the type of work they do up close. The accommodation built for the guests by the organization itself is a lesson in natural construction, handcrafted by local craftsmen without compromising on amenities.

Located in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, Hand carved houses of Thannal was established by natural building architect Biju Bhaskar and his wife Sindhu Bhaskar in 2011. They researched indigenous knowledge in shelter making, which had been practiced in India since Vedic ages but gradually forgotten – as the use of suda (lime) and surkhi (burnt mud), use of natural derivatives of plants and animals – and offers practical training programs for the same. The organization is also attentive to the fact that the alternative construction solutions must not be such that they require premium investments; solutions must be economically viable for wide adoption. Visitors are invited to book a visit to the Thannal campus (currently suspended) by prior appointment and on specific dates only; without an appointment. You can also contact them for more details on workshops and training programs here.

Based in Mumbai BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society) is one of the oldest scientific organizations in India. They have been working for nature conservation since 1883, the main objective being to raise awareness of nature through scientific research, conservation advocacy, education, scientific publications, nature tours and other programs. One of their main activities involves conservation research, which includes research on species, landscapes and seascapes. Nature walks and camps (pandemic situation may affect timings) organized by BNHS are great opportunities to see and learn about biodiversity in India and how we can work to protect it.

A volunteer spot with BuDa Folklore can help you reap years of accumulated knowledge. The main objective of the organization is to conserve, educate and promote the folklore and natural environment of the Uttar Kannada region in Karnataka. And in doing so, they strengthen local livelihoods and economies, help diversify agricultural and forestry products, promote tribal culture, preserve natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystems. For hands-on experience, you can send your children or younger family members on a study trip that they lead. Or, you can choose to join their volunteer program. You can also choose to stay at their Gokarna Beach House located in the coastal village of Haarumaskeri, about 5 km from Gokarna town. Get the details here.

Nestled in the foothills of Sahyadri in the Eastern Western Ghats Vanvadi, a biodiversity hotspot. But this lush 65-acre forest would have been lost had it not been for the efforts of a group of like-minded citizens who purchased the razed land in 1994. Among other things, today Vanvadi is home to 50 forest food species and 120 traditionally useful plants and are home to a multitude of birds, reptiles, amphibians, arachnids, crabs, etc. One of Vanvadi’s major achievements is to improve the groundwater system and ensure water security in the downstream region. They also practice organic farming. The collective also provides training and workshops on sustainable practices, organic farming, and more, as well as public programs and volunteer opportunities for those interested. To learn more about Vanvadi, which lies between Mumbai and Pune, see here.

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