The International Day for Biological Diversity is celebrated on May 22nd every year. The main purpose of the day is to raise awareness and understanding of biodiversity issues. The theme for this year’s celebration is "Celebrating 25 Years of Action for Biodiversity." It will mark the 25th anniversary of participating in the activities created by the Convention on Biological Diversity and it will highlight at the international level, the progress made in the achievement of its objectives.
Biological Diversity or biodiversity encompasses the total variety of life on our planet: human races, all flora and all fauna; all varieties and species of living organisms. Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, has an important role to play. For example, where there is a larger number of plant species there is a greater variety of crops, and production of more fresh air.
Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudate Si is subtitled “On Care for Our Common Home”: In this document, the Pope emphasizes the importance of taking care of our planet earth. Each of us, according to the Pope, has a responsibility to till and preserve the earth as God intended it from creation. What are we ourselves doing to preserve the biodiversity of “our common home”: earth?
Our relationship to earth, "our common home"
In the introductory section of Laudate Si, the Pope, calls the earth our “common home”, which is like our sister and our mother. We are damaging this familial relationship as we harm the environment. In so doing, we are damaging our relationships with other humans, particularly the poor on earth now, and certainly, future generations. We are forgetting our interconnectedness with the earth itself, and with those on earth now, and those to come, who depend on our good stewardship of the gift of creation.
In the second chapter, the Pope says, “A person who is truly concerned about the trafficking of endangered species is automatically concerned with the trafficking of humans”. I know many Religious Congregations are very much involved in fighting against human trafficking. The Pope challenges us to care about other organisms as though each of them had the same right to live as humans.
Major threats to biodiversity, and how we can help curb them
Climate change: Changes in climate throughout our planet's history have altered life on Earth. Ecosystems have come and gone, and species routinely become extinct. We each need to become more knowledgeable about the causes of climate change and discover where we can personally make a difference in the effort to reverse the damaging effects.
Deforestation and habitat loss: In the small Mamfe, in the south west region of Cameroon, at least twenty trucks of timbre are being exported every day. And there isn’t any replanting. Many of our forests have been stripped of trees in the name of development. Buildings are everywhere and most of our forests are gone. Bamenda, for example, has become so much hotter due to deforestation. Can we be personally part of a reforestation campaign?
Over exploitation for commercialization: Almost everything here is being exported to the developed world. When we were growing up in the 80’s, there were a lot of snails around because very few people ate them. Nowadays they are dried and exported to other countries. Even to get a little amount to eat is so difficult and expensive. We need to be resourceful and find a way to adequately feed our own people in Cameroon.
Pollution from Manufacturing: The introduction of contaminants into the natural environment causes adverse change. Many of our companies are built in towns. Carbon monoxide from these production plants can be very harmful to other species.
Sanitation: Another problem related to pollution is sanitation. There are some villages that use streams as toilets, and some distance away, other villages use the same streams for water for house use. This is a problem that each village must take steps to solve.
Fertilization: The overuse of artificial fertilizers for farming has greatly destroyed the soil, killing its natural microbes. The result of this is these soils produce nothing unless they are fertilized even more.
Spraying: Most companies spray grass rather than clear it as before. When grass is sprayed, many other organisms in the ecosystem are destroyed.
How to support biodiversity efforts
Support the birds, reptiles, mammals, and plants that live in your neighborhood. You can also attract more wild species by providing water, food, shelter, and privacy. Help clean up and protect beaches, parks, reserves, and fields where wild plants and animals live.
As we celebrate this year’s International Day for Biodiversity, let’s each make it a personal duty to protect life for other species; even if not for their sake, but for the sake of our fellow human beings in generations to come. Healthy ecosystems clean our water, purify our air, maintain our soil, regulate the climate, recycle nutrients and provide us with food. They provide raw materials and resources for medicines and other purposes.
Join a group, or start your own, to study the problems and then do something about at least one of them! Be a part of the solution rather than adding to the problem!