“Biodiversity means the diversity of life- the rich diversity of life forms on our beautiful planet. Biodiversity is the very fabric of life- it provides the conditions for life’s emergence and maintenance, and the many different ways in which that life is expressed.” This excerpt starts itself with one of the best quotes in the reading. It seems like the farther we progress in science and technology, the farther we pull away from nature. This seems to be a common theme in the readings for this class, but from what I can tell, it is true. The more we think we know, the less we see.
Shiva states that species are now becoming extinct at the rate of 27,000 a year and that is 1000x the natural rate of extinction. People have thrown off the biological balance of the earth so much because of the desire for a profit, but one day it will be difficult for anyone to make a profit of any sort. “Seeing other life forms as biological and genetic raw material is fraught with ecological risks. The smallest microbe plays a critical role in maintaining the ecological processes that create the conditions of life for all species, including, of course, our own.” We might now know a lot about these creatures different from us, even considering they are invisible to the naked eye. So much so to be able to use them to make products that we need, such as insulin, and in bioremediation, including in oceanic oil spill clean-up processes. We fail to take into consideration that although we may know a lot, we don’t know everything, and we typically don’t know the variety of niches these organisms fulfill in their environments. They definitely play a big role in carbon and nitrogen fixation, and many are photosynthetic and make oxygen for us to breathe. But the roles they play in interaction with each other are too much for us to really know. They were here billions of years before we were, and were very important in creating a livable environment for other organisms to evolve and live in.
In our superiority, we don’t see the tons of other species on this planet as our family, and in fact are very ignorant of where we come from and ignore the path on which we are going. We aren’t on top of some delusional pyramid as we seem to believe, but we are a part of a very complex web. We seem to think that just because we can walk upright and we have the ability to speak thanks to a series of mutations giving us complex vocal cords and a hyoid bone that we are superior. We aren’t anything more than animals that have climbed up on our high horse and taken over the planet that raised us and fed us since our beginning. It’s kind of like an ungrateful child that has grown up to resent the parent that struggled to raise it.
It would be incorrect to say that we have caused all extinctions, because as we all know, extinctions have taken place, including on a mass scale since the earth began, “but the erosion of biodiversity has become a systemic product of industrialization.” Since industrialization occurred many years ago, countless animals have lost habitats and died due to expansion, deforestation resulting in habitat loss, dams being built, highways, and a number of other very real threats. Even birds, which have the ability to fly away and find refuge in other places have undergone massive kills due to pesticide use and bioaccumulation of metals in the fish they eat. Our industrialization practices has caused a uniformity in our food production as well causing monocultures and destroying biodiversity, having a devastating effect on countries impacted the most by poverty because they can’t compete with richer countries for the goods that they need. Incredibly, Shiva states that on a global scale, domestic livestock breeds are disappearing at a rate of 6 breeds A MONTH. This is an alarming statistic. Out of 4-5 thousand breeds, extinction threatens 1,500.
Finally, Shiva talks about “The Empty Earth Syndrome.” She speaks about how there is a great biological wealth in tropical Third World countries, but it is quickly being destroyed due to two causes. One is the “empty earth” model of colonization, which says that where the earth is not occupied by Western civilization it is “empty” and has no limits to be respected. If we inhabit it, we are entitled to any resources that are available. The second cause is what Shiva calls the “monoculture of the mind.” This is the idea that the world should be uniform and has to be for maximum food production and economic benefits. Shutting out alternative ways of knowing and producing leads to the assumption that the dominant way is the only way. These views threaten all other species and cultures because it makes us blind to their existence and rights to live unaltered.