Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Multiple Perspectives on Biodiversity

Biological diversity or biodiversity  means the variety of life on Earth.It is the variety  between all species of plants , animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems within which they live and interact.Biodiversity and its conservation are important for economic as well as for non-economic reasons.For example , green plants  remove Carbondioxide and release Oxygen  into the atsmosphere.This helps to keep the environment  fit and healthy for human  life.This cannot be  quantified in economic units  but is extremely important.At the same time , economic arguments also provide compelling reasons for conserving biodiversity.
Different species of plants , animals , and micro-organisms provide us with food , medicines, fuel,building materials,fibre for clothing  and industrial products.Many species have cultural , aesthetic and intrinsic values.For example, Blue Whales and Giant Pandas have intrinsic values.Other services performed by ecosystems include:1.Protecting areas from soil erosion , floods and other harmful  weather conditions.2.Reducing the risk of local and global climate change.3.Recycling nutrients.4.Pollination and biological control.5.Controlling pollutants.6.Monitoring the health of environment.
 There are several threats to biodiversity , as described below:1.Over exploitation of natural resources.   2.Habitat loss and  fragmentation.3.Poaching.4.Illicit felling.5.Pollution.6.Climate change and Global warming.7.Growth of human population.8.Hunting and illegal trade.9.I.A.S. (Invasive Alien Species)10.Lack of efficient protection to threatened species.11Oil spills.12.Coastal/agricultural development.13Land diversion 14.Encroachment.15.Fuel wood removal.16.Grazing.17.Forest fires. All these threats have to be dealt with in order to conserve biodiversity at local and global levels.Under Article 51A of Indian Constitution ,it is the fundamental duty of every citizen of India  to protect and improve  the environment including forests, lakes,rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures.India enacted The Biological Act ,2002 on February 5,2003 to provide for conservation of biological diversity,sustainable use of its components, and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of biological resources, knowledge and for matters connected therewith.The conflict between biodiversity and competing values are  substantial.A broader understanding of implications of biodiversity   conservation  is  needed for resource management decisions.Managers need ways to evaluate the effects of their decisions  in regional as well as in global context of biodiversity conservation .
  Education is indispensable element for achieving  sustainable development(UN , 2002).The need to  impart  biodiversity education at all levels  has been felt   at all international initiatives.As per Unesco :”Education for Sustainable Development allows every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future. 
  Education is indispensable element for achieving  sustainable development(UN , 2002).The need to  impart  biodiversity education at all levels  has been felt   at all international initiatives.As per Unesco :”Education for Sustainable Development allows every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future. Education for Sustainable Development means including key sustainable development issues into teaching and learning; for example, climate change, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity, poverty reduction, and sustainable consumption. It also requires participatory teaching and learning methods that motivate and empower learners to change their behaviour and take action for sustainable development. Education for Sustainable Development consequently promotes competencies like critical thinking, imagining future scenarios and making decisions in a collaborative way.Education for Sustainable Development  requires far-reaching changes in the way education is often practised”

   The word ‘Perspective   means  a particular  way of  considering something.   Accordingly , there are a number of perspectives on biodiversity.For example, gender inequality perspective focuses on the number of women engaged in the study of biodiversity as compared to men, and such other issues.
Multiple Perspectives   from which biodiversity can be considered for educating students  are as below:
1.Scientific Perspective.
2.Historical Perspective.
3.Geographic Perspective.
4.Human Rights Perspective.
5.Gender equality Perspective.
6.Values Perspective.
7.Cultural Diversity Perspective.

8.Sustainability Perspective.

1.A scientific perspective is based on  collecting , analysing and interpreting empirical data about  natural cycles and phenomena.A scientific perspective is assumed to be context free.
 2.A Historical perspective helps learners how biodiversity issues have been addressed over extended periods of time as well as in the present.Using evidence from past and current situations , learners can  understand how local and global communities  have made biodiversity management  decisions  and the implications of those decisions.
3.Geographic perspective:This perspective enables readers  to understand how  biodiversity issues appear and recur  across a region,country,continent  or Earth.By studying geographic scale   of a problem , we get deeper insights into the origin of the problem  and potential solutions.

4.Human Rights perspective:Learning how quality of life  can be affected by  the relative health of biodiversity.This requires that  biodiversity is understood  not as a purely  economic good  but also as a social or cultural good.All societies need biodiversity  to maintain a quality of life  consistent with universal  human rights .Projected needs of future generations should also be considered , with planning for future use  and growth as integral  components of  sustainability decisions.

5.Gender Equality perspective:Learning how gender roles ,social and cultural  practices affect decision making  at different levels  and  in using and protecting  biodiversity at different levels.How technology may have changed the context for  gender related roles .For example,technology has replaced  the need for  physical strength in  completing many tasks.
6.Values perspective: learning   about  biodiversity across different values , with the goal of finding  a consensus  position or action .
7.Cultural Diversity Perspective:Biodiversity issues may  be interpreted through unique world views  that are created through aesthetic  or cultural ways of knowing.A cultural perspective  is often a unique perception  associated with  a particular  community.A cultural diversity  perspective considers  the role of biodiversity  in the cultural  community’s world view

8.Sustainability perspective:We consider the interactions  between  the biodiversity , economics and society  to ensure sustainability for ecosystems and people  today and for future generations.
The above are eight different perspectives identified by Unesco , through which students can effectively learn an important subject like biodiversity.We can use various methods to educate students about multiple perspectives on biodiversity.
1.Viewing a documentary film  through different perspectives and sharing insights gives the entire class a multiple  perspective of the issue.
2.Reading the same case study  focusing on a particular biodiversity topic.The students can analyze the case through the lens of a specific perspective, and then share findings with their peers.
3.The students  may  take up a  local community biodiversity project, investigate it deeper  into what it means at  global level through a variety of perspectives.Using their own community as a case study  is likely to  help students fully grasp the concept of biodiversity

In the absence of widespread agreement  on a philosophical approach  and measurable results that  describe the values of  natural systems  , resource managers have  turned to public participation in their decisions in an effort to reach some sort of public consensus.Partly because of the  requirements for  public participation   under the  Environment Protection Act,there is now a substantial  literature  on ways to  improve this participation .Analysis of alternatives, including economic valuations , might help to reduce  the gap between  contrary perspectives.Structured deliberation  that involves  stakeholders in these  decisions and is supported by analysis will be useful in defining  boundaries and directions.For such a  informed decision making , it is important to catch citizens young and teach them the important subject of  biodiversity from as many perspectives as possible.In Uttar Pradesh,it can help us understand and find solution to the problem of pollution of Ganga river water , especially by  over 400 leather tanneries at Kanpur.We may understand better the global implications of declaring Pilibhit forests as Tiger Reserve.We may also analyze and decide better the Eco-sensitive Zones  around different Protected Areas, especially the one around Okhla Bird Sanctuary near Delhi.
(This article was published in the magazine Tree Take , Lucknow in its issues dated May 15,2016.)