By Simon Mitambo
The United Nations proclaimed 22 May as the International Day for Biological Diversity. This was a move to increase understanding and awareness of the value of biodiversity. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and analyses produced by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity have demonstrated that biodiversity underpins the survival of human societies and the future of all life on the planet. A healthy and vibrant ecosystems is good for our health. It provides us with food, water, medicines, clothes, energy, shelter, nutrients, climate regulation, pollination, disaster protection, the list is endless.
This is a special day for us at the African Biodiversity Network (ABN). In the context of the current global pandemic and threats of mass extinction of species, this year’s theme – Our Solutions are in Nature – emphasizes our hope and solidarity with biodiversity. The ABN’s leading light ecological thinker, Thomas Berry, has emphasized that Nature is the primary text and source of law which governs life. He has called on human society to transform its behavior and re-examine its relationship with the natural world. Thomas Berry advanced a great philosophy and practice for complying with the law of Nature to sustain the well-being of all species, humans included. The late Professor Wangari Maathai constantly reminded us that Mother Nature can be very generous but also very unforgiving. This means that we can no longer continue with business as usual. 2020 should be the year of reflection, opportunity and solutions.
The ABN is working with its partners across 12 African countries, offering a unique approach to building humans and nature relationships. This approach stems from African traditional practices that restore people’s strong and deep sense of connectedness to Nature. We are finding that communities are becoming more resilient and able to sustain their land and other ‘natural resources’. A key part of this is giving a substantial voice to elders’ indigenous knowledge through community dialogues, intergenerational learning, and nature experiential learning among others. Our approach has much potential to add a critical dimension and alternatives to the conventional, industrial approach to natural resource use. It sees humans as part and parcel of Nature in the wider Earth Community. As Thomas Berry rightly said, “the universe is a communion of subjects and not a collection of objects”.
As we celebrate this day, let us commit to restoring our ecosystems, defending them against destruction, supporting and learning from those who live by the laws of life especially the indigenous people. Let’s do it for our children and all the species that sustain the web of life. Let this be our legacy, that of Africa and the world at large.