“Intuitively based announcements are common today. Here are some examples:
- Every life-form has a worth of its own, independent of its usefulness for human beings.
- Animals have a right to exist, no less of a right than that of human beings.
- Life diversity is a good thing, independent of human usefulness.
- Life on earth is a value even without human beings to value it.”
- Arne Naess, The Ecology of Wisdom.
What You Need To Know
Biodiversity is the contracted version of two words, “biological diversity.” It represents the variety of living organisms in the land, sea, lakes, and air that are part of a complex ecological web. Biodiversity includes genetic variation within species, the variety of species in an area, and the variety of habitats within a landscape. In practical terms, it means the variety of living organisms within a given location.
Biodiversity is fundamentally important to the healthy functioning of all natural and human-engineered ecological systems. In a balanced and functioning system, living organisms interact with each other, maintain their individual roles, and contribute to the whole system. Each specie, no matter how small or big, has an important role to play in a functionally bio-diverse system. Preserving species and their habitats is vital for eco-systems to sustain themselves.
If there is an imbalance or if one specie dominates a geographical area, then the imbalance may cause disaster or harm to the overall area. For example, if pine forests replace hardwood and diverse forests in order to grow raw materials for paper products, then disasters like the invasion of the pine beetle can devastate entire areas. Likewise, if only pine forests are planted as plantations, animal populations decrease due to lack of food and the natural wild animal food chain is disrupted.
It has long been feared that human activity is causing loss of biodiversity and extinctions of plants and animals. Logging, planting and harvesting single crops on agricultural lands, illegal hunting, and other challenges are making conservation and biodiversity a struggle. In the ocean, coral reefs provide a rich habitat for many species, but they are now threatened by the effects of global warming. In areas like the Gulf of Mexico that are prone to oil spills and contamination, loss of plankton and basic food sources for marine life interrupt the entire marine system that relies on balance up and down the food chain.
Why Is Biodiversity An Issue of Faith?
Our Biblical heritage tells us that God created the entire universe and gifted humankind with the responsibility to maintain and honor the gift. If we see creation as a gift and not an entitlement - or an object to be dominated and controlled - then we practice respect and love for both the Giver and the gift. Dominion does not mean domination. Dominion means responsibility and gratitude for the gift of life itself. In this way, we see every creature and every living thing as a part of the total gift and necessary to sustain life for the next generations to come.
People of faith are called to be humble stewards of the natural systems of which they are a part. As the dominant specie that has the opportunity for both harm to creation and care of creation, humans are challenged to examine their place in an holistic view of creation and ask themselves if they are humbly respectful or arrogantly harmful to God’s creation. Every generation and every person has the ethical responsibility to determine their own and their community’s own response to God’s gift of creation and to see if their daily practices hurt or enhance what God has given to all.
What You Can Do
- In your family and in your faith community, begin the conversations about how humans can live as a part of the total ecological system. Look at your own natural surroundings for examples of biodiversity and protect and enhance what you can.
- Begin a group study in your faith community, workplace, or among friends using materials from the Northwest Earth Institute www.nwei.org. The study courses that would be most helpful are Discovering a Sense of Place and Reconnecting With the Earth.
- Ask the pastor or the educational leader of your congregation to clarify the issues of biodiversity from a Biblically-based faith perspective in sermons, liturgy, or study materials.
- Build a rainwater garden on your church property or on your own property and encourage the interaction of different species in a local micro-system of diversity.
Links and Resources