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Human Interaction with Nature: Benefits of Biodiversity

Editor’s note: For the last few months, we have run a number of guest posts from students in Professor Simran Sethi’s “Media and the Environment” course at the University of Kansas. We’ve all been pretty impressed with the work these students have done, so we were delighted to agree to publish a small-group final project from students J.J. DeSimone, Lindsay Crupper, Denzyl Janneker, Bobby Grace, and Adam Bowman. They focused on biodiversity in their project, and we’ll publish all five parts over the course of this week. Today’s post was originally published on May 9, 2008.

As humans, we collectively tend to be self-absorbed and not think outside our sphere of influence. More specifically, if something in the world doesn’t directly affect us we give little or no attention to it (I’m one of the worst culprits, myself). As such, it’s very easy for us not to think about what human wastefulness and global warming are doing to our plant and animal life. However, losing our earth’s bio and eco-diversity has frightening ramifications for humanity.

Photo credit: Adam Bowman

Taken in the Uintah Mountains, this photo illustrates what humans could lose unless they act to preserve open spaces.

According to Baker University Biology Professor and Natural Areas Director Roger Boyd, biodiversity is the amount of species in a given area. More broadly, eco-diversity refers to the number of ecosystems there are on the planet. If eco and biodiversity continues to decrease on the planet, then less food is available to sustain life. In essence, all of the earth’s biological life is interconnected; if our furry and scale-covered brethren run out of food, so do we.

But food purposes aside, bio and eco-diversity are extraordinarily important for several other reasons. Species contribute ingredients to human medicines. Less species means less potential lifesaving medicines.

“There are many species we aren’t aware of yet that could help us cure cancer,” Dr. Boyd said.

Additionally, we derive most of our industrial materials from biological life. Finally, biological life helps to moderate our ever-increasing carbon emissions. There are hundreds of additional benefits to maintaining eco and biodiversity, but you get the picture.

Scientists have concluded humans are changing the earth too quickly without taking time to understand or even become aware of all we’re doing. Needless to say, this is bad news.

Although there might not be a true panacea to our problems, we can act at the individual and governmental level to lessen our impact. Dr. Boyd said we do have the scientific prowess to protect our diminishing species. Unfortunately, the U.S. federal government has cut funding to multiple species protection acts. We have the obligation to ourselves and our longevity by informing our senators and representatives that decreased funding for these important acts is inexcusable.

It’s inevitable: if we can’t make the earth habitable for organic life, what chance do humans have in the long run?




2 comments
  1. jordan

    Hey! Thanks for the great info. I was browsing through a bunch of green websites and blogs and I came across yours and found it very interesting. There are a bunch of others I like too, like the daily green, ecorazzi and earthlab.com. I especially like EarthLab.com’s carbon calculator (http://www.earthlab.com/signupprofile/). I find it really easy to use (it doesn’t make me feel guilty after I take it). Are there any others you would recommend? Can you drop me a link to your favorites (let me know if they are the same as mine).

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