In pre-historic times, human beings lived in harmony with nature. But as centuries passed, human needs changed to greed, and soon they started exploiting nature’s wealth. Various human activities such as overexploitation, fragmentation of habitats, introduction of exotic species and pollution have caused a great loss of species diversity. At present, more than 15,500 species worldwide are on the verge of extinction. If we do not take any measures against this loss, soon, nearly 50 per cent of species on earth may be extinct within the next 100 years.
There are many reasons to conserve our biodiversity, which can be grouped into three categories: narrowly utilitarian, broadly utilitarian and ethical. According to the first reason – narrowly utilitarian – biodiversity must be conserved as we get direct economic benefits from nature in the form of food, fibre, firewood and several industrial products such as tannins, lubricants, dyes, resins and perfumes. In addition, most plants are of great medicinal value. In fact, about 25,000 plant species are used in traditional medicines by indigenous people globally. Currently, most nations are exploring ‘bio-prospecting’, whereby human resources are used to explore molecular, genetic and species-level diversity for products of economic importance. This means nations with richer biodiversity will probably receive greater economic benefits compared to nations with less biodiversity.
Another reason to conserve biodiversity is broadly utilitarian, as it provides major services such as photosynthesis and pollination. Photosynthesis that takes place in green plants initiates energy flow in an ecosystem. Without this process, life on earth would be impossible. In fact, the Amazon rainforest, also known as the ‘lungs of the planet’, produces more than 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. Besides all these benefits, we get priceless, intangible benefits from nature such as the pleasure of watching naturally growing flowers and birds chirping at sunrise.
Apart from narrowly and broadly utilitarian reasons, there are ethical reasons to conserve our biodiversity. Without plants, animals and microbes, life on earth would be close to impossible. Every species on earth has an intrinsic value even though it might not have a price tag attached to it. It is our moral responsibility to take care, protect and preserve our earth’s rich biodiversity for future generations. Whether ethical, narrowly or broadly utilitarian reasons to conserve our earth’s biodiversity, the need to conserve our biodiversity are critical.