Which Are You?

From Biodiversity And Its Loss

“In terms of humans and our relationship with biodiversity, perhaps globally there will become a new class conflict which revolves not over owning the means of production, but over control of biodiversity as this is a fundamental precursor to our survival. It has been suggested that there are three classes of people in terms of relations to biodiversity: ecosystem people, biosphere people and ecological refugees (I’m not sure I believe this, but it’s an interesting way of looking at the world).

Ecosystem people are forest dwellers, peasant farmers, herders and fishers in the mostly non-industrial world who primarily rely/depend on the species within the ecosystem in which they live to meet the bulk of their material requirements, for example, gathering wild foodstuffs, grazing animals, low input agriculture for local consumption. There well-being is closely tied to the ecosystem of which they are a part. Their lives are generally reasonably sustainable as they have, as a minimum, a stake it maintaining their ecosystems as they provide their material needs. Ecosystem people are generally not well plugged into global markets.

Biosphere people are mostly people from the West/First World and the elite of the non-first world, who, in relation to biological resources practice high input industrialised agriculture and animal husbandry for the markets. Biosphere people have access to the resources of much of the whole Earth’s biosphere: we can go and buy Caribbean mangos, Pacific tuna fish, or a fur coat from Far East Russia. These resources are brought to biosphere people through an increasingly integrated global market. The most important point about biosphere people is that they do not depend on the species or ecosystems of any particular locality for their immediate well being. However they do have an interest in maintaining a healthy pleasing environment in their immediate vicinity and therefore tend to shift pressure to distant localities: hence the locations with large houses are usually beautiful and exclusive. This is how 60% of Japan can be covered in forest cover (one of the highest in the world) – as it gets all its timber needs from South East Asia and Brazil. Thus pressure generates to efficiently extract and then exhaust resources in distant locations, especially in the Third World, where the mostly ecosystem people are, therefore creating the third category of humanity: the ecological refugees.

Ecological refugees are people deprived of traditional access to species and ecosystems in their immediate vicinity. Probably the majority of Third World city dwellers are ecological refugees. Examples are numerous: peasants who have migrated to the Amazon, ousted from their land in the South of Brazil by export-orientated agribusiness, or basket weavers in India pushed out by large scale paper production for export. Also the UK city dwellers’ ancestors were ecological refugees, thrown of their land by enclosure, forced into the cities to work in factories. Ecological refugees have no stake in ecosystems, and as is the case with migrants into tropical forests, do destroy and degrade ecosystems.

It is obvious that ecological refugees are increasing in number, at the expense of the ecosystem people. It is also obvious that the biosphere people control both the ecosystem people and the refugees. Again it is the elite minority coercing the majority. Not that the biosphere people and their capitalist system of social relations go unopposed. The radical social movements throughout the world based on peasants movements and the urban poor, such as Brazil’s landless peasants movement, the Movimento Sem Terra (MST), or Mexico’s Zapatistas, who oppose capitalism, are in these ecological terms ecological refugees struggling against biospheric oppressors.

In conclusion, I hope I have made the reader aware of the fundamental importance of biodiversity, that the root cause of biodiversity loss is probably capitalism, as this system take no account whatsoever of biology, and the number of humans on Earth, as the more there are of us, the less room there is for our fellow life forms. Without radical, if not revolutionary change, and a move towards seeing the natural world ecocentrically, life will be at best grimmer than at present for most people. I hope I have provided the tools to allow the reader to understand, critique and expose the underlying agendas of why governments, the media, some scientists and most NGOs adopt certain positions on biodiversity and its conservation. I’ll finish with two quotes:

“…the worst thing that will probably happen – in fact is already well underway – is not energy depletion, economic collapse, conventional war, or even the expansion of totalitarian governments. As terrible as these catastrophes would be for us, they can be repaired within a few generations. The one process now ongoing that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.” – E.O. Wilson.

“There is only one thing in life that you have to do, and that is die. Everything else is optional.” – Anonymous.


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