By Kevin Stoda, R epublic of China--Matsu Islands
This article is a partial follow-up to my article from yesterday on "fighting and singing" insects.
That piece introduced readers to Dr. Jen-Yze Yang, who was a main advisor for a National Geographic program on fighting insects in Taiwan Dr. Yang is also President of the Biological Society of Taiwan or the Republic of China. He is an expert in entomology and was at my elementary school yesterday sharing with students from several different islands of the Matsu (island) change off the Chinese coast.
The professor shows solidarity for younger generations by coming to poorer rural schools in Taiwan, like those in Matsu and teaching the youth and their teachers, about the importance of biodiversity. According to Anup Shah, "The variety of life on Earth, [i.e.] its biological diversity is commonly referred to [simply] as biodiversity. "
That is, biodiversity explains the "number of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms, the enormous diversity of genes in these species, the different ecosystems on the planet, such as deserts, rainforests and coral reefs are all part of a biologically diverse Earth."
Shah notes that "[a]ppropriate conservation and sustainable development strategies attempt to recognize this [biodiversity] as being integral to any approach [to research and development]. Almost all cultures have in some way or form recognized the importance that nature, and its biological diversity has had upon them and the need to maintain it. Yet, power, greed and politics have affected the precarious balance."
This is precisely why Dr. Yang and the sponsors of the "Singing Insects" exhibition have been busy--even in the most rural and isolated regions of Taiwan these days.
As we discussed the making of the National Geographic program on fighting crickets in China and Taiwan that Dr. Yang had been involved in, Dr. Yang noted that one main point of that documentary was to point out how biodiversity was important in the development of East Asia and the world. For example, a particular fighting insect had apparently died out in China, but it had moved on to other lands, like Taiwan and even the USA, preserved by lovers or aficionados of those particular species. In the case of Taiwan, Chinese who had moved from the mainland 3 or more centuries had brought a non-indigenous fighting cricket species to what is now the R.O.C.--ensuring preservation of that species. Likewise, Taiwan by focusing on preserving butterflies to a great degree in recent years, still has well over 100 different butterfly species that exist almost nowhere else.
In fact, Taiwan has witnessed a de-industrialization over the last two decades due to the rise of industry in neighboring China. This means that the country is significantly cleaner and environmentally aware than peoples in many neighboring Asian lands(--although significant beach cleanups are needed on the mainland of Taiwan come summer). The younger population is more interested than ever in maintaining the biodiversity of the land than at any time in its history.
This openness (or growing consciousness) in Taiwan towards building a more sustainable future in Eastern Asia reminds me that basically the dominant neo-classical economic model has not provided a sustainable form of development--even as it has led to economic melt-downs in many corners of the globe. However, countries, like Germany and Taiwan which have focused more on reducing their industries' negative effect on nature have been doing better economically than have countries, like the United States and Great Britain who have not worked to get their economies significantly greener in recent decades.
Anup Shah wrote in his blog, "Why is Biodiversity important? Does it really matter if there aren't so many species? Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, all have an important role to play. For example, a larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops; greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms; and healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters. And so, while we dominate this planet, we still need to preserve the diversity in wildlife."
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity notes, "At least 40 per cent of the world's economy and 80 per cent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources. In addition, the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change."
I ponder this as I listen to the brilliant Chilean economist, Manfred Max-Neef , speak on Democracy Now.
Max-Neef has made it clear that biodiversity, nature, and sustainability must be from the perspective of the marginalized and poorer peoples in our world. This middle and poorer majorities on our planet are where we need to start. For example, the marginalized peoples on the Matsu Islands off the coast of China do a better job of recycling than 90% of the peoples in North America. The local peoples on this marginalized island chain also live closer to nature and keep their beaches cleaner than do their wealthier neighbors in Taiwan or those richer peoples in many other neighboring Asian countries.
Likewise, the peoples of the poorer--but more ecologically diverse--island where my wife is from in the Philippines, namely Palawan, understand more clearly environmentalism, recycling, and the importance of biodiversity much better than those living in wealthier and more educated peoples in Manila and on the large island of Luzon.
In contrast, the rest of the world has been built on a greed-will-make-progress mentality. That neo-classical dominant belief falsely claims that change is progress and that growth equals development. This worldview is ridiculous but it is why 1 to 10% of the population in almost all countries owns 90% of the resources. (This fact is why Professor Max-Neef unequivocally that the poorer are often happier with their lives than the rich.)