Understanding Biodiversityby Tuesday Phillips
Thursday was the Environment and Conservation Conference here in Kigali. Attended by environmentalists from all over the globe, the speakers included some of the most forward-thinking leaders in sustainability, conservation and biodiversity today. I was immensely impressed with the knowledge of the presenters, and their passion to educate the public in a way that made ecological terminology comprehensive and attainable to everyone.
What we need to do is fill the gap where biodiversity is missing with information and real life experiences. In addition to educating children at a young age, allowing them to experience nature firsthand is also very important. A university professor on the panel pointed out that many of the youth who live just minutes outside Gishwati National Conservation Park in Rwanda have never even walked through it. And yet, there are tourists who travel great distances just to have one fleeting journey through this the densely diverse forest. Bringing the local community into areas rich in biodiversity, and showing them how the complex eco-system works in harmony to protect them from unpredictable weather, drought and severe climate change is essential to their future and the rest of the world’s. If they do not know the importance of nature, how can they be motivated to protect it?
Achim Stiener, UNEP Executive Director, pointed out that WED’s 2010 theme, “Many Species. One Planet. One Future” must be taken into every corner of our community. Whether it is through traditional education, ecotourism, marketing, or even through the preaching of powerful religious figures, it needs to be an addressed. Rwanda has already taken monumental steps in sustaining the rich ecological resources their country has been graced with. The people here are genuinely concerned about the environment and are coming up with creative ways to improve the biodiversity of their land. Steiner also addressed the popular misconception that only the rich care about the environment. Obviously, what is occurring in Rwanda right now dismisses this sort of subjective thinking. It is clear to me, after just two days in Rwanda that they care about what is happening to the planet and want to make a difference.
Though, I am an avid environmentalist myself, I have never been to a conference on the topic, let alone in one room filled only with people who all share the same important goal, and are working in unison to achieve it. Without the knowledge of biodiversity, there is no understanding of life. And without the understanding of life, there is no value attached sustaining it in any form. And herein lies our biggest problem. If a country with very little economic cushion can rally together and create ways to protect their local environment, so can the rest of the world. Rwanda is truly an inspiration. Their passion, drive and innovative approach to solving environmental quandaries and using preventative action to ensure the vitality of their precious forest is exceptionally commendable. Recent history and current environmental incentives in Rwanda is proof that whether rich or poor by definition, a country is capable of inordinate transformation and restoration.
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