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Nature Conservation

Conservation first originated as an attempt to protect nature, simply because it had intrinsic and aesthetic value. While this idea is still put forth in discussions, lately the topics of focus have been conservation for self interest, well-being and the continued survival of all forms of life, humans especially. Studies estimate that the benefits of preserving nature surpass the costs by a ratio of 100:1. Some of these benefits are direct. Plants and animals provide us with substances and goods that can be used by man and sold for profit. These include herbs, food, clothing, sheltering material (wood), cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and paper. The market value for natural products is reported to be over US $ 87 billion per year. Wild life also entertains (be it fishing or hunting or backpacking) and has an intrinsic aesthetic value. What would holidaying be without nature? Trees in the cities give us shade and make hot summers tolerable.

Then there are the indirect benefits, of which we are only semi-conscious. Nature and its resources are vital to our well-being in many more ways. Tropical rain forests use up so much of the carbon dioxide in sunlight. In money talk, this service is worth more than US $ 46 billion per year. Nutrient cycling, water cycling and climate regulation, pollination are some of the other services that we have grown accustomed to and even ignore. Ten years ago, scientists estimated to put a figure on these services and it came up to an astonishing $ 33 trillion, which was twice the global GNP at the time! Such is the value of ecosystem services and natural capital. If there is no conservation, we stand to lose a great deal.

The value of biodiversity for future use is also important. It’s not so easy to quantify because we really have not unlocked the full potential of some natural resources (i.e. the plant Rosy Periwinkle may be used to cure Hodgkin’s Lymphoma). But imagine the loss if the plants were to become extinct because we have destroyed their habitat.

There is no question that human activities have led to global warming. But how few of us realize that we may have contributed to the occurrence of natural disasters?  When the delicate balance of nature shifts, the consequences are as diverse as nature itself. They can manifest in the form of storms, floods, droughts and landslides.

The truth is, we are all intertwined. We can carry on depleting non-renewable energy sources, kill animals and plants for our gain and go on with business as usual. Nature’s retribution will not be felt immediately, and maybe not in our lifetime. But the world we leave for the next generation will be a shadow of the place we now live in. What happens next is based on what we do now. 

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