Climate Change & Biodiversity

Reductionism seems to have become the habit of the contemporary human mind. We are increasingly talking of “the carbon economy” and the context of the carbon economy. We refer to “zero carbon” and “no carbon” as if carbon exists only in fossilized form under the ground. We forget that the cellulose of plants is primarily carbon. Humus in the soil is mostly carbon. Vegetation in the forests is mostly carbon.  Carbon in the soil and in plants is living carbon. It is part of the cycle of life.

The problem is not carbon per se, but our increasing use of fossil carbon as coal, oil and gas – which were formed over millions of years. Today the world burns 400 years worth of this accumulated, biological matter every year, 3 to 4 times more than 1956. While plants are renewable resource, fossil carbon is not. It will take millions of years to renew the earth’s supply of coal and oil.

Before the industrial revolution, there were 580 billion tonnes of carbon in the atmosphere. Today there are 750 billion tonnes. That accumulation, the result of burning fossil fuels, is causing the climate change crisis. Humanity needs to solve this problem if we are to survive. It is the other carbon economy, the renewable carbon embodied in biodiversity that offers the solution.

Our dependence on fossil fuels has broken us out of natures renewable carbon cycle. Our dependence on fossil fuels has fossilized our thinking.

Biodiversity is the alternative to fossil carbon. Everything that we derive from the petrochemicals industry has an alternative in biodiversity. The synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, the chemical dyes, the sources of mobility and energy, have sustainable alternatives in the plant and animal world. In place of nitrogen fertilizers, we have nitrogen fixing leguminous crops and biomass recycled by earthworms (vermicompost) or microorganisms (compost). In place of synthetic dyes, we have vegetable dyes. In place of the automobile, we have the camel, the horse, the bullock, the donkey, the elephant and the bicycle.

The biodiversity economy is the sustainable alternative to the fossil fuel economy. In addition, creating biodiversity economies is necessary for mitigation of and adoption to climate change. The shift from fossil fuel driven to biodiversity-supported systems reduces green house gas emissions by emitting less and absorbing more Co2. But above all, because the impacts of atmospheric pollution will continue even with reduction of emissions, we need to create biodiverse ecosystems and economies because only they offer the potential to adapt to an unpredictable climate. And only biodiverse systems provide alternatives that everyone can afford. We need to return to the renewable carbon cycle of biodiversity. We need to create a carbon democracy so that all beings have their just share of useful carbon, and no one is burdened with carrying an unjust share of climate impacts due to carbon pollution.

For millennia farmers have innovate and evolved varieties with unique properties. Farmers’ innovation has stressed on breeding for climate resilience and for conservation of biodiversity.

Giant corporations which have destroyed biodiversity by promoting monocultures and uniformity are now claiming farmers’ collective, cumulative innovation as their invention through biopiracy patents. The latest in this biopiracy is the patenting of climate resilient traits.

Navdanya / RFSTE have been conserving farmers’ varieties since 1987. We have created community seed banks of climate resilient crops which have distributed seeds after cyclones, the tsunami, and after draught. We have also challenged biopiracy patents.

Navdanya/RFSTE will continue to defend farmers collective rights in the context of climate change

Through the citizens’ actions, we have won three biopiracy battles and have thus contributed to the defense of farmers’ rights, indigenous knowledge and biodiversity. Navdanya’s focus on collective, cumulative innovation embodies in indigenous knowledge has created a worldwide movement for the defense of the intellectual rights of communities.

Now the corporations are pirating the collective innovation of farmers in breeding crops that are resilient to droughts, floods and salinity. The biotechnology industry is spreading the misconception that without genetic engineering we will not be able to evolve crops with climate resilience. As a recent Monsanto advertisement states :

9 billion people to feed. A changing climate. Now What?

And of course offers its GM seeds as the answer.


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