Farah Theodore
Farah Theodore

Recently the Jazz and Creole event was held at the Cabrits National Park and yes, it was declared a success where people were all dressed up, enjoyed the natural environment while listening to good music and socialising. Not too far away, one of the few mangrove areas left was destroyed to establish a resort. According to the Global Mangrove Alliance, mangrove forests are among the most productive ecosystems on earth and play a vital role in biodiversity protection.

The primary reason the International Biodiversity Day was declared was to create awareness about the vital role biodiversity plays in our very existence and how it underpins life on this planet. It is difficult to feign ignorance on an issue that has been making headlines due to the damning reports released within the last few years, including the recent IPBES report. The 2019 theme, "Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health", aims to spread awareness of how food systems, nutrition and health all depend on the natural environment (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity).

What exactly is biodiversity? As stated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) biodiversity supports everything in nature that we need to survive food, clean water, medicine and shelter. WWF states further in the words of Lorin Hancock, "biodiversity is all the different kinds of life you'll find in one area – the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up our natural world. Each of these species and organisms work together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life".

The Dominica National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2014-2020 that was released December 2013, claimed the island's biodiversity accounts for 48% of the local food supply and listed agro-chemical pollution as a major threat to biodiversity. If that is the case, why are products such as Roundup still retailed here? There has been resistance to actively seek alternatives to establish an organic agricultural sector. The document stated further that, "the Government of Dominica has made provision for the conservation and sustainable use of its biological resources through the development and implementation of several different legal instruments (Acts, Bills and Policies). Are you aware of such legal instruments? How about the proposed Environment and Natural Resource Act recommended in the Dominica Sustainable Land Management Project Issues Paper and the Climate Change, Environment and Development Bill? Also, the Marine Pollution Management, Dominica Biosafety & Biotechnology Management and the Trade in Endangered Species Bills?

After Hurricane Maria, on 17 March 2018, 12 birds (2 Sisserou and 10 Jaco parrots) were exported to Germany via St. Lucia owing to fears of possible extinction as a result of loss of forest cover, another hurricane or volcanic eruption. This generated much interest and questions about the degree of accountability and transparency where the welfare of our wildlife is concerned. BirdsCaribbean claimed that "Dominica was under suspicion of all trade under the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – to which Dominica and Germany are signatories) since January 2018 for failure to file annual reports for 3 consecutive years", and "export permits are granted through the local CITES management authority (being the ECU – Environmental Coordinating Unit) which may only license export of threatened (appendix 1)species under very strict conditions" – such permission was not obtained.

It has been lamented time and again that the lack of political will or rather corruption, and unsound policy has contributed to the issues we're confronted with now.

In an article written by Ross Harvey, South African Institute of International Affairs in The Conversation stated that Botswana earned a reputation as Africa's last elephant haven (has about one-third of Africa's remaining savanne elephants) which is in jeopardy as trophy hunting has been reinstated. Statistics show that in 2018, photographic (safari) tourism supported 84,000 jobs compared to hunting supporting 1,000 jobs at its peak in 2009. This demonstrates that not only does hunting enable the over-exploitation of these animals, it's also significantly unsustainable, damaging to tourism and may undermine the countries second largest economic sector.

There is also reason to be hopeful. Regard the experience of a fruit farmer in Germany whose harvest is in danger due to significant reduction of bee population; 40% loss of a colony is considered a regular occurrence and the ingenious digital bee sharing platform that brings together beekeepers and farmers online. The bees needed to pollinate her trees were trucked in from neighbouring Netherlands.

A common appreciation of biodiversity is imperative to address the pressing issues that cannot be ignored. After all, "Biodiversity is the food we eat, the water we drink, and it is also the air we breathe. More than that, biodiversity is part of us, as we humans are part of nature", Dr. Cristina Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the U.N Convention on Biological Diversity.

By Farah Theodore