Biodiversity

Biodiversity is a general term for variation in life forms at the molecular, organism, species, and ecosystem levels. Variation at these levels is measured by diversity in DNA/RNA, morphology, number of species, and number and relative percentage of species within ecosystems. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity defined biological diversity as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.” Although biodiversity may be evaluated by various means, many biologists use the number of species as a convenient measure that reflects the health of ecosystems. Variation in life forms is the raw material upon which natural selection acts to produce organisms adapted to ever changing environments. Loss of species diversity at the ecosystem level can threaten the stability of all the members of that ecosystem.

THEOLOGY

In the view of the theologian, Friedriech Schleiermacher, Creation is Preservation. God’s creating power is an ongoing act of divine gift-giving, maintenance and change. Creation goes hand in hand with preservation, our role as stewards of God’s creation requires that we respect and care for biodiversity.

Biodiversity happens as a result of God’s freedom given in creation because of God’s love for all the cosmos. Natural selection and evolution are means through which this biodiversity happens with the freedom that God has granted.

In the The Catechism of Creation of the Episcopal Church, we have the following question:

What does it mean to say that God continues to create?

Besides the doctrine of creation out of nothing, early Church theologians developed the doctrine of continuous creation (in Latin, creatio continua). It means, first, that the creation is continually upheld and sustained through God’s Word and Holy Spirit, for were the Trinity to withdraw divine power, the creation would cease to exist. Second, it means that the creation is not a once-and-for-all act: the universe comes more and more into being over time. Just as the phrase “creation out of nothing” expresses God’s transcendence or Otherness from creation, so “continuous creation” expresses God’s immanence or intimate Presence within creation. It means that God continually calls forth, dwells in, and provides for creation.

Through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, God the Creator has assumed a physicality that hallows all material, created things of the cosmos.  The eternal has entered time, space and physical constraints to sanctify all of creation.

Diversity leads to resiliency.

In our ecumenical circle, according to John Paul II, preservation of the environment takes on a special importance insofar as the world is seen as the design of the Creator.  Mankind, he pointed out, was commissioned by God to act as steward for the earth’s resources, and guardian of God’s “creative work.”

BIODIVERSITY ISSUES

  • Species Loss: the current rate of disappearance is higher than the natural background rate of extinction.  (Up to 1000 times the background rate.)
  • Ecosystem services (to human beings, especially indigenous people and also other living beings) rely on biodiversity.
  • Loss of genetic diversity within species—connected to food systems.
  • Destruction of tropical ecosystems threatens production of oxygen, rainfall—connected to water systems.
  • Climate change affects biodiversity.

Climate change is already having an impact on biodiversity, and is projected to become a progressively more significant threat in the coming decades. Loss of Arctic sea ice threatens biodiversity across an entire biome and beyond. The related pressure of ocean acidification, resulting from higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is also already being observed.

Ecosystems are already showing negative impacts under current levels of climate change…which is modest compared to future projected changes…In addition to warming temperatures, more frequent extreme weather events and changing patterns of rainfall and drought can be expected to have significant impacts on biodiversity.

— Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2010), Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, May 2010, p. 56

ACTIONS

  1. Create habitat on church property for preservation of local, indigenous speciesUnits for Sunday School on what are local species, what are the
  2. local ecosystems; how their lost and destruction affect them
  3. In your community – plant trees; replace trees lost to construction; create green spaces
  4. Save water so that it can be used for other purposes
  5. Recycle to cut down of landfills, use fewer resources – paper, plastic, glass, etc.
  6. Advocate with you local congressman to have U.S. sign UN Convention on Biological Diversity and Nagoya Protocol

RESOURCES

  1. UN Convention on Biological Diversity
  2. UN Global Diversity Outlook 2010
  3. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
  4. ICUN Red List of Endangered Species
  5. World Wildlife Fund
  6. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (“Green Patriarch”)