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Why is Biodiversity Important to All of Us?

“The Darwin Project will fall squarely in the rarely filled intersection
of education, science, and the aesthetic celebration of nature.
It will be an ornament to the cultural life of the City.”

Edward O. Wilson

The Darwin Project will define a botanical garden with a conservation learning center that seeks to teach us about one of the most critical environmental issues we face – the loss of biodiversity.

Biodiversity is defined simply as the diversity of and in living nature from the smallest bacteria to the most charismatic mammals.

Our future is integral to and dependent upon the health and survival of this diverse flora and fauna that share our home with us. This future is not necessarily a secure one and the condition of our planet is at a crossroads. The exponential growth of the human population over the past century and the accompanying consumption of natural resources have greatly unbalanced the earth’s homeostasis.

In 1900 we were a planet of 1.6 billion people. Today we are a planet of 6 billion people and growing. As humanity grows, the species of flora and fauna, which are under our stewardship and which sustain us, are dramatically declining.

Approximately 1.8 million species of plants, animals and microbes have been discovered and have been given formal scientific names. It is estimated, however, that there are over 10 million more species that exist and are awaiting discovery and classification.

While there is no certainty as to the number of species yet to be discovered, it is estimated that every year between 17,000 and 100,000 species vanish from our planet, some that we have not yet even met.

At the present rate of extinction, it is estimated that one-half of today’s known plant and animal species will be extinct at the end of this century.

It has been only two decades since biodiversity as a scientific discipline has emerged, and much work and exciting discoveries lie ahead.

However, the study of biodiversity has made us definitively aware that loss of habitat – the ecosystems in which species interact – is the primary cause of this extinction spiral.

In his recent book, The Future of Life, E.O. Wilson, who has championed the science of biodiversity, writes, “When we destroy ecosystems and extinguish species, we degrade the greatest heritage this planet has to offer and thereby threaten our own existence…a universal environmental ethic [is needed].”

What then does this environmental crisis have to do with the building of a botanical garden in Boston? For all of its assets, Boston is still but a tiny port on the big blue ocean planet. However, we have an unusual opportunity in Boston to bring our resources to bear on educating ourselves and future generations on the positive role individuals can play to sustain and restore earth’s natural ecosystems.

We can create a 21st Century botanical garden and conservation learning center that celebrates biodiversity.

We can lead the way to a public understanding and appreciation of the issues and to creation of solutions.

The ingredients are there for us to think globally while acting locally to contribute to our spaceship earth.

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