Conserving Natural Wealth


 At the heart of preservation of the natural world is the conservation of our earth’s diminishing biodiversity, which could also be described as ‘natural wealth’. It is this biodiversity that has provided us with the sustenance and material support that has allowed us to shape our world, from the most basic processes such as oxygen supply to the formation of minerals essential for the production of complex modern equipment. The power that this natural wealth afforded us has become its greatest threat. In addition to the essential provision of food, fuel, building materials, clean water and air, a specific region’s biodiversity is often the cornerstone of its cultural identity. While it is problematic to quantify the rate of biodiversity loss, it has become increasingly evident in the broader context of widespread habitat loss, the true toll of which we cannot even begin to fathom. There are of course complex threats to biodiversity, such as the harvesting of wild plants and animals for research in order to find commercially valuable genetic and biochemical material, also known as ‘bioprospecting’. Such industries should be allowed to operate only within defined frameworks that are designed in conjunction with conservation objectives. The capital and expertise for such an industry most often originates from more developed countries, while their target areas will be in considerably underdeveloped regions of developing nations. This reality highlights the need for strong community organisations and heightened civic intelligence, particularly in these biodiversity ‘hotspots’, which are at risk not only from external exploitation of natural resources but also the wrong kinds of development.





The key areas of focus would be to strengthen communities in several ways, most importantly their understanding of their natural wealth, including its vulnerabilities, their ability to make decisions collectively and their capacity to communicate with other parties that can assist them in the preservation of this natural wealth. Civic intelligence is an important foundation in such circumstances, especially given the wide range of opportunities for more prominent community members to accrue disproportional financial benefits from what are, at best, collectively owned resources.