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Dr. Peter Raven on the Planet’s Biodiversity Crisis   
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We’re driving them to extinction at an unprecedented rate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that 20% to 40% of the species of organisms on Earth are likely to go extinct during the present century on the basis of global warming alone, without even the other factors coming into it.

Halo, eco-wise viewers, and welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. Today’s program features world-renowned botanist Dr. Peter Raven, who is a professor at Washington University, USA and the current president of the Missouri Botanical Garden, USA.

Honored as a “Hero for the Planet” by TIME magazine in 1999 , Dr. Raven has worked for decades to conserve the world’s plant and animal species. He is highly respected and is a member of 21 different national science academies across the globe.

Dr. Raven has won many prestigious awards, including the International Prize for Biology from the Japanese government and the US National Medal of Science, the USA’s highest scientific honor. Recently, he received the 2009 Award for International Scientific Cooperation from the Chinese Academy of Sciences for his contributions to Chinese botanical research. He is also the author of the internationally best-selling textbook “Biology of Plants.”

Vibrant biological diversity is a sign of ecological balance and brings tremendous benefits to humankind. Unfortunately, human activities across the globe are rapidly destroying key areas of biological richness including rainforests, wetlands, coral reefs and grasslands. Scientists warn that global biodiversity is in grave peril and thus the survival of humanity is at stake.

The Lung Ying-tai Cultural Foundation’s MediaTek lecture series featured a talk by Dr. Raven at the National Central Library in Formosa (Taiwan) entitled “Are We Saving Them or Ourselves? Global Action on the Rescue of Endangered Biodiversity.” We now present excerpts from an interview with Dr. Peter Raven, as well as from his talk in Formosa (Taiwan) and begin with him addressing some of the reasons why biodiversity is so important to our planet.

To illustrate the value of biodiversity, I need only to refer to the fact that all of our food comes directly or indirectly from plants. One hundred three kinds of plants out of the 300,000 known supply about 90% of all of our food, rice being the single most important food plant in the world.

For two-thirds of the people in the world, plants are directly their source of medicine and therefore the supplies of those plants are very important. Plants are directly the source of medicine for most people in the East and South Asia, for example.

The benefits of biodiversity are truly immense. It protects water resources and soil, supports nutrient storage and recycling, and mitigates climate change.

Organisms growing together in ecosystems, provide what are called “ecosystem services” such as protecting the water running off mountains, making it run off in moderate form, protecting the topsoil, and providing pollinators for many of our crops like the fruit trees that grow so beautifully in the mountains in Formosa (Taiwan), like all the gourd squash and melon crops in the world.

And around coastlines for example, coastal mangroves form breeding sites for most of the aquatic animals and if they are removed, then not only will protection from violent weather like tsunamis be lessened, but also the breeding sites will be lost.

According to the latest Red List of Threatened Species published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), of the 47,677 species assessed, 17,291 are threatened with extinction, including 21 percent of known mammals, 30 percent of amphibians, 12 percent of birds, 28 percent of reptiles, 37 percent of freshwater fish, 70 percent of plants and 35 percent of invertebrates.

Human activity itself is a combination of population, levels of consumption and the particular technologies that people choose. We may have lost tens of thousands of species out of the estimated 12 million that exist.

But I think the important thing is that the rate of losing them is going up very rapidly. In the past, in the geological record, we were losing about a dozen or so per year. Over the last 500 years, since people began writing about well-known groups of organisms, we’ve been losing hundreds a year.

And now we seem to be losing thousands per year, going up towards tens of thousands, which makes this by far the strongest level of extinction since the end of the Cretaceous Period 65-million years ago when the dinosaurs disappeared and mammals came into the ascendancy and the whole quality of life on Earth changed radically.

A key threat to the continued existence of all species, including humans, is global warming.

Alpine ecosystems are disappearing rapidly as the temperatures rise. So, all of that snow cover, all of the glaciers, all of the tundra up in alpine habitats are expected to be gone by the end of this century. Many more kinds of organisms that were widespread around the Northern Hemisphere before the middle Miocene period, in other words, before 15-million years ago, survived in eastern Asia than they did in Europe or in North America.

And in cooler habitats from the montane forest upward, in other words, from about 2,000 meters upward, Formosa (Taiwan) has many of those relic species. Looking at the vegetation zones and the annual temperatures there, you can see that a pretty small rise in temperature Celsius will change the conditions radically. And that’s why looking at a map like that, I can see most of the first three or four categories of habitats disappearing by the year 2100.

After these brief messages, we’ll return with more thoughts on biodiversity from Dr. Peter Raven. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

The most complete nutrition can come from plants. We can get along quite well without animal protein and the amount of the Earth that is taken up to feed animals is earth that would be better served preserving biodiversity.

Welcome back to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home on Supreme Master Television. Our program today features Dr. Peter Raven, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden, who presented a talk in Formosa (Taiwan) as part of the Lung Ying-tai Cultural Foundation’s MediaTek lecture series titled “Are We Saving Them or Ourselves? Global Action on the Rescue of Endangered Biodiversity”.

Dr. Raven feels that if we do not change the rapid depletion rate of the Earth’s natural resources, humankind will soon consume the entire planet and erase countless plant and animal species in the process.

We are using 125% of the world’s productivity. If everyone really did achieve the standard of living of the industrialized countries at the present time, which means the levels of consumption and so forth, and if we were using present technologies, it would take three times the productive capacity of the Earth.

Dr. Raven sees logging as a huge danger to biodiversity. Rainforests once covered 14% of Earth’s land surface, but now only cover 6%.

Logging is one reason for the destruction of habitats throughout the world and here’s where I want to begin a theme that is important to what I’ll have to say and that is that every nation, every political entity on Earth needs to watch where it gets its raw materials from. For example, in Mainland China the logging of native forest is now prohibited to avoid flooding along the major rivers.

Another destructive practice is the capturing and killing of wild animals, which is leading to the accelerated disappearance of many species.

Many species will simply be wiped out like a number of turtle species are virtually on the edge of extinction in Southeast Asia just because they’re gathered in such large numbers to be eaten and many other kinds of animals also as you know. And of course, overfishing of most of the major fisheries in the world is well-known and has driven the vast majority of commonly fished marine organisms to the brink of extinction.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that if the average global temperature continues to rise, disastrous changes to global ecosystems will soon follow.

To really stabilize the world climate, we’ve got to cut emissions by 80% over the course of the century. The Kyoto Protocol, even if perfectly implemented would have resulted in only a 4% reduction.

It will rise about another one degree Celsius just from the greenhouse gases that are already in the atmosphere, and at about a total of about 2.5 degrees Celsius, which probably is the lowest increase we could hope for, uncontrollable weather events, big changes in precipitation, and other very unfavorable changes will begin to occur that we’ll find very difficult to manage.

For example, in Mainland China, the three major industrial zones along the coast are expected to lose 75,000 square kilometers of space as a result of sea level rises associated with global warming during this century.

Among the solutions that Dr. Raven sees to the biodiversity crisis are encouraging governments and companies to mitigate climate change by limiting greenhouse gas emissions and by informing our children that nature is a fragile, precious treasure requiring protection.

Give them opportunities to understand it, the variety and beauty of it. And give them opportunities to understand how the elements in nature fit together with one another. Only by doing that thoroughly at all levels both in your homes and in your schools, will we be moving the world towards greater sustainability in the future.

The 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) entitled “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” points out that the livestock industry is one of the leading causes of quickly falling biodiversity levels.

The report states that the livestock industry plays a major role in almost all the serious environmental issues on the planet, including deforestation, land degradation, pollution, climate change, sedimentation of coastal areas and water shortages -- all of which have a severely negative impact on global biodiversity. Thus one crucial action we all can easily take to support biodiversity is avoiding the consumption of animal products.

The more extensively people use vegetables rather than animals, the more efficiently they’ll be using the world’s productivity. In our family we certainly try to consume less and less animal protein and more vegetable as we go along.

Be veg, go green, save the planet!

Be veg, go green, save the planet!

We sincerely thank Dr. Peter Raven for his dedicated efforts to preserve the Earth’s biodiversity and sensitive ecosystems. May the work of dedicated individuals like him soon bring awareness to our entire world that we must act now to save our planet’s diverse plant and animal species.

For more details on Dr. Raven, please visit WUBio.wustl.edu/Raven
“Biology of Plants” and other books by Dr. Raven are available at www.Amazon.com

Caring viewers, thank you for your company on today’s episode of Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. Coming up next is Enlightening Entertainment after Noteworthy News. May we always be filled with the Divine love of Heaven.

There are many people around the world who selflessly contribute to their nation. One such person is Mr. Najaf Mazari, who founded the Mazar Development Fund in Australia to benefit the residents of Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan.

When I came here I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t have a family, I didn’t have a cousin here, nobody. And the first thing (I thought) is can I help myself or not? If I can help myself, then I can help my family. If I can help my family then I can help my people in Afghanistan.

To hear Mr. Mazari’s inspirational life story and learn about his benevolent work, please watch “Uplifting Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan – Najaf Mazari, Founder of the Mazar Development Fund” airing Sunday, May 16 on Good People, Good Works.

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