Essay: Do we need to reassess our concept of biodiversity?

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Do we need to reassess our concept of biodiversity in the context of the proposed decolonisation of science?
 
Colonization is the forming of a colony by a certain group of people who want to take control of territories or countries, which incorporates the control by lead of the current indigenous people groups inside these new territories (Iwerbier., 2002). This colonization is for the most part accomplished by the relocation of native and indigenous people from effective western countries such as, Great Britain, France, America (Boahen., 1985; Ekachi, 2002) and even some African countries who were sufficiently powerful enough to colonize new regions on the African continent (Oyebade., 2002; Stillwell., 2002). Colonization has been a vital part of population growth and development, this has led to an increase in the migration patterns and events of smaller sub-populations of native people, into land formerly occupied only by indigenous individuals (Loomba., 2000; Abdi., 2002; Abdi.,2008). This has prompted the spread of the Eurocentrism and Western and ideas of information and science, however this spread wasn’t constrained to cultures (Harding., 1994; Ekachi., 2002), however, the European and western countries were by and large more successful with their mechanism of colonization (Harding., 1994; Ekachi., 2002). Italy and Spain, had great power and influence over the landlocked places because of peace agreements with neighbouring coastal countries of land masses. Attacks were also aimed at native populations that were far away from the main population (Oyebade., 2002; Stillwell., 2002).

Africa became colonised between the late seventeenth and mid eighteenth centuries. This had detrimental effects on the natives and the environment (Abdi., 2002). It was consequently through this colonization (Oyebade.,2002, Loomba., 2000), that colonist could force administration, religion, and laws on the colonized individuals (Abdi., 2002), which significantly destroyed and stagnated native development and education of the indigenous people (Loomba.,2000). These effects influenced numerous social builds inside provinces (Oyebade.,2002). Such effects included: concealment of the indigenous or local knowledge (Abdi., 2002), which were replaced by scientific and educational (Oyebade.,2002). Local customs, traditions and languages were weakening because of colonizers encouraging their own philosophies and religious beliefs onto the indigenous people (Oyebade.,2002).

The idea of colonization spread worldwide, with the extensive improvement of transportation people voyaging further and further and colonizing new and more distant lands and coastal regions (Davis, 2000; Fromm, 2000; Kauffman., 2008). People have widely adjusted the worldwide condition, changing worldwide biogeochemical cycles, changing area, and improving the portability of biota (Harding., 1994). This change of worldwide ecological cycles, was not constrained to ecological, environmental, and organismal impacts, it affected the social and in addition financial and economic perspectives because the colonists forced their ideologies onto the native people (Davis, 2000; Fromm, 2000; Kauffman., 2008; Young., 1994), this suppressed the native people’s indigenous knowledge and beliefs, which could not develop and advance into strong ideas (Davis,.2000). Indigenous knowledge was rejected as being unsystematic or unscientific (Davis, 2000; Fromm, 2000; Kauffman., 2008; Scott.,1986).

Impacts on the indigenous knowledge system was great due to western training and education dominating the traditional system (Oyebade.,2002). This led to serious consequences on the environment and ecology of species (Abdi 2008). Environmental science, ecological science, and biodiversity (Oyebade.,2002), were greatly affected as the indigenous knowledge and people had vital roles to maintain in their surrounding environments which was completely suppressed by the western science knowledge (Abdi 2008).

Colonization can also be defined in biology as the activity or process by a plant or animal of effectively settling among and establishing control over the indigenous flora and fauna of that new area, so basically it is the spread of species into a new area (Scott., 1986 and Young 1994).

Biodiversity is the inconstancy among different living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other oceanic environments and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, amongst species, and of biological systems (Vold and Buffett ,2008). Biodiversity shapes the establishment of the vast array of biological services that fundamentally add to human prosperity. Biodiversity is imperative in human-managed and biological communities (Vold and Buffett ,2008). Decisions people make that impact biodiversity influence the prosperity of themselves as well as other people.

The Canadian Biodiversity Strategy defines biodiversity as ‘the variety of species and ecosystems on Earth and the ecological processes of which they are a part ‘ including ecosystem, species, and genetic diversity components.’ Whilst the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity defines biodiversity similarly: ‘the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia [among other things], 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.’

To put it plainly, the term is utilized to refer to life in every one of its structures and the natural procedures that support and connect the vast network of all living organisms (Vold and Buffett ,2008). Biodiversity is not effectively defined as it is something beyond the whole of its parts, as every one of its components, paying little heed to whether we comprehend their parts or know their status, are necessary in maintaining functioning, evolving and resilient ecosystems (Vold and Buffett ,2008). Complex ideas, for example, biodiversity is frequently simpler to understand if broken into their component pieces. While this approach does not give a total picture of how these pieces interact and join to create biodiversity, it encourages us to comprehend distinctive parts of biodiversity. The significance of this definition is that it attracts our attention and consideration regarding the many dimensions of biodiversity. It expressly perceives that each biota can be characterized by its taxonomic, ecological, and genetic diversity (Vold and Buffett ,2008) and that these different dimensions vary and change over space and time is a key component of biodiversity (Vold and Buffett ,2008). Subsequently just a multidimensional evaluation of biodiversity can provide knowledge into the connection between changes in biodiversity and changes in the ecosystem function and ecosystem services (Vold and Buffett ,2008).

Researchers acknowledge three levels of biodiversity: genetic, species, and ecosystems (http://canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca/english/theory/threelevels.htm). These levels are altogether interrelated yet sufficiently distinct that they can be studied as three separate components. A few researchers trust that there are fewer or additional levels than these, however the accord is that three levels are a decent number to work with. Most studies, concentrate on the species level, as it is the simplest to deal with both conceptually and in practice. The accompanying parts will cover all levels of diversity, (http://canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca/english/theory/threelevels.htm).

Genetic diversity assorted qualities present at the gene level (http://canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca/english/theory/threelevels.htm). Genes, made of DNA, are the building blocks that decide how an organism will be created and how it will develop and what its characteristics and capabilities will be. This level of diversity can vary by alleles (distinctive variations of a same gene, for example, blue or dark coloured eyes), by entire genes, which decides characteristics, such as the capacity to metabolise certain substances), or by components larger than genes, such as chromosomal s
tructure . Gene diversity can be measured at a wide range of levels, including population, species, and community. Which level is utilized relies on what is being inspected and why, however genetic diversity is vital at each of these levels (http://canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca/english/theory/threelevels.htm).

A model of DNA. Image: Paul A. Thiessen

(www.chemicalgraphics.com)

Biodiversity studies commonly concentrate on species. They do as such not because species diversity is more imperative than the other two sorts, but since species diversity is less demanding to work with (http://canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca/english/theory/threelevels.htm). Species are generally simple to distinguish by eye in the field, while genetic diversity requires research facilities, time, and resources to recognize and ecosystem identify requires numerous measurements to be controlled over time. Species are likewise less demanding to conceptualize and have been the basis of a great part of the evolutionary and ecological research that biodiversity draws on, (http://canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca/english/theory/threelevels.htm).

Species are notable and are specific units of diversity. Every species can be considered to have a specific “role” in the ecosystem, so the expansion or loss of single species may have consequences on the system. Preservation and conservation efforts regularly start with the acknowledgment that a group is endangered somehow, and a change in the number of species in an ecosystem is a comprehensible measure of how healthy and strong the ecosystem is, (http://canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca/english/theory/threelevels.htm).

Odonaster meridionalis, Photo: Kathy Conla

Canadian Museum of Nature

Ecosystem level hypothesis must deal with species distributions and community patterns, the role and functions of key species, and links species characteristics and interaction. The expression “ecosystem” here recognises and represents to all levels more prominent than species: associations, communities, ecosystems, and so forth (http://canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca/english/theory/threelevels.htm).

Distinctive names are utilized for this level and it is thereafter, divided into several unique levels, for example, community and ecosystem levels (http://canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca/english/theory/threelevels.htm). This is the least comprehended level of the three levels because of the unpredictability and complexity of the interactions. Attempting to understand all the species in an ecosystem and how they influence each other and their surrounding environment while in the meantime being affected themselves, is tremendously complex (http://canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca/english/theory/threelevels.htm).

Photo: Dominic Collins

Many different cultures and societies worldwide have their own experimental methods for describing the characteristics of nature, and in this way (Ogawa, 1995), there are various characteristic sciences each genuinely characterized by the range in which they are established and the indigenous knowledge systems that they depend on (Harding., 1994).

Some Eurocentric science is based on logical discovery and scientific learning that depended on African indigenous sciences which were viewed as unreasonable and misleading (Fujima 1992), therefore, African science educational programs don’t regard or even recognize the role of indigenous science in education (Hooper & Vitousek 1997; Primm et al., 1995). It is from this absence of regard, respect and affirmation (Fujima 1992) for indigenous information and knowledge that caused the arrangement of the decolonisation development inside many colonized terrains (Hooper & Vitousek 1997; Primm et al., 1995). Science is defined as: ‘the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.’ https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science.

According to The Oxford English Dictionary decolonization is expressed as “the withdrawal from its colonies of a colonial power; the acquisition of political or economic independence by such colonies.” Which basically refers to the removal of non-indigenous occupants within the colonised areas and countries. Nonetheless, this is only a physical perspective of decolonisation. The Oxford Dictionary defines Education as ‘the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university’ Joining these two definitions, the decolonisation of education implies that a country must be independent concerning the obtaining of information and knowledge, abilities, values, convictions, philosophies. It has however turned out to be certain that the call for “decolonised” instruction implies an extraordinary assortment of things to different individuals (Wingfield., 2017). With, the students at the University of Cape Town, South Africa have a misinterpretation of the concept decolonization of education and science as one student said: For decolonised education to be introduced, the existing system must be overthrown and the people it’s supposed to serve must define it for themselves (Wingfield., 2017). Certain student’s feel that, current scientific education and training systems ought to be rejected and replaced with their African partners regardless of the merit (Wingfield., 2017), because it is originated and developed in the European and Western countries. This causes many issues for understanding concepts that are interlinked and can’t be clarified without contribution from Eurocentric and western knowledge (Wingfield., 2017).

Recently in countries such as South Africa, in the educational systems there is trend towards decolonisation in certain fields, such as the science field, which opposes the political decolonisation which was generally understood during the World War (Ogama., 1995). This trend has prompted a move towards the utilization of indigenous information and knowledge system (Ogama., 1995). The term ‘indigenous knowledge’ describes the knowledge systems developed by natives within community as opposed to scientific knowledge now known as ‘modern’ knowledge.’ https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/ch9s9-6-2.html. This knowledge allows the native people to acquire specific abilities, skills and knowledge enabling them to understand their surrounding natural environment better and benefit from the environment Grenier,1998). In certain parts of the world educational decolonisation is important as indigenous people do not believe in the current Eurocentric and Western sciences, as the sciences did not acknowledge any information of the indigenous knowledge within the colonies (Ogawa, 1995).

The general population who get the most advantage from the decolonization procedure are the colonized groups of people (Whittaker 1977), as it takes into consideration liberating of the colonized individuals from the weight of their colonizers commanding methods for thought and religious abuses, and avoiding further loss of natural assets to colonial powers as tax payments or other such state charges which would be payed as natural and raw materials (Whittaker 1977). Decolonization will benefit populations that were not accredited for their indigenous information because of the western science professionals (Davis., 2000). Northern African and the Southern African tribes were all subjected to colonialism, with their indigenous knowledge, skills and communication skills classified as inferior to the Western science (Davis., 2000).

Natives with their indigenous knowledge systems have a stronger historical understanding of their surrounding environment, as that knowledge is passed down from generations (Davis., 2000). Indigenous knowledge is important to study as in the future it may provide understanding to natural phenomena (Illing & Sloan 2017) as well as cures to diseases and plagues that Western knowledge systems could not provide (Illing & Sloan 2017). Over the developing years ther
e has been global acknowledgment of an indigenous knowledge, however, to decolonized educational programs means to incorporate Indigenous learning and knowledge into school curriculum, and therefore requires resources and professional teachers with indigenous knowledge skills to teach the indigenous knowledge within the curriculum to the students (Singh, 2016). The possibility to decolonise Eurocentric knowledge to Indigenous knowledge at tertiary levels would not be recommended because most biologist, environmentalist, marine biologist, geneticist, etc, rely on scientific and information and experiments (Singh, 2016). Biodiversity is one such field of science that is influenced by the development for decolonisation in science, as it is a field that can’t be really decolonised because of its characteristics which are not based on indigenous knowledge systems. Biodiversity is based on facts, scientific methods of examining and experimentation (Young, 2002). The term Biodiversity would need to change if decolonisation were to be successful as it based on the Eurocentric knowledge system (Young, 2002).

Yes, I do believe that Science should be taught in a historical context, however that doesn’t imply that the whole of scientific knowledge must be revamped for every nation, simply that indigenous knowledge (Wingfield, 2017) should be incorporated where appropriate and replace western science that can be better clarified by indigenous knowledge (Singh, 2016). However, this indigenous knowledge system needs to be experimentally testable and accurate across the international scientific community. From the confirmation given it is clear over that our concept of biodiversity does not should be reassessed, that is what I believe (Wingfield, 2017). However, I do believe that the ideology and concept of decolonisation of education and science should be reassessed as it is an essentially misinterpreted and misunderstood idea that is centred around unequivocal, supremacist, hate speech among scholarly people (Crowe, 2006).

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