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Ghana Post Digital Address: GA-018-1233

Understanding Biodiversity as An Infrastructure of Life for Development

Synopsis of Lecture

Biodiversity is a complex enterprise, encompassing four levels of organization: genes, species, populations and ecosystems. At each of these levels, the vitality of life is initiated, mobilized and maintained to provide form, structure and function. At the gene level are the features of DNA, with units of Nucleotides containing organic bases Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine and Thymine often referred to as the ‘alphabet of life’ to store information and heredity, which are passed on during protein synthesis in the sequencing of amino acids to determine the three-dimensional structure of the protein and which in turn dictates its function. Proteins are basically a string of organic molecules which form the basis of living tissues and play the central roles in all biological processes. At the species level are individuals that share similar characteristics and are distinguished from other individuals. Such individuals with similar characteristics have no barriers in breeding and can exchange genetic material through sexual reproduction. At the population level are different species which interact with each other within the spaces they occupy. Ecosystems refer to the interplay of populations with the physical environment to sustain life. This involves a myriad of interactions that have made Earth habitable for billions of years.

The fact of biodiversity as an infrastructure of life is therefore borne out of the view of a characteristic attribute or a phenomenon that is possessed by an entity and which preserves, furthers or reinforces its existence in a given environment. That characteristic is exhibited in all or through some of the following traits of living things: homeostasis, organization, metabolism, growth, adaptation and response to stimuli. This is life. This life is exhibited at the different levels of biodiversity and can be viewed from the level of the gene, the species indicating an organism as a single cell or a multi-celled living unit, the population as an assemblage of different species and at the ecosystem level where they interact among themselves and with the physical environment. From a philosophical view point, biodiversity represents the knowledge learned by evolving species over millions of years about how to survive through the vastly varying environmental conditions Earth has experienced and continues to experience. It constitutes the library of life.

The term Biodiversity is very new, but its concept is not new. Until this term was applied, the concept was commonly used to simply refer to the diversity of life forms, or simply the biological diversity.

The term has come into sharp focus, in the consciousness of the globalized world, within the last three and a half decades, during which it has been used to shape global views on Sustainable Development, to situate and drive seven global multilateral environmental conventions and to give credence, as a tool and at the same time as a symbol, for national development in the social, economic and environmental spheres of human and national life. Under this conceptualization, it is easy to link the economic, social and environmental goals, growth and development of a community, town, district, country, sub-region and region to its ability to conserve and sustainably manage the biological heritage and ensure the equity of sharing benefits arising from the genetic resources from the area. The contributions of biodiversity to human wellbeing and sustainable development are now fully appreciated by governments and other stakeholders. As a result, the structure and status as well as the threats to biodiversity have become a major global concern for all humanity in the goals for sustainable development and for which indicators have been developed.

In this inaugural address, there will be four parts to reflect my contributions to the biodiversity enterprise over the years. The first part will provide a careful elucidation of some selected studies from different disciplines of biological sciences, to illustrate the nature of biodiversity as life’s infrastructure. The second part will provide the contributions that components of biodiversity make/provide to humankind which must be conserved and sustainably used. The third part will underline the pressures to which these life infrastructures as biodiversity are subjected at the local, national and global levels in order to satisfy and or provide human needs and which must be controlled. The fourth part will bring to the fore global efforts through multilateralism to shape environmental policies at all levels in the face of the losses and declines in biodiversity to support governments and other stakeholders to apply appropriate legislative actions to sustainably manage biodiversity, enforce equity in the sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources, enhance life on earth and promote sustainable development.

Key words: Biodiversity, infrastructure of life, human wellbeing, multilateralism, sustainable development

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