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  • Zemina

The Critical Role of Diversity: Why Nature needs Diversity and so do Humans.

Updated: Sep 8, 2019

Colonialism: Erasure of Diversity

A critical characteristic of colonialism is the erasure of identity and diversity. As a consequence, Indigenous people and people of colour become subject to the de-valuation of themselves, their thoughts and cognitions. This leads to the supremacy and homogeneity of thought as exemplified in current business, economic, and societal systems.

Closer investigation of these systems reveal the ailment homogeneity brings to these systems; a sickness that is currently harming all living organisms, including those who seemingly benefit from this system. In order to remove ourselves from the now, self-perpetuating nature of homogeneity as a result of colonialism, humans would do well to look to Nature systems to a) understand the pitfalls associated with perpetuating homogeneity, b) determine how Nature systems handle diversity c) begin to understand why diversity exists to begin with.

The role of Diversity in Nature

Nature is the most perfectly imperfect system we need to look towards to inspire our practices and thinking. One of the most prominent tools Nature uses is diversity where each and every organism and creature is made to address a specific function to ultimately contribute to the overall health of Earth, and subsequently, to us. Homogeneity is not a characteristic of nature, and in fact, leaves the system very vulnerable.

Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, all have an important role to play.

For example,

  1. A larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops

  2. Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms

  3. Healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters.

A healthy biodiversity provides a number of natural services for everyone:

Ecosystem services, such as:

  • Protection of water resources

  • Soils formation and protection

  • Nutrient storage and recycling

  • Pollution breakdown and absorption

  • Contribution to climate stability

  • Maintenance of ecosystems

  • Recovery from unpredictable events

Biological resources, such as:

  • Food

  • Medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs

  • Wood products

  • Ornamental plants

  • Breeding stocks, population reservoirs

  • Future resources

  • Diversity in genes, species and ecosystems

Social benefits, such as:

  • Research, education and monitoring

  • Recreation and tourism

  • Cultural values

Source: http://www.globalissues.org/article/170/why-is-biodiversity-important-who-cares

The excessive removal of diversity and redundancies leaves the system in a weak state. This can be further explained through the Diversity-Stability Theory:

Theoretical models suggest that there could be multiple relationships between diversity and stability, depending on how we define stability (reviewed by Ives & Carpenter 2007). Stability can be defined at the ecosystem level — for example, a rancher might be interested in the ability of a grassland ecosystem to maintain primary production for cattle forage across several years that may vary in their average temperature and precipitation. Figure 1 shows how having multiple species present in a plant community can stabilize ecosystem processes if species vary in their responses to environmental fluctuations such that an increased abundance of one species can compensate for the decreased abundance of another. Biologically diverse communities are also more likely to contain species that confer resilience to that ecosystem because as a community accumulates species, there is a higher chance of any one of them having traits that enable them to adapt to a changing environment.

Figure 1: Conceptual diagram showing how increasing diversity can stabilize ecosystem functioning Each rectangle represents a plant community containing individuals of either blue or green species and the total number of individuals corresponds to the productivity of the ecosystem. Green species increase in abundance in warm years, whereas blue species increase in abundance in cold years such that a community containing only blue or green species will fluctuate in biomass when there is interannual climate variability. In contrast, in the community containing both green and blue individuals, the decrease in one species is compensated for by an increase in the other species, thus creating stability in ecosystem productivity between years. Note also that, on average, the diverse community exhibits higher productivity than either single-species community. This pattern could occur if blue or green species are active at slightly different times, such that competition between the two species is reduced. This difference in when species are active leads to complimentary resource utilization and can increase total productivity of the ecosystem. © 2011 Nature Education All rights reserved. 📷

Source: https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/biodiversity-and-ecosystem-stability-17059965/

The same idea can be applied to species-specific diversity, in that, the likelihood of successfully maintaining a homogeneous population decreases over time due to inherent changes in the larger (Earth) system. Maintaining diversity provides “insurance” in the system; as you nurture a group of species who have different skill sets, these skills sets can be shared to ensure the survival of the entire species.

Biologically diverse communities are also more likely to contain species that confer resilience to that ecosystem because as a community accumulates species, there is a higher chance of any one of them having traits that enable them to adapt to a changing environment. Such species could buffer the system against the loss of other species. Scientists have proposed the insurance hypothesis to explain this phenomenon (Yachi & Loreau 1999). In this situation, species identity — and particular species traits — are the driving force stabilizing the system rather than species richness per se (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Conceptual model illustrating the insurance hypothesis Simple communities are represented by a box; in this case, these communities are so small that they can only contain 3 individuals. For example, this could be the case for a small pocket of soil on a rocky hillslope. There are 3 potential species that can colonize these communities — blue, dark green, and light green — and for the sake of this example let’s assume that the blue species has traits that allow it to survive prolonged drought. Looking at all possible combinations of communities containing 1, 2 or 3 species, we see that, as the number of species goes up, the probability of containing the blue species also goes up. Thus, if hillslopes in this region were to experience a prolonged drought, the more diverse communities would be more likely to maintain primary productivity, because of the increased probability of having the blue species present. © 2011 Nature Education All rights reserved. 📷

Source: https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/biodiversity-and-ecosystem-stability-17059965/

Because colonialism uses the erasure and removal of human diversity with the aim of ultimate supremacy, we have now left our human system and, the overarching Earth system in a dangerously vulnerable and weak state; the state that you see it as it is in now.

Since humans are organic matter and come from Earth, then engaging in practices that do not at least align with natural systems will prove to be detrimental. Consequences we are now facing. Thus, it would seem to be an appropriate time to re-evaluate our current systems and structures to re-integrate Indigenous people and thought as well as people of colour.

Actions Pushing Back Against Business-As-Usual (aka, fighting against Homogeneity)

The continued work of individuals, groups, and organizations who have been consistent and true in their fight against the current system are bringing to light the impact and sickness colonialism, and the resulting perpetuation of homogeneity, brings to our world. This has resulted in the up surge of social enterprises and start-ups who are actively working towards re-imagining the way we live and do business today. The emergence of new financial systems such as blockchain and bitcoin, the increasing call for climate-related ventures, the consistent evolution and de-evolution of our education curriculum, the re-imagining of economic systems (i.e., circular economics) and the growing need and development of think tanks aimed at re-evaluating government and government policies are all indications that we are waking up to the destructive reality that homogeneity, monopolies, and colonialism has brought to our daily life operations.

Challenge the Status Quo by Re-Claiming Yourself

In more concrete terms, it would appear to me that we are currently in a fascinating, delicate, vulnerable, dangerous, dynamic push and pull war between H1 (business-as-usual, perpetuation of homogeneity) and H2 (the possibility of truly opening the doors to divergent thinking and people, experimentation and stepping-stones to get to H3) systems. Thus, in the fight against current H1 systems, it is of fundamental importance that you, the person reading this, if you are among the divergent, contribute to and actively seek ways to engage in discussion and action in the way you uniquely see fit. It is critical that you work towards de-programming and re-claiming who you really are.

The issue, again, with colonialism, has been to promote and encourage only one thought, race, and system, therefore, it is of vital importance that you find your own voice, unique to you, and identify, uniquely, the work that you wish to contribute to, in your own way. Locating a group of like-minded people is important, but even within the local group, you will find your own unique lens in which you can contribute to discussions and subsequently push back against H1, business-as-usual systems and structures.

Bringing it Home

I am not going to tell you what industries or things you need to do. This would be counterproductive to the aim of this post. In fact, it's not something I would say I should even discuss about. I would, however, highly encourage you to re-program yourself out of previous colonialist mindsets and to actively find your voice and identify your own individual value. Work towards re-valuing yourself, re-discovering who you are, and practicing ways in which you can express yourself.

This work will be difficult and will feel extremely uncomfortable, which is why I refer you to figure 3 below.

Figure 3: Experiences and thought processes during change

Source: Business Innovation Book

It is because you think differently that you can conjure up and imagine different realities and different ways of living and conducting business. Your thoughts and ideas may not be best for everyone, but they may be best for a group of people who need your voice to be included in the larger conversation. It is also so important that we, as settlers (people of colour, immigrants), connect with Indigenous people. Indigenous people have developed an inherent understanding of the Nature systems here and will allow us to think more thoroughly about how we can think about H3 models—the world we want to live in.

If you have any questions about anything mentioned in this post or simply feel compelled to touch base, I would encourage you to reach out through this page. Alternatively, if you feel like your network would benefit from anything that you have read here, I would encourage you to share.

Yours in grind and hustle,