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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Intrinsic and Anthropocentric Values of Biodiversity

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Biodiversity has great values of being useful to man and also to the environment. Our ancestors realized the importance of the existence and well being of all the life forms alonwith the physical components of nature constituting their habitats. They realized the importance of forces in nature and experienced their impacts on life. That’s why they prayed for the maintenance, regulation and well being of the diversity of life on this earth to which they regarded as ‘mother’.

In the same spirit we celebrate the “Earth Day” on 22nd April every year across the world. The year 2006 was celebrated as the Year of Biodiversity in India. The earth has an amazing biodiversity interwoven in each other. We celebrate the earth day to take care of the mother earth and all of its life forms. Thus the value of biodiversity is interwoven in all the religions and culture across the world.




Symbol of the Earth Day


The Intrinsic Values relates to the fact that humans too are parts of Nature. The concept of intrinsic value of biodiversity accepts that biodiversity is the foundation of civilization. The author of the Silent Spring- Rachel Carson asks -

“Can any civilization wage relentless war on life without destroying itself and without loosing the right to be called civilized?”

The integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community are values that can be saved and protected as it is evident from following lines-

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and the beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”- Aldo Leopold; sand Country Almanac.





Aldo Leopold


The evolutionary values and the Noah’s principle accept that- since humans are and were parts of nature, they benefited from the evolutionary processes. This thought can raise a question, whether humans should endanger their own milieu and the process from which they stem. The Noah’s principle is named from the biblical Noah and the principle argues that the usefulness of a species is not considered when discussing its conservation, but rather its very presence in the long history of evolution is sufficient to warrant its preservation. Since most of the loss of biodiversity has been caused by human beings through the loss of habitat, overexploitation and other activities, the Environmental ethics says that- humans must have to protect the biodiversity of nature.

The Environmental Ethics demands extension of rights to species and landforms. According to the ethical point of view, the biodiversity and land forms have their rights to exist with us because of the simple reason that its long standing existence in Nature is deemed to carry with it the ‘ unimpeachable right’ to continued existence.

The Harward Biologist E. O. Wilson is of the opinion that love of nature has been deep rooted into us by the process of Natural Selection. The religious feelings about biodiversity can be seen as a natural extension of a tendency to focus on life and life like processes. Wilson coined the word “Biophilia” for this tendency. This tendency is seen in the form of human desire to remain surrounded by biodiversity and to manage natural things and also the artificial Greenland.




E.O.Wilson (Harward University Gazette)


The Anthropocentric values centre around economic benefits, services of ecosystems; regulations of climate by biodiversity, generation of moisture and oxygen by plants and animals; formation of soil and improvement of fertility; de-toxification of wastes by organisms; and Aesthetic and recreational benefits.
There are two angles of thought regarding the value of biodiversity. The first angle of thought confines itself to the objective assessment of ecological processes and the second relates to moral, philosophical and political aspects. The first angle of thought may rightly be called as anthropocentric value where as the second angle of thought may be called as intrinsic Value. Hence intrinsic value relates to the values of biodiversity that are based on Aesthetic or Moral & Ethical or Spiritual thought. Thus intrinsic values may be classified into two groups – Aesthetic or Moral Values, and Ethical or Spiritual Values.

Biodiversity is the beauty of Nature. It is wonderful. It makes great contributions to our knowledge. Most of the human imagination and creativity depend on Biodiversity. Human beings have evolutionary attachment with forests and its diversity and inherit love and attachment with nature and its components. Some rare species of trees often provide food and shelter to varieties of organisms during periods of crisis. Such species are called as Key Stone Species. Major part of art, poetry, songs, music, dance, and literature in different parts of the world is filled with the expression of values of nature and its diversity. The Earth Dance of the tribes of Jharkhand and other parts of India, and worship of trees by tribal and Hindu societies are important examples of the expressions of aesthetic and moral values of Nature and its biodiversity. However, now the tendencies of human beings have changed upto such an extent that much of the biodiversity have been depleted by human hands alone.


According to R. Noss (1996), - “99 percent of all species that ever lived are now extinct. But, I think we have an obligation, now, in our generation and in foreseeable generations, to try to protect every species, try to maintain every species, because virtually every species that is going extinct now is going extinct due to human activity not because of natural process.”

People love life and have emotions for it. Many sections of society worship particular trees and animals and protect them, sometimes even at the cost of their lives. Protection of Khejri Trees and Black buck by Bisnois is an important example. Hindus worship Neem, Amla, Peepal, Banyan, Tulsi, Ashoka, Kadamba, Bel etc. plants and regard these plants as sacred. In the same way they protect cows and their offspring, oxen, peacock, lion, etc. as they consider these animals as vahanas (means of transport) of different gods and goddesses. Many Hindus worship elephant because they consider the elephant as a form of Lord Ganesh. Thus spiritual values of biodiversity protect our plants and animals in many parts of the world. These values of biodiversity are expressed in most of the religions and cultures followed by different sections of people across the world.





Leaves and trunk of the Sacred Peepal Tree




Tulsi: the sacred Basil plant




Florets of Basil Plant


Key words :intrinsic,International Year of Biodiversity, key- stone species, E.O. Wilson

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