Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Official video of the International Year of Biodiversity 2010

Posted 17 Nov 2010 / 0

One of my current Ecology students brought this video, produced by the United Nations, to my attention today:

I think what is most fascinating about this video is the premise upon which it is built. Using the video screen to represent some sort of biodiversity catalog console, it envisions a time when future generations have only high-tech videos to capture the essence of lost species. An actress portraying a member of this future generation flips through a floating digital archive that she can manipulate by moving elements around with her hands. Other than the direct content that the video provides regarding biodiversity loss, this ominous predicted future dominates the overall design of the eight-minute video. Even the featured speakers (such as United Nations General Secretary Ban-Ki Moon) appear as if being pulled from some old archive.

There is something to this idea that we no longer have a direct connection to the ecosystems that provide most of the things that we need to survive and enjoy life. That we are becoming too connected to virtual and digitized worlds and have lost connection with the natural world makes sense, as even poor people are becoming increasingly urbanized. Cities are in some sense “virtual worlds” that can only be supported in isolation by a surrounding matrix of ecosystems, biodiverse systems which urban residents conveniently do not need to see. Is this why we fail to act when it comes to preserving biodiversity? Are we so narrow that something needs to be in our faces in order to be protected? I would like to think that this is not the case, because the only way that I see cities and the virtual worlds they foster disappearing is through the collapse of civilization. Unlike some of my more radical “ecologist” comrades, this is not an event for which I wait eagerly.

It is nice that the United Nations is producing videos of this sort, but despite all the cheerleading here the team has yet to bring home anything resembling a victory. The recent failure to restrict harvest of blue fin tuna, the rather feeble progress created by recent Convention on Biological Diversity meetings, and the decades-long failure to foster international agreement on climate change all make the United Nations appear pretty ineffective. Do not get me wrong: the U.N. is still my team, but I am getting sick of watching losing seasons. Something has to change in order to make good on the United Nation’s many progressive aspirations. It would be easy to suggest as this video does that we are all too connected to the virtual world and way too separated from the natural world, but I do not think that this is true for most of the earth’s human inhabitants: just the wealthy ones like us who are causing most of the problems. Something has to give.

As a short piece on the importance of preserving biodiversity, this video does a pretty good job of covering all the major threats. A lot of the concepts that I cover in my Ecology class, particularly in the second half of the semester, are rolled very tightly into the video.

Anthropogenic Change, Biodiversity Loss, Climate Change, Conservation Biology, Ecology, Ecology Education, Ecosystem Services, Environmental Justice, Extinction, Film, Television, & Video, Invasive Species, Pollution, Public Policy, Sustainability, Urban Ecology

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