Public Health Challenges Due to Biodiversity Loss, Session at the World Biodiversity Forum 2020

A presentation at the World Biodiversity Forum from WHO, Kew Gardens, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and more.

Words
Maddy Macdonald
Film
Carly Williams

The Role of Biomimicry in Tackling Biodiversity Loss and Public Health Challenges

On February 24th in Davos, Switzerland, TEALEAVES and the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden came together with the World Health Organization, Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Durham University and Nova Scotia College of Art & Design to discuss the converging topics of biodiversity and public health at the inaugural World Biodiversity Forum.

The panel and workshop session, The Role of Biomimicry in Tackling Biodiversity Loss and Public Health Challenges, highlighted the current role of botanic gardens as resource libraries for designers, researchers, and architects, and introduced biomimicry as a design tool for solving the critical global challenges that we face today. In both sessions a central theme rang true: There is both a value in and an extreme need for diverse partnerships between actors in differing industries.

We can no longer afford to live in the middle of the forest. We need to move to the edge … to the transitional zone where dissimilar habitats meet … where interactions can be unpredictable and challenging. That is where we will find non-traditional partners to help us extend our reach: the first step to new and meaningful activity.

– Patrick Lewis, Director, University of British Columbia Botanical Garden.

Much like a forest, there is a deep need for knowledge sharing and resource transfer between us. Competitors must cooperate before further irreparable damage is done.

Many Indigenous knowledge systems and ways of knowing respect the need to recognize our place in the world around us, and never forget that we are surrounded by other beings just as deserving of life as we are.

Stated simply, this requires that we take nothing we don’t need, we waste nothing, and we offer thanks for everything we do take.

– Dr. Aoife Mac Namara, President, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

As evidenced by the current global landscape of public health, our interconnectivity across all corners of the world is at a height never seen before. It is clear we must leverage such connections to foster cooperation and take measures in support of biodiversity before it is too late for our health and our planet.

Biodiversity protection requires all of us to stand together, join hands, and develop new ways of working together, breaking down the walls of our respective disciplines. This is a challenge, but it is doable.

– Francesca Racioppi, Head of Office, WHO European Centre for Environment and Health.

WBF Slide

Key Insights from the Presentation:

  1. There is a clear connection between biodiversity loss, climate change, and public health. The loss of biodiversity exacerbates environmental and health crises.

    There is an intimate relationship between biodiversity in ecosystems and our own human health.

    – Dr. Robert S. Lawrence, Emeritus Professor, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

  2. Botanic Gardens play a critical role in conservation, innovation, and presentation of the world’s biodiversity. Not only are they the collectors and protectors of one-third of all species, but they are the gateway to public engagement and leaders of behavior change.
  3. Nature’s adaptations evolved over billions of years, offer solutions to our greatest challenges including public health, sustainable development, and cooperation. Biomimicry – designing in nature’s image is but one reason biodiversity matters.

    For every plant species we can conserve for future generations, it creates options for us as a human species.

    – Dr. Paul Smith, Secretary-General, Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

  4. Cooperation outside of the academic sphere is necessary for stopping the acceleration of biodiversity loss. We must find creative ways to share this work and save the world.

Biodiversity and its protection is part and parcel of obtaining the Sustainable Development Goals.

– Francesca Racioppi, Head of Office, WHO European Centre for Environment and Health.

The esteemed panel was paired with an interactive workshop led by Dr. Aoife Mac Namara, President of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

Key Insights from the Workshop:

  1. Design thinking and design methodologies like biomimicry can disrupt problems and intervene at a global scale against the backdrop of traditional status quo solutions.
  2. Non-Western ways of knowing, those of indigenous cultures and cooperative ecosystems, also offer solutions for the ways in which we embark on collaborative solutions.
  3. As in all things, there are ethical considerations and risks of abuse when designing in nature’s image. How would the teachings of the aforementioned role models guide us to properly credit and care for resources and be non-extractive in our approach? Can we create true solutions?

Become a Tree in the Forest

The roots of this project began as a philanthropic exploration with the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden and have since flourished into an international education platform for collaboration between designers, academics, environmentalists and nature’s many enthusiasts. In the spirit of Mycorrhizal networks, we are committed to providing an accessible, open-source platform for this important information.

Discover the accompanying presentation slides, available for viewing here: WBF Session 163S.

Session Convenors

  • Francesca Racioppi, Head of Office, WHO European Centre for Environment and Health
  • Dr. Robert S. Lawrence, Co-founder of Physicians for Human Rights, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1997, Emeritus Professor at Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future
  • Dr. Paul Smith, Secretary General, Botanic Gardens Conservation International
  • Dr. Paul Kersey, Deputy Director of Science, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens
  • Patrick Lewis, Director, University of British Columbia Botanical Garden
  • Dr. Aoife Mac Namara, President, Nova Scotia College of Art & Design
  • Professor Jas Pal Badyal, FRS & Professor of Chemistry, Durham University
  • Daniel Mosquin, Research Manager, University of British Columbia Botanical Garden
  • Lana Sutherland, Co-founder & CEO, TEALEAVES

Explore our other work in biodiversity and the future of our food system here.

Discover our next project on TASTE and the future of food here.

Visit our collaborators: UBC Botanical Garden, World Health Organization, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, Botanic Gardens Conservation International, World Biodiversity Forum

 

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