Earth Day 2014 is today – a day to celebrate the beauty of the earth and to take action as human activity relentlessly erodes the biodiversity that supports life. According to the Earth Day Network, one billion people worldwide will join in events for today’s observance of Earth Day. The JRS mission “to enhance knowledge and promote the understanding of biological diversity for the benefit and sustainability of life on earth” can be read as a call to action. Earth Day reveals the possibilities of the actions that we can take to conserve and restore nature. We’re proud at JRS to support the talent and creativity of our grantees who are enriching global knowledge of biodiversity and who are working to connect biodiversity data and knowledge to action at different scales.
I just returned from a fantastic trip to visit JRS partners, policy makers, and conservation organizations in Kenya. With pressures and goals for economic growth, countries like Kenya are making fewer direct decisions about biodiversity and are making many more critical decisions regarding the development of sectors such as mining, tourism, oil and gas, water resources, roads and ports, and agriculture. A large portion of Kenya’s emblematic wildlife resides outside of the protected areas and in an increasingly fragmented landscapes yet competing uses for land make it unlikely that the boundaries of the protected areas can ever change. Yet payments for tourism provide incentives so that the area pastoral and agricultural land managed in conservancies of different types is currently expanding and provides hope for protecting important ecosystem services and wildlife.
In dollar terms and political terms, sectors such as tourism, energy, mining and infrastructure are where the action is. As Earth Day calls us to action, we might ask how can biodiversity informatics continue to advance science and conservation and also become an important factor in all economic development decisions?