Leah Temple Lang / Gavel Media

Faith, Biodiversity, and Ecosystem Restoration

Gopal Patel visited Boston College on February 8, 2022 to present on his spiritual and political work with environmental conservation and biodiversity restoration within the UN and around the world.

Patel began his presentation by outlining the severe crisis of increasing biodiversity loss over the past decades. Although biodiversity does not receive as much attention and concern as climate change, the two issues are closely linked and becoming increasingly complex.

“Across the world, there’s this crisis going on that, in many ways, we don't even notice… This is the fabric of life, and it's literally unraveling in front of us,” Patel explained.

Drivers of biodiversity loss include habitat loss, invasive species, overexploitation, pollution, and climate change, which are all directly or indirectly a result of human activity. 

While religion may not seem to play a major part in this environmental crisis, Patel explained how religious organizations make up the third largest investor in the world, and if they could be convinced to be more environmentally friendly, it would be an enormous step towards environmental conservation. By persuading these influential organizations to make more environmentally-friendly investments and decisions, we can make more impactful change in our own communities.

“We need to get our own houses in order before we can go out and spread the good news, before we can go out and encourage others to live a life of sustainability and environmental responsibility,” Patel implored.

The other method Patel advocated for facilitating change was from a political perspective. After his attendance at COP26, Patel realized that as the geopolitical world changes, it is imperative that the United Nations reflects on the world it is serving.

In addition, while the UN has historically served through a Western lens during the time it was created, it is now necessary for more voices to be present during these discussions about issues that encompass the whole world.

“New thinking is required. The UN came out of a particular time in history... and it was fit for the purpose for what it aimed to do at that time,” Patel explained. “But the world has changed since that time… and as these changes are literally happening before our eyes, the UN has to change.”

Patel also discussed the current problematic thinking that he usually encounters when discussing the environment. Many people have the mindset that nature is only there for the economic benefit of humankind, while Patel urges us to respect nature for its intrinsic value and not just the things it can provide for us. 

Patel also mentioned how powerful of a motivator faith can be when attempting to spring people into action. From Patel’s Hindu standpoint, the story of creation is one that displays the beauty and balance of the natural world. From this perspective, he states that we all have a responsibility to protect the environment and maintain the balance that has remained before us. 

“Ultimately, Hinduism is suggesting that we are always in constant relationship with the natural world… you can take from nature to a certain degree, but you also have to leave nature alone to a certain degree,” Patel elaborated. “Because the more we destroy nature, the more we destroy ourselves.”

Through the UN’s “Decade of Restoration” project, there is a plan to have a net positive of biodiversity by 2030, and a full recovery by 2050. To reach this goal, it is important that we approach this problem from a well-rounded perspective where we understand the complexity involved in protecting and restoring our environment. 

Coffee addict, aspiring world traveler, and lover of The Beatles.

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