Whoever said that science and religion didn’t mix?

Hello, here is a blog from our guest blogger Rosaline Hulse.

Rosaline studied Human Biology at the University of Birmingham and is currently working for a renewable energy trade association in London. With a particular interest in engaging the public in scientific debate and communicating science in an accessible format, especially in relation to climate change, recycling and renewable energy technologies, here is her first hand picked blog:

  
Rapidly decreasing levels of biodiversity are widely accepted as detrimental to the environment as a whole but also specifically to human health and development. Who knows what plants with medicinal properties, pathogen resistance or renewable energy properties are lost to man forever in the great swathes of deforestation that have occurred throughout the world?

Forest

Although rainforests and areas of naturally occurring high diversity are termed global resources, this communal ownership is fraught with difficulties. It is easy for people in developed countries to say that that farmer can’t cut down those trees, because that land is owned by the world, but how are the authorities legitimately supposed to deny that farmer that land – if he is struggling to survive, or if the country is in the grips of a food shortage?

It is a tragedy that the long term profitability of areas of biodiversity does nothing to save those on the ground in need of resources now.

Perhaps we have forgotten the influence of religion…

The Sacred Forests Project, a joint endeavour between University of Oxford and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARCs) has identified religious or sacred forests as some of the world’s richest areas of biodiversity boasting the highest known numbers of endangered species.

The project aims to scientifically measure the full extent of global coverage that religious forests provide and assess the values of these areas, in terms of biodiversity, medicinal plant levels, their role in carbon dioxide absorption and land use by the local community.

The ARC recently estimated that between 8 -15% of world’s land is regarded as sacred or religious. These forests, preserved and managed almost exclusively by community elders with little or no formal or external protection, have been found to be home to threatened species that are not found elsewhere. According to Dr Bhagwat, Biodiversity Institute, Oxford Martin School:

“We know so little about these sacred sites and how they should be managed and what biodiversity they hold. There are many different studies. We are trying to bring all the information together on to one platform.”

With sacred groves existing all over the world they are a potentially vast, currently untapped resource. Previous studies have shown that in some regions of India there is one sacred forest for every 300 hectares with the largest of these forests being over 100 hectares. It is hoped that this evidence based assessment first step in ensuring biodiversity hotspots are fully protected through official channels of regional and national government.

Previous work in this area appears to be extensive, with 165 results on a CAB Abstract search for ‘biodiversity’ and ‘sacred’, so perhaps I was unfair when I said we had ‘forgotten’ religion. However, biodiversity is an issue that we can’t allow to fall under the radar, even if that does require us to consider the ‘God’ and less of the ‘Oh My’ every once in a while.

Further Reading:

Sacred forests of India: a strong tradition of community-based natural resource management. Ormsby, A. A.; Bhagwat, S. A.; Environmental Conservation 2010 Vol. 37 No. 3 pp. 320-326

Saussurea obvallata (sacred species): a contemporary context of biodiversity conservation. Bhardwaj, M; Chauhan, N. S.; Pareek, S. K.; Naithani, R.; Chauhan, R.; Indian Forester 2011 Vol. 137 No. 6 pp. 718-721

Positive influence of traditional culture and socioeconomic activity on conservation: a case study from the black-and-white snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti) in Tibet. ZuoFu, X.; Sheng, H.; Wen, X.; LiangWei, C.; Zoological Research 2010 Vol. 31 No. 6 pp. 645-650

Plant communities, species diversity, richness, and regeneration of a traditionally managed coastal forest, Kenya. Kibet, S.; Forest Ecology and Management 2011 Vol. 261 No. 6 pp. 949-957

2 thoughts on “Whoever said that science and religion didn’t mix?

  1. Ava Branscum December 23, 2011 / 9:06 am

    Ava Branscum

    I appreciate you sharing this post.Thanks Again. Awesome.

  2. Alexis August 20, 2012 / 12:54 pm

    Alexis

    CABI Blogs: hand picked… and carefully sorted: Whoever said that science and religion didn’t mix?

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