Veterinarian and ecologist Hélène Leriche is head of biodiversity and economics at the ORÉE association and a friend of the Yves Rocher Foundation. Here, she discusses biodiversity and celebrates the Terre de Femmes projects.
The ‘biodiversity crisis’: a catastrophe for life on Earth
The biodiversity crisis is the phrase on everybody’s lips these days, because what we’re facing is a mass obliteration of species, triggered for the very first time by human activity. Once upon a time, extinctions were caused by natural catastrophes. The same applies to the climate, which is essential to all life and now under threat from modern human activities. The sixth biodiversity crisis and the climate emergency are global changes that are combining and amplifying one another, hindering life on Earth and its ability to evolve – which is what has enabled it to adapt up to now.
But what exactly is biodiversity?
This is a relatively recent term used to describe a reality as old as time itself: the existence of life, which has continuously evolved over billions of years, and on which our own existence is entirely dependent. As it’s important to define things, I prefer to think about biodiversity as “the variety of interactions between organisms in changing environments” to quote anthropologist and economist Jacques Weber. It’s about variety at all scales; for organisms of any type, humans and human organisations included. Interactions in time and space. And above all the changes, the dynamics. A living thing that only exists because it evolves on a path, like a tightrope walker on a bicycle who only remains upright because he moves forward, to use Pierre-Henri Gouyon’s metaphor. In this dynamic, all organisms co-evolve, developing cooperative relationships, providing us with a “global living material” into which our lives are inescapably woven and with which it is a matter of working as a team, as suggested by Robert Barbault.
We must co-evolve with a sort of natural potential, finding our place with humility and responsibility in view of our resources and status as a major species in the dynamics of living things (biodiversity and climate). It involves putting down new roots in this living world and its dynamics. It contains all the creativity of billions of years of co-evolution between living things, constrained by space and resources. How inspiring!
The place and responsibility of human beings
But it is also important to realise that behind each biodiversity challenge lies a human, here, there, today, tomorrow. There is no problem with biodiversity as such, but rather “problems between humans when it comes to biodiversity”. Biodiversity teaches us about diversity, symbiosis and dynamics, and it falls to us to develop our abilities to cooperate and collaborate amongst ourselves and with the rest of the living world.
Terres de Femmes projects: by and for living things
All the initiatives linked to the Terre de Femmes projects illustrate this variety of possibilities, this vital energy and creativity, this team spirit, between people, with living things, for everyone, for us. Well done!
Are you also working on a project that fosters biodiversity, and has a positive social and environmental impact? Do you need some support to take things further?