The benefits of protecting and enhancing biodiversity
"Why should I care? Why should I care that plants and animals are going extinct?” This question is one that many people ask themselves when they are told about the biodiversity conservation crisis affecting the planet.
Throughout the world, species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate, about 1,000 times greater than the natural rate of extinction. But why should I care? This article will answer that question by discussing a range of reasons why people should care for biodiversity, ranging from spiritual reasons to economic reasons.
Islam and conservation
At an individual level, many people find spiritual reasons for protecting biodiversity. For example, stewardship of plants and animals is compatible with the tenets of Islam. The Qur’an states that: ‘there is not an animal on the earth, nor any being that wings its flight, but is a people like unto you.’ [6:38]. This is usually interpreted to mean that all animals and birds on earth deserve our respect and protection. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) declared: “The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily God, be He exalted, has made you stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves” (Saheeh Muslim: 2742). The world is full of life and one of our purposes on earth is to be stewards that protect and care for living creatures.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) clearly respected plants and animals. It was mentioned in a hadith that the prophet forbade that one needlessly and wrongfully cut down a tree that provides shelter to humans or animals in the desert. (Abu-Dawud: 5239). Likewise he once ordered a man who had taken the nestlings of a bird to return them to where he got them, to their mother that was trying to protect them’ (Abu-Dawud: 2675).
Aligning with international priorities
Protecting biodiversity on Company reservation areas helps align Aramco with priorities established by the United Nations. The UN has four conventions aimed at protecting biodiversity that are of relevance to the Company: (i) Convention on Biological Diversity, (ii) Convention on Combatting Desertification, (iii) Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species, and (iv) Convention on Wetlands. These conventions all support the protection of biodiversity and important habitats, such as jebels, wadis, wetlands, forests, and other patches of native vegetation. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity recognizes that “private companies, landowners, fishermen, and farmers take most of the actions that affect biodiversity” and that “it is particularly important for such sectors as forestry, agriculture, fisheries, energy, transportation, and urban planning … to develop and integrate broad plans for biodiversity.”
The UN has identified that two of the greatest challenges to sustainable development are desertification and biodiversity loss. Desertification is the process of unintentionally creating lifeless desert habitat in arid or semi-arid areas that once contained grasslands or low shrubs. This occurs through land clearing, off-road driving, excessive firewood collection, and so on. By protecting areas of biodiversity we create seedbanks that can help restore surrounding habitat and address the systemic problems of desertification. By protecting and restoring biodiversity we help to promote sustainable development.
Aligning with Company priorities
The protection of biodiversity is receiving increasing attention within Aramco as per the Company’s corporate objective to ‘Intensify the focus on safety and protection of the environment.’
Accordingly, in November 2011 the Company Board of Directors endorsed the commitment to largescale biodiversity protection efforts, such as establishing Shaybah Wildlife Sanctuary, protecting islands in the Arabian Gulf, and providing stewardship over Abu Ali Island and Tarout Bay. In October 2014 Aramco updated its Environmental Protection Policy (INT-05) and explicitly stated that: ‘The Company will work toward promoting the conservation of natural biodiversity within its reservations.’ Thus by reducing impacts on biodiversity and by designating biodiversity protection areas on Company land, proponents are aligning with key Aramco objectives.