Think about nature. Are you picturing a lush green forest? A vast blue ocean? A mountainous area or an endless desert? What is nature?
How is it that when we consider that question, the last thing we think about is humanity and people? As humans living on Planet Earth, we are as much a part of nature as bees, forests, or hurricanes. Yet somehow, we do not include ourselves in our understanding of nature. Odd behavior, which probably stems from our history of controlling and taming our environments, therefore extracting ourselves from them, for various reasons.
Speaking to Amy van Nobelen, science communication officer at Naturalis Biodiversity Center, one cannot help but wonder how we got here. As she shares her passion for the species which changed the way we understand nature and their immense contribution to science, one question comes to mind: is it possible to live in a home whose value we do not acknowledge?
Naturalis does a wonderful job of acknowledging that value for our common understanding. The collection consists of approximately 42 million unique objects, the fifth largest collection of natural objects worldwide. The museum and research institute has existed for 200 years and has grown its collection from the donations of individuals and the findings of researchers fascinated with nature and science. It’s a fascination which begs to be reignited, if we want to regain a sense of what is at stake: our home. Picking one species to feature was a challenge, so Amy picked 3 creatures to represent what nature conservation means today.
“There is tremendous wisdom in submitting to nature's laws and embracing continuous transformation to keep thriving”
First up is the sea butterfly, a snail-like marine organism with a big role in detecting climatic imbalances. Its sensitivity to carbon dioxide levels serves as an indicator for ocean acidification. Currently, the sea butterfly species is struggling: their shells are dissolving due to ocean acidification. The sea butterfly situation serves as a reminder that those of us lucky enough to live on the blue planet each have a specific role to play along the chain which connects us all. If one link breaks, the whole chain is at risk.
Next, we interrogated Darwin's finches, one of the first species to show us how organisms can physically adapt to changing environments. Collected by Darwin on his second expedition to the Galapagos, they were instrumental in shaping his theories after he observed that the shape of their beaks was adapted to their food sources. Darwin’s finches teach us another valuable lesson: there is tremendous wisdom in submitting to nature's laws and embracing continuous transformation to keep thriving. Indeed, it is time to transform if we want to keep thriving.
“The sea butterfly situation serves as a reminder that those of us lucky enough to live on the blue planet each have a specific role to play along the chain which connects us all. If one link breaks, the whole chain is at risk”
Last but certainly not least, we present to you the morpho butterfly. Native to the Amazon, the morpho butterfly is identifiable by its striking blue wings, a color so deep and pure it is only revealed in fluttering moments when caught in the light. Blink and you miss the show. It seems we may have blinked one too many times, and perhaps even kept our eyes shut, missing out on the amazing opportunities nature offers us. These seem to get rarer, further reducing our opportunities to fix our systems of economic growth and incorporate nature in these decisions.
Speaking to Amy, you realize that Naturalis is not just a reminder of the planet’s superb biodiversity: it is also a way to link the past, present, and future, providing a source of inspiration for people to (continue to) preserve our natural habitats and environments. FMO and Naturalis have a shared goal, she indicates: we are working to ensure that the long term is prioritized over the short term, by putting our skills to the service of investing for the next generation.
Our eyes are wide open. This time, we will not miss our chance.
“FMO and Naturalis have a shared goal: we are working to ensure that the long term is prioritized over the short term, by putting our skills to the service of investing for the next generation”
Thanks to Amy van Nobelen, Science Communication Officer, for your expertise and contribution to this piece.