Diversity is strength | Bancroft this week

May 18, 2022

By Nate Smell

ANYONE who hangs their hat in North Hastings between the spring equinox and summer solstice finds themselves in a uniquely rich time and place to appreciate the natural world. Offering people in this position the opportunity to achieve such a privileged perspective is a variety of conditions shaped by the local climate, ecosystem and all of its inhabitants. As one of the main contributing factors to this equation, the climate of North Hastings gives us relatively long winters followed by several waves of warm weather that breathe life into our temporarily frozen world.

By observing this seasonal pattern year after year, one inevitably develops expectations. For example, when the ice cubes begin to melt, we know that the sap under the bark of birches and maples begins to flow. Each year, as the last remnants of winter fade in the warmth to come, resident wildlife emerge from their seasonal sanctuary, frogs begin to sing and flocks of birds return to the skies. It’s also reasonable to expect that by the weekend of May 2-4, each of us will have given blood to at least one hungry mosquito.

In a gesture of gratuity, the fastest and most agile mosquitoes pollinate flowering plants and trees, renewing the cycle of life. Unable to maneuver as quickly as their less forgiving relatives, the plumpest of these nectar-drinking, blood-sucking creatures end up as nutrients in the bellies of frogs, turtles, bats, salamanders, birds, fish and several other insectivorous species.

Although humans don’t consciously eat mosquitoes very often, we do consume many plants and animals that depend in one way or another for their existence. In turn, we too become beneficiaries of the biodiversity network of which we are part.

By knowing that a more biologically diverse ecosystem is healthier and more stable than an ecosystem without a wide variety of resident species, we come to understand that this diversity is the root of our strength as humans. Likewise, we also know that species with high genetic diversity and large populations that have adapted to a wide range of conditions are more equipped and susceptible to life-threatening crises such as disease and climate change.

For those who still don’t appreciate that diversity is our strength, get off the beaten track over the next few weeks and take a leisurely dip in the natural beauty of North Hastings in the spring. Spending time in nature as the leaves unfurl and life awakens from its winter siesta is always an eye opener about our place in the bigger picture of biodiversity. If experiencing this seasonal burst of life still isn’t compelling enough that diversity makes us stronger and more resilient, go online and look into the fearful, shallow eyes of the 18-year-old Buffalo home terrorist who recently murdered 10 people innocent while shopping picked up because of the color of their skin. There one can glimpse the true weakness and ignorance of elitism, racial hatred and white supremacy.

It is the ugliness that inevitably arises when we elevate the value of one race, religion or gender above another. In honor of our basic need as a species to value diversity, American biologist, naturalist, and writer Edward O. Wilson shines a light on the irrationality of elitism.

“The more we know about other life forms, the more we appreciate and respect ourselves…Humanity is exalted not because we are so far above other living creatures, but because knowing them well elevates the concept even life.”

Although it may seem small at times, we live in a big world, full of wonders beyond our comprehension as human beings. We’ll never know what it’s like to see the world from a turtle’s perspective. We will never flap our arms and can never travel thousands of miles to where the climate matches our feathers. Despite these shortcomings as a species, humans have much to learn from our nonhuman neighbors and the role they play as stewards of our shared ecosystem. When we deny the scientific fact that our ecological health and our personal health fundamentally depend on biodiversity, we do so at our peril. Likewise, when we refuse to acknowledge that we humans thrive on a multicultural planet, we insult our own intelligence and limit our potential for survival as a species.

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