Why diverse ecosystems are the key to our digestive system – yet more evidence of the importance of protecting the Hadza lands in the Yaeda valley.
Last weekend, it was a pleasure to spend an evening dining with Jeff Leach, talking about microbes, digestion and as he so aptly puts it ‘pooh’. The perfect dinner time repartee. Jeff from the Human Food Project – and his international teams of collaborators – have been working with the Hadza to better understand their microbiome, to me (and possibly you) that’s the diversity of microbes and their genes in the gut that essentially make us what we are and is a result of how we live and what we eat.
As the conversation meanders through cryotubes, sampling techniques and a variety of comparative analysis with western biomes, I’m struck by what he is saying. ‘It’s the diversity of the environment that we live in what makes us what we are’. This is of course the ‘abc’ of ecology, the more diverse an ecosystem, the more robust it is to upheaval. When Jeff talks about the impact of an antibiotic on the human gut, all I can think about is selective logging that removes a single-tree species from a landscape.
So let’s put this into perspective. The Hadza, a people whose land we are helping to protect through our REDD+ project, have one of, if not the most diverse gut floras in the world. Jeff and his team are sampling the water they use, the food they eat and they way they live to better understand how we can address modern western diseases such as IBD, autoimmune disease, type II diabetes, obesity and so on. But, yes there is always a ‘but’, without their diverse environment, the Hadza themselves run the risk of losing this microbial diversity and succumbing to our more modern diseases.
Rather than me rambling on, let’s just take a moment to think about this. The human species is a result of millions of years of evolution with a microbial world that makes us who and what we are. The remnants of that microbial diversity are maintained by some of the world’s poorest and most at risk indigenous groups, like the Hadza. These communities depend on their local ecosystems for food and resources and the regional microbial species pools they contain. We, the global community, depend on these ecosystems to manage the climate on which we all depend, but we are now learning that we depend on these ecosystems for much more. It’s quite mind blowing to think that by offsetting your carbon footprint with Carbon Tanzania you could well be protecting the ecosystems that drives the cure to the modern world’s diseases.
Written by Marc Baker – Carbon Tanzania Co-founder