Biology for justice. [IGS Professor Toshihiro Yamada]

Q. Could you please briefly introduce yourself?
A. My name is Yamada Toshihiro and I am a member of IGS. I teach “Species Biology,” which is a course of basic biology and “Global Environmental Issues from the Social and Scientific Perspectives,” which is a course related to conservation biology.

Q. What field did you study when you were at university? Why did you choose your field?
A. From a university I kept studying ecology. I entered the department of biology to study DNA. But the experiments for DNA were not so fascinating for me at that time (although I fully acknowledge that DNA lab work is tremendously important for science). At the same time, I experienced fieldwork to study ecology and it totally knocked me over. So, I started studying ecology to better understand the laws of nature. Then I gradually shifted to biodiversity sciences because I love trees, animals, and nature. I love to do something outside too. Since then, I have kept studying this field.

Q. What is your specialized field at IGS? Why do you want to teach this field?
A. Biodiversity! Biodiversity is diverting, many species are going to go extinct. IGS opens the door to students in every part of the world. I teach biodiversity conservation because biodiversity is an essential part of the world for people all over the world.

Q. What is the most fascinating point of this field?
A. The most fascinating part of my studies would be the beauty or surprising things you find in nature, the sense of wonder. I was surprised a lot by all the functions in an ecosystem. Also, I can find many beautiful organisms there; beautiful animals, flowers, and so on.

Q What do you think is the most unique animal on our planet?

A. I think the tarsier is the most wonderful, cute, and surprising animal. I saw a few of them in a jungle in Indonesian Sulawesi.

Q. We heard that you have written a book, too. What is your book about?
A. This is in Japanese. The direct translation of the book is “Biology for Justice.” The importance of the conservation of biodiversity is the main topic. I ask the readers what the reasons are to conserve biodiversity.
This is based on a lecture I gave at Hiroshima University. So, for 10 years, I have posed the following questions to my students:
Do we need to do something to avoid extinction for threatened species? Choose either “Yes” or “No,” and provide the reason for your choice?
The majority of students would say, “Yes, we want to conserve biodiversity.”. But when asked about the reasons, the students would say because biodiversity is supporting our lives (to obtained products services provided by biodiversity). This is a great idea. But at the same time, I feel it’s a little bit strange too because biodiversity, for example, the Tarsier, Tapir, and all any kinds of organisms don’t exist just not for human beings. They exist on the earth to live out have beautiful lives, and they survive for the sake of their own lives, but not for us. We need to respect their life and pay the best attention to animal welfare or animal rights.

We need to conserve biodiversity because it is justice for human beings, and we need to protect the right to survive for all living organisms.

This book answers the above questions. Plus, I ask the reader whether animal rights protection is actually justice for human beings. “Human rights” is secured for all people. Likewise, I think that we should protect the same rights for animals too. I elaborated the logical reasons to think so in the book. In conclusion, we need to conserve biodiversity because it is justice for human beings, and we need to protect the right to survive for all living organisms.

Q. What ability would you like IGS students to acquire by the time they graduate?
A. Language skills, logical thinking, and mutual understanding are of paramount importance. First, of course, since IGS provides international courses, language skills are very important. Logical thinking is also important. But this is usually