A Tipping Point on Species Loss?
By Stephen Leahy
Canada, Jan 13, 2010 (IPS) - Humanity is destroying the network of living things
that comprise our life support system. While this
sawing-through-the-branch-we're-perched-on is largely unintentional, world
leaders can't say they didn't know what's going on: 123 countries promised to
take urgent action in 2003 but have done little to stem the rising tide of
extinctions in what's known as the extinction or biodiversity crisis.
Species are going extinct at 1,000 times their
natural pace due to human activity, recent science has documented, with 35 to 40
species vanishing each day, never to be seen again.
"The question of preserving biological diversity is
on the same scale as climate protection," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said
in a speech in Berlin Monday at the official
launch of the United Nations' International Year of Biodiversity.
This week's official launch will be followed by the
first major event of the International Year, a high-profile meeting at the
Paris headquarters of the U.N. Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Jan. 20-21. "We need a sea change. Here,
now, immediately - not some time in the future," Merkel said.
While climate has been the focus in 2009, this year
will be a global celebration of and action on biodiversity, Ahmed Djoghlaf,
executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD),
told IPS from Berlin.
The action part comes in October when 193 countries
that have now signed to the Convention on Biological Diversity set targets for
reduction in biodiversity loss and strategies for how that will be accomplished,
Djoghlaf noted. The hope is to have a binding agreement on targets to curb
biodiversity loss over the next 10 years at the Convention of the Parties (COP)
in Nagoya, Japan.
Prior to that, the
CBD will release its Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 in May,
an assessment of the current state of biodiversity and future prospects. Hint:
the draft report reads like a dystopian novel if countries stick with "business
Few people are aware that protecting biodiversity
is not just about saving cute animals and pretty birds. Protecting biodiversity
means protecting ecosystems that provide humanity with food, fibre, clean water
and air. In the past few hundred years, human beings have greatly disrupted
those natural processes through deforestation, overfishing, and more recently
through pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases.
Correcting this accidental and destructive
geoengineering of the planet will not be easy. Some experts now believe that at
least half of the land and oceans needs to be fully protected.
"That is what the science says; this is what many
aboriginal people say," Harvey Locke, the WILD Foundation's vice president of
conservation strategy, told IPS late last
year. WILD Foundation is an international, non-governmental non-profit based in
the United States.
"It's time to speak the simple truth. The whole
thing unravels without protecting at least half of the planet," Locke said.
In the WILD proposal - which has not yet been put
before the CBD - humans would not be
excluded from the protected 50 percent. However, development and activities like
industrial fishing, mining, agriculture, plantation forestry and so on will need
to be banned so that nature can restore itself, cool the planet and provide the
vital services we need.
"It is urgent to take immediate action to preserve
biodiversity. Nearly half of the world’s forests and around one-third of its
species have been lost in the past three decades," says Isaac Rojas, coordinator
of the Forest and Biodiversity Programme at Friends of the Earth International
Based in San Jose, Costa Rica, Rojas warns that
booming monoculture tree plantations in the southern hemisphere are a major
threat to biodiversity. "Plantations are not forests, they are just the same as
deserts, only green," he told IPS.
Indonesia and Malaysia offer prime examples.
Those countries have some of the world's highest deforestation rates and are
largely driven by the conversion of forests into vast palm oil plantations to
meet the lucrative and fast-growing biodiesel market, according to a United
Nation's Environment Programme study last October.
The current economic system, which pushes
privatisation, exports and trade liberalisation, is accelerating the decline in
biodiversity Rojas says.
Pavan Sukhdev, one of the world's leading
economists, agrees. "We cannot continue our stewardship of this planet if we
keep looking at public benefits and public wealth as somehow subordinate to
private wealth," Sukhdev said in an interview late last year in
Protecting and investing in the "infrastructure of
nature" makes perfect business sense, just as protecting and investing in built
infrastructure does, says economist Pavan Sukhdev, who heads up the Economics of
Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative backed by the U.N. and number of
However, exactly the reverse is happening. Nature's
infrastructure is being destroyed by human activities, representing a stunning
estimated loss of 2.5 to 4.5 trillion dollars a year for each of the last 25
years, said Sukhdev, who is on leave from Deutsche Bank, one of the largest
global financial institutions.
"2010 will be a unique opportunity to showcase
nature and its ability to deal with climate change," says Jane Smart, director
of the biodiversity conservation group at the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Forests, marine grasses, mangroves, wetlands,
peatlands can all absorb carbon and play a vital role in climate protection,
Smart told IPS. "A big
vision is needed. Why not have a green economy based around nature-based
solutions?" "It will be a really exciting year," concludes Djoghlaf.
We’ve been on an inexorable slide into a new Dark Age, destroying and wreaking
havoc on this planet in the last few decades like never before. How many more
species and homes will be lost before Mother Nature or we, ourselves, cause our
Humans changing the environment
more than ever
Too many people; too many extinctions; Population
Silent spring in
Tokyo; Crisis Worldwide; new UN climate report: we're doomed
See Sir David Attenborough
The World of 2108
Commentary by Captain Paul