NOTE: The following are excerpts from my personal notes to friends and supporters written during the heat, confusion and massive information dump of a major international conference. Often written late at night I attempted to offer some personal perspective into what was going on and what I was up to. — Stephen
Tuesday, 19 Oct – Geopolitical obstacles getting in the way
I’m here at the big UN conference on biodiversity. It’s 430 am here, the first day ended about 9 pm. It’s 12-ring cat circus like the Copenhagen climate meeting but the mood here is more positive. There are similar geopolitical obstacles getting in the way of slowing the loss of species and ecosystems. Another major difference is the lack of little public awareness of the fact that we cannot continue to shred nature’s web of life without suffering dire consequences.
I’ll try and do my bit – write 10 -12 articles over next two weeks. I wanted to thank a couple of supporters who helped out to cover some of the travel costs. I want to keep you informed of what’s going on here but these notes take a couple of hours to do.
This week is a story about an important development in Africa: In sincere efforts to make one last major attempt to transform Africa’s poverty and hunger are we imposing our worldview on Africa yet again? Bill Gates and others are donating hundreds of millions to create a New Green Revolution for Africa. This difficult and controversial story took over a week to do and wrote the final draft during my 17 hr flight here.
My other story connects the dots between extreme weather this summer and climate change. No single storm is directly attributable to CC BUT without CC it is unlikely the Russian heat wave and floods in Pakistan would have occurred. (PS those were events were two sides of the same coin)
Finally I received a number of letters, mostly positive but a couple saying I was too negative in last week’s article ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ Canada Sees Global Warming “Prosperity” Instead of Calamity’. Any organization that puts out a chart of climate impacts at 4 – 5C of global warming and fails to mention the scale of the calamity that would result is delusional or deceptive. Some take the stunningly selfish and naive view we can ‘adapt’ by turning up the AC.
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Wednesday, 20 Oct – Diversity R Us
There is an astonishing diversity of people here. Last nite I talked to an Amazonian Indian who took 10 days to get here, had wine accidentally spilled on me by a reindeer herder from Finland and found the lost passport of a Brazilian diplomat. And that is a five minute snap shot. It is a very big world with so many different people it is incredible they have all come here to try and address a common issue. That they can’t agree on what kinds of actions and how to implement should not come as a surprise.
Sunday, 24 Oct – Canada won’t play nice (yet again)
Canada is blocking agreement on a key measure to get a new international agreement to protect biodiversity here. This is not new. In recent years Canada has gone out its way to snub international UN agreements including the outright refusal to fulfill its legal obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Hard to believe the same government lobbied hard for a seat on the UN security council and actually expected to be rewarded.
My other story is about the unappreciated value of rivers as source of food -- perhaps as much as 30 million tonnes of fish annually. Incredibly the fishers along the Mekong River catch 500+ species of fish…
I will be sending you all of my stories from Nagoya which may be too much for some. For every story you see here I’ve considered a dozen more and dozens more are waiting to be told. Hope this makes sense cause I’m pretty worn out with an intense final five days coming up. I’ve met many incredible people and Japan is a fascinating culture and place from the little I’ve seen so far.
“We have stone-age emotions, medieval institutions and god-like technologies.” E.O. Wilson, Sunday morning re dealing with biodiversity decline.
Konichiwa from the press room of the Nagoya Congress Center. Still looks like I’m the only journo from Canada/US. How much coverage is this meeting getting where you are? Agreement here on halting biodiversity decline is not looking good. Some 100+ minister of enviro show up tomorrow so will see if mood shifts. Certainly Japanese security will be in overdrive and it’s already over the top, preventing protests or demos by the public.
Palau took a brave stand here on the weekend declaring full protection for whales and sharks. Japan wants to resume commercial hunting of whales and is Palau’s #2 aid donor. Instead Palau sees its future in conservation & tourism. Wonder if Japan’s aid $ will decline?
Speaking of brave, scientists are scared enough to want to conduct geoengineering experiments to cool the planet. Risky business everyone agrees but desperate times may be ahead so there is a hot debate here re merits of a moratorium. Likely will agree to allow some experiments but ban attempts to lower the planet’s thermostat by injecting more stuff into the atmos or oceans.
Back into the fray…
Friday, 29 Oct Don’t Forget the Science Says Future Is At Risk
There are 50+ documents to be agreed upon involving hundreds of pages of closely argued text in several languages. Late Friday when it is over (hopefully not Sat morning) I will file a quick story and then over the weekend an analysis — there are many different points of view on this.
Here are couple of science-based articles to focus on what this is all about: Millions of species are at risk as is our own well being and the future for our children and their children. These articles offer ways to deal with these challenges on the international level.
Most people at the political and policy levels still seem to think of theunravelling of the web of life as another ‘issue’ like climate change. (Northern “Biopirates” Gobbling up Living Resources of the Global South).
Nothing could be further from the truth for both. The conditions that have allowed us to flourish as a species are being fundamentally and permanently altered. We seem blind to these changes. Maybe it is because we are an adaptable species but also turning into an indoor one disconnected from reality.
The second story was written when the conference concluded at 2 am Friday nite.( Biodiversity Pact Signed To Halt Species Extinctions and Protect the Web of Life)
And it nearly didn’t end well. Long time since I’ve been awake for 24 hours straight, the subway ride back to my bed at 7 am Saturday was surreal. Hilights: A 3-hour party in the middle of the final negotiations with Japanese dancers diligently attempting to perform a series of Indian Bollywood dances to celebrate India hosting the next COP in 2 years.
There were many other stories, examples of what is happening good and bad that ought to be told. There isn’t enough journalists doing the story telling any more and people simply don’t know what is going on.
I’m too tired to say more. It has been a long 3-weeks and finally get to go home. I am sad to leave as well. Japan and the people here have been wonderful. I felt very welcome. I thank you all again.