Northern “Biopirates” Gobbling up Living Resources of the Global South

By Stephen Leahy

PARIS, Feb 1, 2010 (IPS)

Rich countries are like biopirates, looting far-away lands for food, raw materials and cheap labour. They’re plundering other richer ecosystems because they’ve largely destroyed their own. And they’re blocking global efforts to create an independent scientific assessment panel that is likely point the finger at the real reason species are going extinct at 1,000 times their natural pace, experts say.

European politicians were “shocked” to learn that just 17 percent of Europe’s ecosystems were in decent shape, Dominique Richard of the European Environmental Agency told participants on the final day of the U.N.-hosted Biodiversity Science Policy Conference in Paris.

“We’ve just completed our first complete assessment of the state of biodiversity in Europe and the results really shocked policymakers,” said Richard, a European biodiversity expert.

Most of Europe’s natural systems that provide essential services like food, clean air and water, climate regulation and so on have been in decline for years. But no one in Europe really notices.

That’s because the rich are “geosphere people” who help themselves to nature’s ecological services anywhere in the world, said Ashok Khosla, an eminent Indian environmentalist and founder of the Delhi-based Development Alternatives Group, who was representing the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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The poor, on the other hand, are “ecosystem people” who depend directly on local resources for their livelihoods, Khosla told delegates. The ecosystem people cannot afford to get their food or water elsewhere, so if they degrade their own ecosystems, they suffer the direct consequences. Continue reading

Runaway Global Economy Decimating Nature — World Bank Offers A Solution

By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 28, 2010 (IPS)

One-fifth of all birds, fish and animals are threatened with extinction – as many as six million unique and irreplaceable forms of life – an authoritative new assessment warned Wednesday.

Deforestation, agricultural expansion, overfishing, invasive alien species and climate change are the specific causes, but the main engine of destruction is an economic system that is blind to the reality that there is no economy or human well-being without nature, experts here say.

“Without global conservation efforts the situation would be massively worse,” noted Simon Stuart, chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission, which launched the study at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan.

Published in the peer-reviewed journal Science, it is the most comprehensive assessment ever done of the world’s vertebrates – mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fishes – Stuart said.

Every year, 52 species of mammals, birds and amphibians move one step down a three-step path to extinction, according to the study, which utilised data for 25,000 species from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Southeast Asia has experienced the most dramatic recent losses, largely driven by the planting of export crops like oil palm, commercial hardwood timber operations, agricultural conversion to rice paddies and unsustainable hunting, the study found. Parts of Central America, the tropical Andes of South America, and even Australia have also all experienced marked losses, in particular due to the impact of the deadly chytrid fungus on amphibians.

“The backbone of biodiversity is being eroded,” said the eminent U.S. ecologist and writer Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University.

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Tackling Climate Change Only Way to Halt Species Extinction Crisis and Declines

An IPCC for Species Needed

By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 26, 2010 (IPS)

A major change in the direction of economic development is essential to avoid the catastrophic unraveling of Earth’s ecosystems that support all life, a new global analysis published in the journal Science revealed Tuesday.

Climate change, pollution, deforestation and other forms of land use change are pushing species into extinction, reducing their abundance and home ranges.

Human societies and infrastructures have evolved with and rely on particular sets of species and ecosystems and now these are being reshuffled,” said Paul Leadley of the University Paris-Sud in France who led the study.

“Even optimistic scenarios for this century consistently predict extinctions and shrinking populations of many species,” Leadley told IPS by telephone from France.

The goal of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2020 is under intense negotiation this week in Nagoya at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. However, based on five recent global environmental assessments, Leadley says that ending biodiversity loss by 2020 is sadly “unrealistic”.

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Geoengineering on a Desperate Planet — UN Declares Global Moratorium

By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 25, 2010 (Tierramérica)

[Update 30 October 2 am. Global moratorium passes.]

Delegates to the world summit on biodiversity here are calling for a moratorium on climate engineering research, like the idea of putting huge mirrors in outer space to reflect some of the sun’s heating rays away from the planet.

Climate engineering or geoengineering refers to any large-scale, human- made effort to manipulate the planet to adapt to climate change.

Representatives from Africa and Asia expressed concern about the negative impacts of geoengineering during the opening week of the 10th Conference of Parties (COP 10) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Oct. 18-29. They were joined by civil society organisations in calling for a moratorium on geoengineering experiments.

The geoengineering proposals include installing giant vertical pipes in the ocean to bring cold water to the surface, pumping vast amounts of sulphates into the stratosphere to block sunlight, or blowing ocean salt spray into clouds to increase their reflectivity.

The geoengineering proposals include installing giant vertical pipes in the ocean to bring cold water to the surface, pumping vast amounts of sulphates into the stratosphere to block sunlight, or blowing ocean salt spray into clouds to increase their reflectivity.

Broadly speaking, there are two main geoengineering approaches: solar radiation management and carbon sequestration, in other words, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to reduce the concentration of this greenhouse-effect gas.

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To manage the sun’s rays, there are ideas like releasing sulphates into the atmosphere or placing giant mirrors in outer space. For absorbing carbon, the possible approaches include ocean fertilisation, in which iron or nitrogen is added to seawater to stimulate the growth of phytoplankton to sequester the carbon deep in the ocean.

“Some of the proponents of these technologies think it’s easier to ‘manage the sun’ than get people to take a bus” to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, said Pat Mooney, executive director of the ETC Group, an international environmental organisation headquartered in Canada. [etc “Geopiracy” report]

“Politicians in rich countries see geoengineering as ‘Plan B’ so they don’t have to make the hard choices of reducing emissions causing climate change,” Mooney told Tierramérica.

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Palau Announces Massive Marine Sanctuary to Protect Whales, Dolphins, Sharks

By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 25, 2010 (IPS)

One of Japan’s closest allies declared over the weekend that all of its oceans – more than 600,000 square kilometres – would be a sanctuary for whales, dolphins, dugongs, sharks and other species.

“There will be no hunting or harassment of marine mammals and other species in our waters,” said the Honourable Harry Fritz, minister of the environment, natural resources and tourism of the Republic of Palau.

“We urge other nations to join our efforts to protect whales, dolphins and other marine animals,” Fritz said at a press conference during Oceans Day at the meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan.

Japan has long sought to overturn the global ban on commercial whaling and has actively solicited and received Palau’s support for many years. Japan is its second largest source of development aid after the United States. Japanese tourists frequent the islands since many people speak some Japanese.

“Palau now supports conserving marine mammals, along with sharks and other species,” said Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group, a large U.S. NGO.

“This is a very significant announcement,” Lieberman told IPS.

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Dams Come At a Price of Hi-Quality Food — Hard to Put a Price-tag on Healthy Rivers

By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 22, 2010 (IPS)

Damming a river may bring electric power, but it often comes at the price of high-quality food fisheries, experts say. When dams are proposed for power, flood control or irrigation, the often devastating impacts on fisheries in rivers and lakes are ignored or discounted.

“It is very difficult to put a dollar value on what inland fisheries represent because it is much more than the landed value of the fish at the dock,” says Yumiko Kura of the WorldFish Center office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Kura is co-author of a new report, “Blue Harvest: Inland Fisheries as an Ecosystem Service”, which highlights the wide-ranging importance of inland fisheries in diets, especially among children, and not just in terms of protein but in supplying micronutrients, notably vitamin A, calcium, iron and zinc.

“Detailed studies in Bangladesh for example have shown that daily consumption of small fish contributes 40 percent of the total daily household requirement of vitamin A and 31 percent of calcium,” according the report released Friday at a side event at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

In addition, it notes there are more than 60 million full- and part-time jobs in fishing and other activities such as processing, with over half these jobs carried out by women.

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Blame Canada: Seeks to Drop Native Peoples from New Biodiversity Pact

Awarding Winner Poster - CBD COP 10 Nagoya - Copyright Stephen Leahy

By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 21, 2010 (IPS)

Blame Canada if countries fail to agree to a new binding treaty to curb the rapid loss of plant, animal and species that form the intricate web of life that sustains humanity.

That is the view of indigenous representatives from Canada in response to a late night move by the Canadian delegation to strike a reference to indigenous peoples’ rights at the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) members’ conference here.

“Canada is stalling progress here, weakening our rights and fighting against a legally-binding protocol on access and benefit sharing,” said Armand MacKenzie, executive director of the Innu Council of Nitassinan, the indigenous inhabitants in northeastern Canada.

“Their opposition threatens global biodiversity… people need to speak out,” MacKenzie told IPS.

A protocol on access and benefit sharing (ABS) without a guarantee of the rights of indigenous people and local communities “would be totally void”, said Paulino Franco de Carvalho, head of the Brazilian delegation.

“Brazil will not accept any agreement on biodiversity without a fair ABS protocol…. We are not bluffing on that, I must be very clear,” Franco de Carvalho said in a press conference.

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