No Magic Solutions for the Extinction of Species that Produce Our Air, Water and Water

Photo: Yann Arthus- Bertrand, GoodPlanet Foundation http://www.goodplanet.org/en/

Is there a middle ground between economic interests, livelihoods and conservation?

By Stephen Leahy

VANCOUVER, Canada (IPS)

The Earth’s life support system, which generates the planet’s air, water and food, is powered by 8.7 million living species, according to the latest best estimate. We know little about 99 percent of those unique species, except that far too many are rapidly going extinct.

What can be done to slow down this process, which could eventually lead to the extinction of the human species?

“The challenge is to find the middle ground between economic interests, livelihoods and conservation,” says Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, the newly appointed head of the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the international agency charged with helping countries slow and reverse the loss of plants, animals and other species.

A native of Brazil, Dias holds a doctorate in zoology from the University of Edinburgh, and worked for many years at the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, where his last position prior to joining the CBD was as Secretary of Biodiversity and Forests.

An exclusive interview with BRAULIO FERREIRA DE SOUZA DIAS, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity

Q: Why are species going extinct and why does it matter? 
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A Reporter’s Diary: EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE OF UN CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY FROM NAGOYA, JAPAN

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.

Do consider making a small automatic monthly contribution as a fair exchange for these articles.

Greenest wishes, Steve


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.

Sadly there is no one reporting for Canadian publications to document the irony. (And as a result Canadian’s aren’t really aware of what their government is up to.) Continue reading

An Awakening to the Unravelling of the Web Life – Will Action Follow?

Youth Demand Need a Voice.  Halting Biodiversity Decline Impossible Without Economic Transformation

Analysis by Stephen Leahy 

NAGOYA, Japan, Nov 1, 2010 (IPS)

The international community has finally awoken to the other great trans-boundary challenge of our time, with a new international agreement to halt the unravelling of the web of life that sustains humanity.

The new agreement by 193 nations that are part of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity includes a commitment to reduce the rate of species loss by half by 2020, as well as the historic Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit sharing of genetic resources.

This awakening only applies to the few early risers. The vast majority remain asleep, unaware of our utter dependence on the living things that are the one and only source of oxygen, water, food and fuel. And unaware that nature is our reality while the economy is simply a complicated game we created.

Japan imports more than 60 percent of its food and most of Europe’s ecosystems have been trashed, with only 17 percent in reasonable shape, according to a first-ever assessment. The only reason those countries haven’t collapsed is they are rich enough to help themselves to nature’s ecological resources and services like food, timber, materials from the rest of the world.

Put a glass lid over Japan, Germany or England and they wouldn’t last long.

“We exploited the biological resources abroad, especially in the South. This is why we, the people of Aichi, Nagoya, must apologise…for the deterioration of the ecosystems and biodiversity we have caused,” says a public appeal by civil society from Nagoya, the host city of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for the last two weeks of October.

The Japanese government wanted no part of this apology, says Kinhide Mushakoji, one of the organisers and a professor at the Osaka University of Economics and Law. The appeal was signed by 156 organisations in Japan.
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Biodiversity Pact Signed To Halt Species Extinctions and Protect the Web of Life

By Stephen Leahy*

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 31, 2010 (Tierramérica)

The delegates to the 10th Conference of Parties (COP 10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity ended up with a relatively weak plan for the Herculean task of halting the disappearance of species. The exception was a pact on the use of genetic resources.

Delegates from 193 countries agreed to put under protection 17 percent of land and 10 percent of oceans by 2020 to stop the loss of plant and animal diversity in their ecosystems.

Currently less than 10 percent of land and less than one percent of the oceans are protected. Previous targets had been 25 and 15 percent, respectively

But among the items agreed was the “Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Utilisation,” the most notable achievement of COP 10 — which had been in negotiations for 18 years.

The Nagoya Protocol establishes mechanisms for making use of the genetic material in plants, animals and microbes for food, medicines, industrial products, cosmetics and other applications.

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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

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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Environmental Destruction Makes Money. Conservation Costs Money. This Global Dilemma Must Be Solved

Rich Countries Balk At Spending $ to Halt Biodiversity Crisis

By Stephen Leahy

NAIROBI, May 31, 2010 (IPS)

Developing countries rich in plants and animals but poor in financial and technical resources refused to make binding commitments to halt the unraveling of the planet’s biological infrastructure at the close of a major meeting Friday at the U.N.’s African headquarters in Nairobi.

For their part, rich countries balked at a 50-fold increase in funding to support efforts to slow and reverse the loss of species and ecosystems.

“Anything to do with finance has been a big problem here at this meeting,” said James Seyani, a delegate from Malawi and spokesperson for the African countries.

It takes money to protect, conserve and enhance biodiversity – the term for all living things that make up Earth’s ecosystems that are our life support system. Exploitation and destruction of vital ecosystems like forests and peatlands generates millions of dollars in revenue, but conserving or using these lands in ways that preserves biodiversity often costs governments money.

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Reversing the declines in biodiversity is a matter of great urgency and countries with much of the world’s remaining species and intact ecosystems “are prepared to meet their commitments but we need the technical, human and financial resources to do this”, the delegate from Mexico said at the conclusion of the meeting that began May 10.

The absence of such resources is why biodiversity is in its current crisis, he said.

“The developing world needs to remember their previous commitments and provide new additional finances and resources. Those promises are not being adhered to,” Seyani told delegates late Friday afternoon at the end of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) meeting to establish targets and an action plan to end the biodiversity crisis over the next decade. Continue reading