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COP10 Final post from Nagoya, Japan: Sharing a moving plea from a Sudanese cattleman

Keith Bowers, President, Biohabitats

COP10dAs I finish my participation in the Convention on Biological Diversity, 10th Conference of Parties, I offer the following impressions, comments and pleas.

One – There are many committed, passionate people here who really care about biodiversity. That said, there are also a lot of people here representing government interests that are hell-bent on weakening targets to conserve biodiversity in exchange for continued unsustainable economic growth.  A real pity.

Two – Convention ‘speak’ runs amok.  It’s a wonder that anyone outside the convention process can understand the myriad of committees, acronyms and codes that make up the convention.  Sometimes I think that this is on purpose to justify the ‘importance’ of the people and the groups working on the convention.  Not that I don’t think that this work is important, just put it in plain English (or Spanish, Chinese or Swahili) so everyone around the globe can quickly grasp the enormity and severity of this crises.

Three – The best part of these gatherings is the connections and networks that are formed. However, like many of these endeavors, we are preaching to the choir.  What we need is to have all of the finance ministers, multi-national corporation heads, and world political leaders here, so they can learn first-hand about how the conservation and restoration of biodiversity is not only good for the planet, but can also be good for the economy, jobs, and our future well being. It’s a win-win situation, but somehow they just don’t get it.

Four – Everyone is talking about the pros and cons of geoengineering to mitigate climate change, the role of assigning monetary values to ecosystem services, and the international regime of access and benefit sharing (see what I mean about convention speak?). But no one is talking about population growth and overconsumption.  We are looking at doubling the world’s population in 50 years to 9 billion people.  This, combined with our overconsumption of non-renewable resources, will dwarf everything this convention is trying to address.  Come on, wake up!

Five – The most passionate plea I heard came today at the last session I participated in.  A village cattleman from Sudan talked about how his fields are drying up, his cattle are dying, his family is suffering and he is witnessing a continuing and accelerating loss of plants and animals that provide subsistence to his community.   He came to this conference hoping to hear countries commit to halting the loss of biodiversity.  Instead, he said all he has witnessed is countries fighting over brackets (text within the convention amendments and strategic plan that are disputed are placed in brackets to be negotiated between the parties).  He just needs answers, technical guidance and support that he can take back to his community so he and his family can cope with the impending changes to his livelihood.  Finally he pleaded that we should all be required to bring our children to the COP and they should be allowed to ask what we are doing and why we are making the decisions we are making; after all, it is their future and we are not doing a very good job.  We all had tears in our eyes when he finished speaking.  What kind of world are we leaving for our children? You have to ask yourself that question.

Six – The U.S. is conspicuously and embarrassingly absent from this dialogue.  The U.S., along with Andorra and the Holy See, are the only non-signatories of the Convention on Biological Diversity in the world!  This is utterly disgraceful, irresponsible and foolish.

Seven – We are all responsible for the loss of biodiversity; you, me, your kids, our family and friends, all of us.  And we are all part of the solution.  We can make a difference.  Let’s all work together to conserve biodiversity and restore our future.

On Wednesday I gave a presentation in a side event on Ecological Restoration.  Today, I presented at the Rio Pavillion.

5 comments

  1. Vince Sortman says:

    One of the main responsibilities of government is to protect its citizens. Therefore you would think climate change and biodiveristy decline would be priorities for protecting the common good. Unfortunately the vast majority of registered voters do not see climate change and biodiversity decline as imminent dangers. In my opinion, governements (who understand the dangers posed by climate change and biodiversity decline) should at least be responsivle for educating its citizens about these dangers so that they can become priorities. I think another obstical for Americans is the lack of a sense of community. It is unfortunate that we live in a society where individualism trumps the common good. This "Look-out-for-number-one" mentality is the root cause of our economic problems as well as our environmental problems. Saddly, it will take some cataclyzmic event for us to come together as a community. I hope it's not too late when that occurs.

  2. Vince Sortman says:

    One of the main responsibilities of government is to protect its citizens. Therefore you would think climate change and biodiveristy decline would be priorities for protecting the common good. Unfortunately the vast majority of registered voters do not see climate change and biodiversity decline as imminent dangers. In my opinion, governments (who understand the dangers posed by climate change and biodiversity decline) should at least be responsible for educating its citizens about these dangers so that they can become priorities. This education needs to take place in our schools because most American adults do not trust the government nor do they trust the scientific community. I think another obstacle for Americans is the lack of a sense of community. It is unfortunate that we live in a society where individualism trumps the common good. This "Look-out-for-number-one" mentality is the root cause of our economic problems as well as our environmental problems. Saddly, I feel it will take some cataclyzmic event for us to come together as a community. I hope it's not too late when that occurs.

  3. Keith Bowers says:

    I agree Vince.

    Unfortunately it is almost too late. there have been 5 mass extinctions on our planet in the last 550 million years. The last one happening about 70 million years ago with the dinosaurs. And even that one was not nearly as large as the other 4. Now, scientists predict that we are almost half-way there toward the 6th great extinction, and once we reach that threshold, there may be no turning back. I hate it when folks sound like chicken little but come on, wake up!!

  4. Sandra says:

    thanks for this retranscritpion, so intersting to see how it is really, directly 'in'.
    Sandra
    (CEM and SER member)

  5. keith says:

    Thanks Sandra for the feedback. We have a lot of work to do but I feel optimistic. Hopefully the rest of the planet will wake up to these challenges and face them head-on.

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