It’s easy to bandy about the term biodiversity, but much less easy to pin down its meaning. Harder still is to enumerate just how important biodiversity is to human life. The rate at which species are going extinct is 100-1000 times as high as normal. According to the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIEE), 33% of our genetic resources for food and agriculture have been lost, 40% of birds, 42% of amphibians, and roughly 70% of fisheries are stretching the sustainable threshold.
Fish is a staple source of animal protein for many of the world who do not have ready access to McDonalds. But we’ve nearly depleted the larger stock such as bluefish tuna and keep hauling out smaller and smaller species. At this rate, all that will be left to eat are jellyfish and algae, according to a recent IIED report called “Banking on Diversity.” The task of representatives gathered at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Japan, then, will be to create policies that will stay what some call the sixth mass extinction.
Biodiversity “stocks supermarkets,” “helps medicine keep pace with disease,” and “ensures nature replenishes the goods and services we rely on,” according to IIED, but we’re losing these natural services at a breakneck pace.
The BBC reports that a team of UN economists estimate that biodiversity’s loss amounts to US$2-5 trillion each year, and poorer nations that rely more directly on nature suffer most.
While northern countries depend on Wall Street and modern financial mechanisms for their daily bread, according to IIED, southern nations outside the cash economy and within the most concentrated spots of biodiversity such as rain forests, depend directly on species variety for sustenance and quality of life.
Whether or not any meaningful action will emerge in Japan is questionable, particularly since the last gathering of policy makers in Copenhagen culminated in a disappointing failure. The CBD was arranged to evaluate the missive established in 2002 to prevent biodiversity loss. Since then, little has changed, and almost everywhere, biodiversity loss has accelerated rather than lessened.
But change is not unattainable.
Although we have doubled our food and water consumption since the 1960s, Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation programmes at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) told the BBC, and even though the population has doubled, some important restoration programs are paying off.
“The forest area is growing in Europe and China, while deforestation is slowing in Brazil,” according to the BBC.
While the forces that jeopardize biodiversity are complex, it seems important to establish programs that prevent over-exploitation of natural resources by huge corporations, and present local communities with fair and realistic sustainability programs. Whether Nagoya will lead to such programs remains to be seen.
More on biodiversity in the Middle East:
image via Neil Barman