Bloom Blog

Insights from Michael Bloomfield, Founder and Executive Director of the Harmony Foundation

2010 – The UN’s International Year of Biodiversity

It was supposed to be a celebration. This was the year when governments had agreed to substantially reduce the rate of biodiversity loss, a goal 192 world-leaders signed onto in 2002.

Hold the confetti; it appears that this celebration is premature and undeserved.

According to the authoritative Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, published earlier this year by the UNEP and the Convention on Biodiversity, this target has far from been met. Furthermore, the Outlook states that of the five main pressures causing a decline in biodiversity— habitat change, over-exploitation, pollution, invasive alien species, and climate change— are at best constant and generally getting worse.

As Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General, warns, “The consequences of this collective failure, if it is not quickly corrected, will be severe for us all.”

Virtually all of Earth’s ecosystems have been dramatically transformed through human actions. For example, forests, which once covered over 40% of the Earth, have been reduced by more than 1/3 in the past 50 years, more in the tropics, representing the fastest change in human history.  Thirty-five percent of mangrove forests have been lost, largely to feed our voracious appetite for shrimp.  More than 20% of coral reef areas have been seriously degraded by fishing, agricultural runoff and climate change.

With a loss of such rich and valuable habitat, comes a loss of many species of life.
By one estimate, published in the American Scientist, another extinction occurs somewhere on earth roughly every 20 minutes. At that pace half of all living bird and mammal species will be gone within 200 or 300 years. [1]

Already, an estimated two of every three bird species are in decline worldwide, one in every eight plant species is endangered or threatened, and one-quarter of mammals, one-quarter of amphibians and one-fifth of reptiles are endangered or vulnerable.  

Biodiversity, the diversity of life which supports us and all life on Earth, is rapidly declining, and yet most people could not care less.  Are we that detached from nature, so wound up in lives that we foul our nest and take our survival for granted?

Is money your game? Biodiversity is about much more than saving Pandas. The loss of biodiversity will eclipse the economic impacts of climate change.

Food, medicine and fresh water, the pollination of crops and fertilization of soil, the removal of pollutants from land and air and water are many of the “services” provided through healthy ecosystems.

And yet, our over-use and wasteful habits are bringing us closer to a number of tipping points that would catastrophically reduce the capacity of ecosystems to provide these essential services.

At stake are the principal objectives outlined in the Millennium Development Goals: food security, poverty eradication and healthier populations.

Hell, let’s not beat around the bush. The threats facing life on Earth are greater than at any time in recorded history. Climate change, water shortages, declining forests, the collapse of marine and land habitats from over-harvesting and pollution- symptoms of excessive human demands on the planet’s finite resources which threaten life as we know it.

Our economy, our health, our survival depend on determined action to conserve biodiversity and sustainably manage the world’s resources for ourselves, other species and future generations.

The rewards: better health, greater food security, and less poverty and the conflict promised by more of the same wanton disregard for the environment, social justice and our responsibilities to the future.

More resilient ecosystems will help to slow climate change by enabling ecosystems to absorb and store more carbon; and help ensure greater public health and food security. Actions to restore and maintain healthy ecosystems also can provide economic gains worth trillions of dollars a year.

According to the 3rd Global Diversity Outlook, produced by The Convention on Biological Diversity, an investment of $45bn a year to establish a comprehensive network of protected areas would prevent losses of up to $ 5 trillion a year, resulting from deforestation and forest degradation alone.

As Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary Convention on Biological Diversity poignantly says in the Outlook: “Let us individually and collectively, seize this opportunity; for the sake of current and future generations as indeed biodiversity is life, biodiversity is our life.”

We can no longer plead ignorance; the threat is clear and present. We know what is at stake and we know the causes. For the sake of prosperity, stability and all life on Earth, national rivalries and selfish motivations need to be replaced by enthusiastic international cooperation.



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This entry was posted on September 29, 2010 by in Commentary: Current Events.
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