On November 7th at the Convention on Biological Diversity SBSTA meeting, Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf (Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity) and Felix Dodds (Executive Director of Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future) launched their book "Biodiversity Insecurity-A Planet in Peril"
This book has been produced as a contribution to the discourse on the increasing threats of the biodiversity crisis on international peace and security of the world.
In the twenty years since the beginning of the negotiations for a framework convention on biological diversity, we have seen the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems increase - not diminish - to the point where they are starting to reach tipping points and threatening planetary boundaries. Every living organism on Earth plays an important role in the web of life. The biodiversity present today in our planet is the result of billions of years of natural and human evolution, and it represents an essential resource for human living. Unfortunately, throughout the decades, unsustainable human patterns of consumption of natural resources have led to unprecedented rates of biodiversity loss, species extinction, and degraded ecosystems, which have affected not only the habitats of thousands of species, but the livelihoods of many of our own human population.
At the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the leaders of the world agreed to substantially reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010. The third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook released early this year by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity demonstrates that this commitment has not been met. It shows that we continue to lose species at up to 1,000 times the natural background rate and that ecosystems may be approaching tipping points beyond which widespread and irreversible degradation will take place. It shows that the main drivers of biodiversity loss have not only remained more or less constant over the past decade, but are in some cases intensifying. The report also makes plain that the poor will suffer the most if we cannot reverse these trends. To quote its text: “It is clear that continuing with “business as usual” will jeopardize the future of all human societies, and none more so than the poorest who depend directly on biodiversity for a particularly high proportion of their basic needs.”
The report confirms that we are living in an increasingly unstable world moving towards a planet in peril, a planet in danger of reaching points of no return, where ecosystems and habitats are being lost forever and their capacity to provide resources for future generations is lost along with them. However, amidst the grim scenario, there is still belief that there is time to change the course of action to create a more balanced planet for all species on Earth, including us humans. But time is running out, and it is running out fast. As Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968, said: “a revolution is coming, a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough— But a revolution is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability.” With the proposal of a new global strategy, the action of world governments in the upcoming years will determine whether the natural habitats and conditions of our planet will be able to continue providing vital resources to present and future generations.
Ecosystem and biodiversity loss which are greater compounded by the diverse effects of climate change, pose a great threat to humanity. However, the issues affecting biodiversity and their consequences are multifaceted, therefore we have asked the contributors to expand on what are the current conditions and historical trends of ecosystems and biodiversity; what impacts could these have on increasing insecurity in the world; what have been the consequences of changes in ecosystems for human well-being; what could happen in the future; what should the response be and what are the decisions that governments singularly or together have to take for, and with their people, to sustain our biodiversity and ecosystems.
Planet in Balance
It is clear to us that the challenges ahead are great. We have the chance in 2012 at the next ‘Rio Earth Summit’ to change the direction of our economic model to create a balanced planet where resources can be shared and utilized in a sustainable manner, but global action must start now. Our responsibilities include passing on a healthy planet and rich biodiversity and ecosystems to future generations. We can only do that with the support of all stakeholders, including civil society, but most notably policy making entities which hold within their grasp the course of action that millions can and will take.
In addition, the parallels of ecological problems with the financial crisis are clear. The banks and financial institutions privatised the gains and socialised the losses. We are doing the same with the planet’s natural capital. According to WWF we are operating at 25% above the biological capacity to support life and that is before adding another billion people by 2020. Though it is hard for some societies to understand and accept that present lifestyles must change, it is absolutely necessary to strive for more sustainable ways of consuming the finite resources on Earth. We are presently drawing upon the ecological capital from future generations and if natural loss continues at this rate, for the first time in history, humanity will face the 6th greatest extinction, the first ever caused by anthropogenic influence, as referenced by the Institute of Sustainable Development and International Relations (2010).
If the Security Council of the United Nations Organisation convened, in April 2007, a meeting to discuss the security implication of climate change, time has come also to convene a special meeting of the Security Council on the biodiversity crisis and its security implication. When biodiversity disappears, there is no replacement; when ecosystems fail we can’t recreate them. We need to work together to create a planet in balance where everyone can be benefit from living on this planet together, simply because biodiversity is life, Biodiversity is OUR life.
We dedicated the book to the work of Rachel Carson who inspired us and warned us of the dangers ahead:
“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been travelling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road -- the one less travelled by -- offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”
To purchase the book click here