WE are being told that, “Biodiversity is threatened by the sum of all human activities. It is useful to group threats into the categories of over-hunting, habitat destruction, invasion of non-native species, domino effects, pollution, and climate change.”
- “Habitat loss presents the single greatest threat to world biodiversity, and the magnitude of this threat can be approximated from species-area curves and rates of habitat loss. The spread of non-native species threatens many local species with extinction, and pushes the world’s biota toward a more homogeneous and widely distributed sub-set of survivors. Climate change threatens to force species and ecosystems to migrate toward higher latitudes, with no guarantee of suitable habitat or access routes. These three factors thus are of special concern.”
Okay, I agree to an extent of what The Powers That Be are saying, BUT, the solution is to rein in the WEALTHY TOP Corporations and STOP THEM from polluting our environment, Stop out-sourcing of American Jobs without raising the import fees, STOP THEM from creating all these NEW strains of VIRUSES, STOP THEM from bypassing laws and regulations that WE, the ‘Little People”, have to OBEY or else pay the price. That would take care of the bulk of the problems, the rest would soon fall in place IMO.
And as Jim commented below, the best solution would be to remove the USA from any and ALL FINANCIAL dealings with the UN and it’s splinter groups, before they figure out a way to totally destroy what is left of our Constitutional Rights!
Saturday 2nd January, 2010
In a bid to curb the unprecedented loss of the world’s species due to human activity, at a rate some experts put at 1,000 times the natural progression, the United Nations is marking 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, with a slew of events highlighting the vital role the phenomenon plays in maintaining the life support system on Planet Earth.
“Humans are part of nature’s rich diversity and have the power to protect or destroy it,” the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which is hosted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said in summarizing the Year’s main message, with its focus on raising awareness to generate public pressure for action by the world’s decision makers.
“Biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth, is essential to sustaining the living networks and systems that provide us all with health, wealth, food, fuel and the vital services our lives depend on.
“Human activity is causing the diversity of life on Earth to be lost at a greatly accelerated rate.”
These losses are irreversible, impoverish us all and damage the life support systems we rely on every day. But we can prevent them.”
The Convention, which opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, AGENDA 21, entered into force at the end of 1993 and now has 193 Parties, is based on the premise that the world’s diverse ecosystems purify the air and the water that are the basis of life, stabilize and moderate the Earth’s climate, renew soil fertility, cycle nutrients and pollinate plants.
As a former UNEP Executive Director, Klaus Topfer, put it: “If any part of the web suffers breaks down, the future of life on the planet will be at risk.” That is why the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity.
Although initial celebrations began in November under the slogan “Biodiversity is life, biodiversity is our life,” the official launch will take place in Berlin on 11 January. This will be followed on 21 and 22 January by the first major event of the Year, a high-profile meeting at the Paris headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is expected to bring together heads of state, royalty and their representatives.
A host of other events – meetings, symposia, multi-media exhibitions – will follow throughout the year in venues around world, from Trondheim, Norway, to Delhi, India, from Doha, Qatar, to Cartagena, Colombia, and from Shanghai, China, to Nairobi, Kenya, culminating in a high-level meeting at UN Headquarters in New York at the start of the General Assembly’s 65th annual General Debate in September and an official closing in Kanazawa, Japan, in December.
“A wide variety of environmental goods and services that we take for granted are under threat, with profound and damaging consequences for ecosystems, economies and livelihoods,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in November at the start of the pre-celebrations.
“In this International Year, we must counter the perception that people are disconnected from our natural environment. We must increase understanding of the implications of losing biodiversity. In 2010, I call on every country and each citizen of our planet to engage in a global alliance to protect life on Earth.”
The Montreal-based CBD Secretariat likewise stresses the urgency in raising public awareness of the importance of biodiversity and the consequences of its loss.
“The goal for raising awareness of these issues is to generate public pressure for action by decision makers, and to create the conditions for governments, individuals and other important sectors, to be encouraged to implement the Convention and to engage with other international and national institutions, towards achieving the goals of the Convention.”
The Convention covers all ecosystems, species, and genetic resources, linking traditional conservation efforts to the economic goal of using biological resources sustainably, setting principles for the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources, notably for commercial use and covering the rapidly expanding field of biotechnology, and addressing technology development and transfer, benefit-sharing and biosafety.
While recognizing that ecosystems, species and genes must be used for the benefit of humans, the Convention stipulates that this must be done in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term decline of diversity.
It offers decision-makers guidance based on the precautionary principle that where there is a threat of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to avoid or minimize such a threat. It acknowledges that substantial investment is required to conserve diversity, but argues that conservation will bring significant environmental, economic and social benefits in return.
Looking at the economic costs of action or inaction, a recent
UN-backed The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study estimated loss of natural capital due to deforestation and degradation at between $2 trillion and $4.5 trillion every year – “a staggering economic cost of taking nature for granted.
“It is estimated that for an annual investment of $45 billion into protected areas alone, we could secure the delivery of ecosystem services worth some $5 trillion a year,” it said. “When compared to current financial losses on the markets, this is not a big price to pay. Sound ecosystem and biodiversity management, and the inclusion of Natural Capital in governmental and business accounting can start to redress inaction and reduce the cost of future losses.”
Alex Jones on the UN
Savage on the UN
The sequel to that first biodiversity book, naturally titled Biodiversity II (Reaka-Kudla et al. 1997), documents the rapid rise of the term “biodiversity” in importance and influence. But it also traces the study of aspects of biodiversity back as far as Aristotle. To some extent, biodiversity merely offers a new, emotive, term for some older ideas and programs. In fact, “biodiversity” is now used sometimes to mean “life” or “wilderness” or other conservation values. “Biodiversity” also has served on occasion as a catch-all for “conservation” itself.
The scientific literature illustrates how most any conservation activity might use the label “biodiversity”. On the one hand, workers taking advantage of the acknowledged importance of the term have expanded its meaning to capture concerns at a fine scale, such as that focussing on a favourite single species. This focus might be referred to more accurately as one of “biospecifics”. At the coarser scale, one important interpretation, discussed below, advocates a primary linkage of biodiversity to the maintenance of ecosystem processes — what might be called the “bio-processes” approach.
The nub of the problem of defining biodiversity is that it is hard to exclude anything from a concept that is taken so easily to mean “everything”. Sarkar (2005) has argued that interpreting biodiversity across all biological levels, from genes to ecosystems, amounts to considering all biological entities, so that biodiversity absurdly “becomes all of biology”.
Callicott et al. (1999) examined “biodiversity” as one of the current normative concepts in conservation. They concluded that it remains ill-defined, and that distinctions can be made between “functional” and “compositional” perspectives in approaching biodiversity. “Functional” refers to a primarily concern with ecosystem and evolutionary processes, while “compositional” sees organisms as aggregated into populations, species, higher taxa, communities, and other categories. Callicott et al. call for a better integration of these different perspectives, an issue discussed below in the section on Integrating Process and Elements Perspectives.
Norton (1994) has argued that there will never be a single “objective scientific definition” of biodiversity, in the sense of a prescription for how to measure it. In fact, Norton claims that any increase in our understanding of biodiversity will make it less likely that there will be a single objective measure. This biodiversity pluralism is based on an argument that inevitably there are many different “theory bound” versions of biodiversity and many different ways to value it. This perspective is in accord with recognition of functional-compositional perspectives on biodiversity. For example, Norton (1994; 2001) points to recent emphasis on structure and process regarding ecological “health” or “integrity” that is seen as going beyond a conventional elements-oriented perspective for biodiversity. One cannot aggregate all these different versions of biodiversity. Instead, we are to “describe in ways appropriate given certain purposes” and the choice among these different biodiversity “models” will depend on what values are important to the decision-maker.
This perspective is characterized as “post-positivist” because it recognizes biodiversity as inevitably value-laden — there is no one, correct, measure of biodiversity to be discovered but many, each having different values. Roebuck and Phifer (1999) lament what they perceive as current “positivism” in biodiversity conservation, described by them as based variously on processes of verificationism and falsificationism in seeking facts. They argue that biodiversity conservation is rooted primarily in ethics and we must not continue to back away from values and advocacy.
The idea that the choice of a measure of biodiversity depends on values finds support in Sarkar (2005). He argues that biodiversity operationally amounts to whatever is the valued target of conservation priority setting for different localities.
Biodiversity may be a catch-all for various aspects of conservation, but the fresh perspectives arising from recognition of “biodiversity” suggest possible unifying concepts. E. O. Wilson (1988) sees “biodiversity” as corresponding to a dramatic transformation for biologists from a “bits and pieces” approach to a much more holistic approach. Wilson describes this change in perspective as a realization that biological diversity is disappearing and, unlike other threatened things, is irreversible. Wrapped up in the term therefore is the idea of a “biodiversity crisis”. Ehrenfeld (1988) similarly reinforces this idea of the value of diversity in the aggregate. He argues that diversity previously was never regarded in itself to be in danger, but that biodiversity now is recognised as endangered in its own right. Wrapped up in the term therefore is the idea of a “biodiversity crisis”. While the case for such a crisis itself raises debates about measures and definitions (see Sarkar, 2005), the definition of “biodiversity” sometimes explicitly reflects these links to an extinction crisis. Takacs (1996) reviews cases where the definition of biodiversity is wrapped up in the idea of strategies needed to preserve variation. In accord with this perspective is a shift to a focus on valuing ecosystem processes. This focus arguably will ensure maintenance and ongoing evolution of these systems, and therefore all of biodiversity.
Holistic perspectives on biodiversity have emerged also through another important focus. For Wilson (1988), biodiversity captures the idea of a “frontier of the future”, presenting a dazzling prospect of largely unknown variety, with unanticipated uses. Biodiversity is seen by many as a symbol for our lack of knowledge about the components of life’s variation, and their importance to humankind (see Takacs 1996). These arguments suggest that core biodiversity values might be based more on what we do not know than what we do know. Biodiversity can be viewed as primarily capturing the two-fold challenge of unknown variety, having unknown value.
Anticipated future uses and values of the unknown are captured in the idea of “option values” (for definitions, see World Conservation Union 1980). A species, or other element of biodiversity, has option value when its continued existence retains the possibility of future uses and benefits. Option value corresponds not just to unknown future values of known species, but also to the unknown values of unknown species (or other components of variation). This concept is at the core of biodiversity because it links “variation” and “value”. Estimating and quantifying the largely unknown variation that makes up biodiversity is one and the same as quantifying corresponding option values of biodiversity. According to this emphasis, a basic definition of biodiversity might be expanded as: the variety of all forms of life, from the scale of genes through to species and ecosystems …so forming a “calculus” — a means for measurement and comparison — of option values.
In developing ideas about the overall value of biodiversity it has been natural to draw on existing arguments about values of individual species (for review, see World Conservation Union 1980; Norton 1988). Commodity value and other direct use values have intuitive appeal because they reflect known values. But a key problem is that species need to be preserved for reasons other than any known value as resources for human use (Sober 1986). Callicott (1986) discusses philosophical arguments regarding non-utilitarian value and concludes that there is no easy argument to be made except a moral one. Species have some “intrinsic value” — reflecting the idea that a species has a value “in and for itself” (Callicott 1986, p.140) — and there is an ethical obligation to protect biodiversity.
A philosophical issue is whether such species values depend on a human-centered perspective. The environmental ethics entry notes that assessments of issues concerned with biodiversity allow for “commitment either to a purely anthropocentric or purely non-anthropocentric ethic”. Regan (1986) argues that we need “duties that are independent of out changeable needs and preferences.” Callicott (1986) sees the intrinsic value of species as not independent of human values, because such values can be linked to Hume’s theory of moral values. Norton (1986) sees all species as collectively embraced by an environmental ethic that is anthropocentric.
Randall (1988, p. 218) has argued that preference is the basis for value and that it is possible to treat all species values as preferences of humans. Preferences-based approaches to valuation can provide economic (dollar) estimates of value. This valuation process may include methods for assessing and quantifying option values. A claimed advantage of such approaches is that the only good way to protect species is to place an economic value on them. Randall argues that such quantification is advantageous because the species preservation option will fare well when the full range of values is included in conservation priority setting.
The context for many of these arguments has been a consideration of various criteria for placing priorities among species for conservation efforts. These considerations have led to debates about the role of “triage” based on species prioritization. Triage recalls the medical context in which priorities are set for investments in saving patients. Applied to conservation, individual species are differentially valued and assessed relative to differential opportunity costs. The best conservation package is to be found through a process of calculating costs and benefits of protection of individual species.
Many biologists have rejected the idea of triage and argue that we must try to save all species (Takacs 1996). Philosophical issues arise in the debate as to whether biodiversity should be approached through the process of differentially valuing species, so that choices could be made in the face of a budget, or regarding species as the fundamental unit and trying to protect them all. The latter option is arguably more holistic and in accord with a focus on all of biodiversity (the individual species focus is sometimes viewed as the first of three phases of growth in biological resources assessment; see the section on The Shift from Elements to Processes).
If one nominated a “prequel” to Biodiversity (1988) it might be The Preservation of Species (Norton 1986). The title suggests a species focus, but the book’s subtitle refers to biological diversity. This book documents an attempt to move from values of species to some overall value of biodiversity, rejecting typical triage arguments based on benefits versus costs for individual species. Here, Norton criticizes the “benefit — cost” approaches as piecemeal because every species must exhibit actual or potential use to justify itself. He argues that every species arguably has utilitarian value and that species perceived values are hard to estimate. For this reason, trying to place dollar values is “doomed to failure” (1986, p. 202). Norton concludes that we can’t try to sum up values (in accord with his general advocacy of no aggregation of biodiversity values). It is argued that we should abandon the “divide and conquer” approach and look at total diversity, with species as a unit: “each species in an area can be viewed as a unit of total diversity.” Ehrenfeld’s (1988) position is even more sharply defined: “value is an intrinsic part of biodiversity; it does not depend on the properties of the species in question.”
We can recognize two alternatives to the use of species as equal-weight units for an SMS. One of these (see the section on The Shift from Elements to Processes) consciously moves further away from units or items of any kind. Here, the valuation of species is seen as problematic, with arbitrary solutions. Valuation is to encompass all of biodiversity but through a functional perspective, shifting the focus to ecosystems processes (Norton 1994, 2001).
The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) has a major campaign to address the 2010 target, based on mobilising extensive museum species collections data to form the biodiversity calculus needed for exploring trade-offs and synergies in different regions [see GBIF 2010 Campaign]http://www.edinburgh.ceh.ac.uk/biota/Archive_2010target/8217.htm
Despite a wide range of usage, biodiversity remains a concept strongly linked to the idea of biological variation that is largely unknown in its extent, and its future values. Any “calculus” of biodiversity providing quantitative estimates of this unknown variation automatically provides at the same time a measure of those values that link to the need to maintain variety — option values and intrinsic values. Such values broadly reflect values of elements of biodiversity having unknown present value. These quantified values typically will not be in conventional units (e.g. dollars), but nevertheless can be balanced with other values of society. Decision making (for example, deciding whether we should invest in conservation of area A or area B) may require only estimates of relative gains in represented variation offered by different places (their “complementarity” values). Complementarity helps integrate biodiversity option values with other values attributed to biodiversity, and with values of society more generally. This integrative process, together with processes for the growth of knowledge about components of biodiversity, provide an alternative to the “post-positivism” perspective that sees biodiversity conservation as predominantly value-laden.
The perspective that biodiversity reflects option and intrinsic values, to be balanced with other values, appears to be compatible with the broader discipline of conservation biology: “the field is rooted in a philosophy of stewardship rather than one of utilitarianism or consumption. The latter has been the basis of traditional resource conservation, that is, conserving resources solely for their economic use and human consumption” (Meffe 2000).
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said more must be done to repair damage done in the Gaza Strip by Israeli military action one year ago.
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“Historically social movements have arisen primarily because of injustice, inequities, and corruption. Those woes remain legion but a new condition exists that has no precedent: the planet has a life threatening disease that is marked by massive ecological degradation and rapid climate change.”
At the meeting of the environment ministers of the G8 countries and the five major newly industrializing countries that took place in Potsdam in March 2007, the German government proposed a study on ‘The economic significance of the global loss of biological diversity’ as part of the so-called ‘Potsdam Initiative’ for biodiversity.
The following wording was agreed at Potsdam: ‘In a global study we will initiate the process of analysing the global economic benefit of biological diversity, the costs of the loss of biodiversity and the failure to take protective measures versus the costs of effective conservation.’
This proposal was endorsed by G8+5 leaders at the Heiligendamm Summit on 6-8 June 2007.
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