Only by curbing biodiversity loss can we ensure human survival
A profusion of globeflowers (Trollius farreri) and Yajiang primroses (Primula malacoides) on a high mountain steppe in western Sichuan province. SUN XIAOME
Amid all the problems faced by the world, those related to the economy being the most pressing for big business and world leaders, even though broad environmental problems, especially greenhouse gas emissions and climate-related issues, get some attention once in a while, biodiversity is rarely, if ever, discussed despite the global elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos declaring in January that the loss of biodiversity is one of the five biggest threats to the world's economies.
Unfortunately, the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, Yunnan province, where a new 10-year global framework for biodiversity-related policymaking to set new goals for the protection and sustainable use of nature agreed by the CBD would have been considered for adoption, has been postponed from October this year to May 2021.
Instead, the UN Summit on Biodiversity will be convened by the UN General Assembly president next month via video link under the theme "Urgent Action on Biodiversity for Sustainable Development", which may set the agenda for the May conference in Kunming.
The CBD has been in force since 1993, and continues to be a landmark for global environmental agreements, and brings together 196 UN member countries in a framework convention with a strategic plan, which is revised every 10 years.
The conference to be held in Kunming had assumed added importance because two major reports last year had warned the international community about the exponentially rising risks associated with climate change, environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity. The warnings came in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem, with the latter saying that more than 1 million species are at risk of extinction.
Even if 10 percent of the ISPBE report turns out to be true, it could signal the beginning of an unstoppable catastrophe, because the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat all rely on biodiversity. And biodiversity is in a crisis because of us humans.
Biodiversity is the diversity of life, in all its forms and all its interconnections and interactions. This sounds complex because it is the most complex aspect of our planet, and also the most important. Starting with genes, then individual species of plants and animals, to all living beings, communities of all creatures, biodiversity encompasses the entire ecosystems including forests and coral reefs where life interplays with the physical environment.
Biodiversity is sum of the knowledge all species, evolving and evolved, over millions of years have acquired about how to survive in extensively different environmental conditions the Earth has experienced. Not surprisingly all species, be they plants or animals, except one, know the limit to which they can go. And the species that doesn't and therefore has been violating the laws of nature for thousands of years, and has accelerated the rate of such violations over the past few decades, is homo sapiens.
Yet 2020, because of the pandemic, could be the turning point in saving biodiversity if we review our quest for perennial economic growth.
The new CBD draft, known by its preliminary name "Zero Draft of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework", was issued in January, raising hopes, especially since the World Economic Forum also seemed concerned by the rapid loss of biodiversity, that the world will have learned a lesson from our collective failure over the years to stem the environmental degradation and biodiversity loss.
We could, for instance, set ambitious global goals, with the help of environmental scientists, which are concrete and tangible and yet achievable. These goals must adapt to local systems and conditions and meet the needs of local communities, without whose help nothing can be achieved.
Lest we forget, local communities, especially in rural environs, have as much knowledge about biodiversity, albeit in their own areas, than the most knowledgeable scientist. So interaction with local communities in protecting biodiversity is paramount. It is also important to openly share data with local communities, rather all communities, to educate people about the importance of biodiversity to human life.
And we should never forget that Mother Nature is the basis of everything we have and everything we need. But all this is possible only if big business changes its attitude toward profits and spares a thought for the survival of all species to ensure the survival of humans.