Biodiversity ‘talk and no walk’

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Nagoya, Japan is at its midpoint and there is already talk about failure. Once again we find environmental issues which have high media attention get little action accomplished. The debates seem to be revolving around similar problems that the Climate Change international summits faced – the developed world concerned about targets and the developing world asking for economic assistance to make those targets happen. The developed world doesn’t commit and the goals fail.

Perhaps, like in climate change, the approach needs to be changed. Rather than focusing on mitigation which is ultimately what the Convention is proposing, the focus needs to be on adaptation. Adaptation makes sense when you actually go and visit a person living in dire poverty in the jungle,  (hungry, sick, afraid, uneducated, desperate) and you recognize that the best way to help the forest is to help the person. No one who owns a car, has hot showers in the morning, can choose between corn flakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast can ‘demand’ that the destitute jungle dweller refrain from one single activity, whatever it is, in order to survive. But the rich can ‘suggest’ and above all, they can help -with money, attention, time and care. As Dave Newport once said ‘If you want to save the bunny rabbit, help people’.

That’s why approaches, such as the WWF suggest and can be seen in the BBC article, that oppose human life with all other life, are conflicting and fundamentally flawed. Nothing good will be achieved by this selfish anthropological pessimism that seeks to place the blame on others, especially the most unfortunate. As Cardinal Ratzinger puts:

“The humility of faith has disapeared, shattered on the arrogance of activity. From this there is derived a new and no less ruinous view – an attitude that looks upon the human being as a disturber of peace, as the one who wrecks everything, as the real parasite and disease of nature. Human beings no longer have any use for themselves; they would rather put themselves out of the way so that nature might be well again. But this is not how to bring healing to the world, for we go against the Creator when we no longer want to exist as the human beings that he wanted to exist. It is not thus that we heal nature, but rather thus that we destroy both ourselves and creation by removing from it the hope that lies in it and the greatness to which it is called.” (“In the beginning…” p. 38)

3 thoughts on “Biodiversity ‘talk and no walk’

  1. Whether the issue is biodiversity/species loss, education or economics the main effort and energy seems to be spent on defining goals. That is the easy part and requires the least bravery for making decisions. But where we see that goals are achieved is when we put our resources into people based solutions. Program development is the skill lacking here not goal definition. The U.S. civil rights movement is an example. A very simple goal was articulated – “equal rights”. The energy was put into efforts to ensure equal education and job opportunities and person to person model programs that changed “the human heart”. The lesson was that positive change occurred when the “people” factor was addressed.
    I don’t think species biodiversity is any different. Governments and so called environmental organizations need to account for the needs of people. Human adaptation, as a process, involves human development. Instead of just making goals and laws, what about looking at programs that involve local folks’ input and training on solutions and alternatives. That is “walking the talk”. But this would involve including the local folks in the planning discussions – something the government and ecological “elites “are not inclined to do.

    1. Agreed. That is a technical application of the ideas the Pope expressed, I believe. Until the human being takes a protagonical role, we will be abdicating of our responsibilities… and furthermore down the road these programs and goals will not be achieved. People need to be at the center of the equation for moral and even practical reasons. Thus, as you alllude to, this requires a mind shift, metanoia perhaps.

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