A U.N. official warned this week that the lack of progress on preserving global biodiversity will have dire economic effects. Ahmed Djoghlaf confirmed that no country has met its targets to protect nature, and that we are approaching a tipping point for preserving the planet’s environment and inhabitants. Djoghlaf, secretary-general of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, acknowledged that many governments were cutting back on preserving biodiversity in the face of the worldwide recession, but stated that this policy was short-sighted: “The loss of biodiversity compounds poverty. Destroy your nature and you increase poverty and insecurity. Biodiversity is fundamental to social life, education and aesthetics. It’s a human right to live in a healthy environment.” He also noted that biodiversity and climate change are linked; 89% of country reports on biodiversity this year identified climate change as a major threat. Dioghlaf asserted that we cannot solve one without addressing the other: healthy ecosystems, healthy humans and a healthy atmosphere are interconnected.
So how are we to achieve significant and speedy movement toward stemming the current loss rate of 150 or more species going extinct every day? A recent video of WWF official Jason Clay encapsulates, in 20 minutes, a cogent assessment of the issue and an action plan. The capacity of the planet to absorb human consumption level was surpassed some time around 1990. As of now, we are like bad bankers, living off our principal instead of interest. And while the number of humans — overpopulation– is a huge problem, it is also the rate and amount that we consume that crucially affects the world’s balance. The average American consumes 43 times as much as the average African, and it is predicted that standards of living — and therefore consumption — will continue to rise around the world. How is the planet to absorb the demands of more people living better?
One part of the answer, of course, is to consume less, and to consume selectively. And while individual actions are important, to attain really significant and rapid change, actions must be taken at the distributor level. Rather than focusing just on changing consumer behavior, which involves communicating very complex issues around buying decisions in the few seconds it takes to decide whether to buy the local or imported lamb, it makes more sense to change the minds and actions of a few key global players–multinational corporations — whose actions have such profound and rapid effects on global supplies and supply chains.
In this brilliant video, Clay demonstrates how, by changing the actions of a major corporation — such as how Cargill approaches palm oil — far more can be done in a far shorter amount of time. And, as both Clay and the U.N. have stated, we are running out of time.
Photo: The Human Footprint map
Image courtesy Center for International Earth Science Information Network Last of the Wild Project