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Biodiversity Loss Threatens Global Economy: Can Corporations Save Us?

Biodiversity Loss Threatens Global Economy: Can Corporations Save Us?

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.

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Photo: The Human Footprint map
Image courtesy Center for International Earth Science Information Network Last of the Wild Project


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82 comments

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10:06AM PST on Feb 17, 2013

Read this article with mixed emotions. Big Corps have been all about money for how long? It would take some compassionate, caring people being employed, who actually give a darn about the planet we live on. At least, I would like to see Big Corps have to clean up, after all the messes they make. Right now they are in biological suicide mode.
I have always been against conglomerates/monopolies as they end up with too much control.
Well I will keep on buying from local farmers, and anything made locally with the environment in mind.Our Rona stores (lumber & building supplies), had a campaign to plant more trees, and they reached that goal and now use recycled paper for their flyers that are now only two pages. I give them kudos for for doing this, and kudos for selling environmentaly friendly products.

1:47PM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

I would like to have some hopes about this subject. Mentalities in corporate business areas have to speed their way of thinking. Lets hope.....

5:46PM PDT on Sep 3, 2010

I will hope that corps change but will continue to boycott all huge corps that contribute to the greed machine. I boycott most corps over a certain size. I thought they were allowed to be too big before wall st bail out but ever since then all that runs through my head when I think of them is "too big to fail" That is why they said they had to bail them out because if they failed they would cause a ripple affect. They should not be allowed to be that big. period.

6:49AM PDT on Sep 1, 2010

I made a choice to stop buying the chocolate brand Mars some time back bec of the lack of fair-trade practices. Corporations can certainly make a big difference if they're willing to.

2:12PM PDT on Aug 26, 2010

I know this sounds like an impossible dream but just maybe corporations can grow spiritually. After all, there is a meditation room in the Pentagon. I am, however, more affraid of corporations than the Pentagon. For all the awful things the Pentagon is, it at least does not have a profit motive.

10:01AM PDT on Aug 23, 2010

I would be willing to settle for corporations not actively contributing to the continuing extinction of species.

7:38AM PDT on Aug 23, 2010

But, they, most likely, won't.

8:28AM PDT on Aug 22, 2010

Thank you so much! Now, is there a possibility that companies/corporations receive training on this before being issued a business license?

7:35AM PDT on Aug 22, 2010

Corporations largely got us into this mess in the first place. Are we being realistic to think they can get beyond the profit motive far enough to care what happens to the world's future?

10:36AM PDT on Aug 21, 2010

Will corporate change for the greater good? We will see if they step up to the plate, if not then culture will need a shift in infrastructure to move forward.

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