Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Global Biodiversity Outlook

Over the last few days three significant reports, each making grim reading. have been published. The shortest, at just 12 pages, is The Lost Decade for Nature, from the RSPB. Then we have the 83 page Living Planet Report 2020 from WWF and the Zoological Society of London. Today we got the big one from the United Nations, 212 pages of The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 (GBO-5). And many of us watched Extinction: The Facts, a BBC TV programme introduced by David Attenborough.

The 6th Mass Extinction got off to a slow and gradual start during the Holocene with our hunter ancestors eating their way through the megafauna, the mammoths, aurochs and such like, and modifying the landscape with their fire and axes. 

The pace of change hotted up in recent centuries, the dodo and passenger pigeon disappearing before anyone realised what was happening.

But now, firmly in the Anthropocene, the rate of extinction has accelerated to a level never seen before on the planet, save perhaps when the Cretaceous meteorite impacted. And as this week's reports show, we cannot plead ignorance. We know what is happening, we know why it is happening and we know that it is all down to our behaviour.

GBO-5 begins thus:

"Humanity stands at a crossroads with regard to the legacy it leaves to future generations. Biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, and the pressures driving this decline are intensifying. None of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets will be fully met, in turn threatening the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and undermining efforts to address climate change."

What is abundantly clear is that the efforts by governments the world over have failed. Of course we need to tell our governments to try harder, to do more, to act more urgently, but it is not enough to just blame governments. That is scapegoating. It is our personal and individual behaviour that cumulatively is the problem. We act directly on the biosphere and indirectly by creating the political climate in which governments are empowered.

In my recent blog on a different topic, Coronavirus 37, I made the point "It's good to avoid being judgemental of others' behaviour. Their circumstances will be unknown." but each of us needs urgently to look at the choices we are able to make and decide whether we are part of the problem or part of the solution, whether we want to be part of the problem or part of the solution, and what we are going to do about it. 

Today, before it is too late.






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