This Time, For Real

October 29, 2010

Rheanna Sand

Science in Seconds Blog by Rheanna Sand


While most of us were asleep, halfway around the world in Nagoya, Japan, a group of bleary-eyed delegates for the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity were making decisions to help protect the world. From humans, that is.

See, we screwed up. Apparently, back in 1992, we sort of promised the Earth that by 2010 we would stop driving so many species to extinction. And… geez, um, we really MEANT to. But it was the 90's! We were practically choking on optimism back then. And funky hats!

Now, we face the facts. According to the recent Science article, "The Impact of Conservation on the Status of the World’s Vertebrates," the situation isn't pretty. More than 40% of frog species are threatened, as are one third of cartilaginous fish, like sharks, and about 52 species of birds, amphibians, or mammals get closer to extinction every year. The news isn't all bad; without the conservation efforts of the past 20 years, loss of biodiversity would have been about a fifth worse.

But our "human problem" overshadows those gains. The authors of the Science paper state that the main culprits are farming, logging, over-exploitation (I prefer to call it "being greedy assholes"), and invading alien species. Not coincidentally, these are among the topics being addressed at the Convention for Biological Diversity. Representatives from the entire globe are negotiating how much land to set aside, how to keep traditional knowledge alive, and how to make sure indigenous people get their fair share. Everyone except the United States, of course!

The goals are, as they were in 1992, ambitious. As the common wisdom goes, we're in the midst of a perpetual economic crisis. Locally, we have oil companies killing birds by the thousands just to scrape a few barrels out of the sand. Nationally, says Dr. Nicholas Dulvy, Canada was "the 6th largest exporter of shark products between 1997-2006, exporting around 3,500 tonnes of 'product.' " Globally, new species of primate are being discovered… after being killed and eaten.

It will be an uphill battle. One that trusts individual countries to set their own targets, and to negotiate amongst themselves the exact terms of the exploitation. In other words, business as usual.

Sounds like it's time for a Jane Goodall lecture pick-me-up!



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