CITES, Biodiversity Loss and the Culprit: Intensive Fishing and Farming
By Paula Crossfield
March 17th, 2010
Governments from 120 nations are gathered in Doha, Qatar this week to discuss the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). High up on the agenda is a potential trade ban on bluefin tuna, supported by both the US and Europe, which would allow time for the species to recover before it can be traded again. Japan, where bluefin is a delicacy and where 80% of the fish is consumed, is strongly opposed to the move — despite convincing scientific evidence that the species is nearing collapse.
According to Charles Clover, journalist and author of the book The End of the Line, the Japanese press has arrived in Doha en masse, and “have been placing stories saying that the attempt to ban international trade in the bluefin is an attack on the Japanese custom of eating fish.” Yesterday’s report from Clover indicated that an Appendix II listing for bluefin is in discussion, which he says would equal “business as usual.” The film version of The End of the Line gave photographic evidence of the shady deals surrounding bluefin, including the fact that the Japanese company Mitsubishi is currently stockpiling the fish and now controls 60% of the trade.
The Wrong Kind of Green
Why did America's leading environmental groups jet to Copenhagen and lobby for policies that will lead to the faster death of the rainforests--and runaway global warming? Why are their lobbyists on Capitol Hill dismissing the only real solutions to climate change as "unworkable" and "unrealistic," as though they were just another sooty tentacle of Big Coal?
At first glance, these questions will seem bizarre. Groups like Conservation International are among the most trusted "brands" in America, pledged to protect and defend nature. Yet as we confront the biggest ecological crisis in human history, many of the green organizations meant to be leading the fight are busy shoveling up hard cash from the world's worst polluters--and burying science-based environmentalism in return. Sometimes the corruption is subtle; sometimes it is blatant. In the middle of a swirl of bogus climate scandals trumped up by deniers, here is the real Climategate, waiting to be exposed.
On March 9, 2010, Doris "Granny D" Haddock passed away at the age of 100. Until her last days, Granny was America's most inspiring champion of sanity, decency and justice in the world. The following is perhaps both her finest speech and the clearest statement yet of the challenges facing us in the 21st century. The relevance to our biodiversity struggles should be obvious.
How a Small Group of Dedicated People Might Actually Do Something
by Doris "Granny D" Haddock
Speaking in Hood River, Oregon
August 16, 2003
"You know, there are two kinds of politics in the world: the politics of love and the politics of fear. Love is about cooperation, sharing and inclusion. It is about the elevation of each individual to a life neither suppressed nor exploited, but instead nourished to rise to its full potential--a life for its own sake and so that we may all benefit by the gift of that life. Fear and the politics of fear is about narrow ideologies that separate us, militarize us, imprison us, exploit us, control us, overcharge us, demean us, bury us alive in debt and anxiety and then bury us dead in cancers and wars. The politics of love and the politics of fear are now pitted against each other in a naked struggle that will define not only the 21st Century but centuries to come. We are the Sons and Daughters of Liberty in that struggle, indeed we are. Let us not shirk from the mission that fate has bestowed upon us, for it has done so as a blessing."
"Corporations of reasonable size are but groups of people. Beyond some point, however, the humanity falls away from an organization and all that is left is the will to power and profit. They care not that our seas and atmosphere are rapidly changing in ways that may lead to disaster and famine of unimaginable scale. They care not because they are not human and they have moved beyond human values. They do not need the fresh air or the water or the mountains of the birds. They are a kind of virus or a cancer, all prettied up with a nice logo and television commercials to tell us the most outrageous lies, one after the other. For in reality, they crush us under their boots and they pay off our political leaders with campaign contributions and other bribes. They trample on diversity of all kinds, including human personality, as fewer and fewer kinds of people can prosper in the world they are casting, and more and more of us are marginalized."
Why we need to save and protect it
by David Sheppard
South Pacific Regional Environment Programme
March 11, 2010
The International Year of Biodiversity opened, perhaps rather inauspiciously, in the wake of the less-than-successful United Nations climate talks in December last year in Copenhagen.
This provides an opportunity to reflect on how well Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have delivered on another global promise—“to achieve, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss”.
The 2010 target was agreed by world leaders in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development as essential for protecting life on earth and for contributing to poverty alleviation. Sadly, seven years on, it is clear that we have a long way to go before reaching the 2010 target.
Humans driving extinction faster than species can evolve, say experts
||Conservationists say rate of new species slower than diversity loss caused by the destruction of habitats and climate change
The IUCN lists west African giraffes as an endangered species. Conservationists say the rate of new species is slower than diversity loss. Photograph: Graeme Robertson
For the first time since the dinosaurs disappeared, humans are driving animals and plants to extinction faster than new species can evolve, one of the world's experts on biodiversity has warned.
Conservation experts have already signalled that the world is in the grip of the "sixth great extinction" of species, driven by the destruction of natural habitats, hunting, the spread of alien predators and disease, and climate change.
However until recently it has been hoped that the rate at which new species were evolving could keep pace with the loss of diversity of life.
Deforestation in the Amazon, Brazil
Marcelo Sayao / EPA / Corbis
By Judith D. Schwartz
Mar. 06, 2010
Nature lovers might cringe at the term "ecosystem services" to describe, say, the view of a pristine beach or a stream teeming with trout. But a growing number of experts within the scientific and economic communities say that putting real economic value on components of nature will help protect the environment and promote biodiversity.
Far from cheapening nature, thinking in terms of "natural capital" can offer a way to assess the crucial but unmeasured benefit that humans derive from the nature. Ascertaining that value can then help decision makers bring environmental factors more explicitly into their planning.
Can biodiversity loss, then, be seen as a failure of the market? "Biodiversity is the living capital of the planet," says Pavan Sukhdev, a senior banker with Deutsche Bank and Special Adviser to the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Green Economy Initiative. Like any capital, he says, it has to be measured to be managed. "If you don't count half of your balance sheet, you're going to get your profit and loss ratio incorrect — and we have."
(as told by Frederick Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture)
"My favorite example of the shift to sustainable agriculture is Takao Furuno, a very imaginative young farmer in southern Japan. Until 1987, he was a conventional, industrial rice farmer. He was extremely successful by industrial standards; his yields were among the highest in southern Japan. But one day it occurred to him that every year, he had to put everything he earned from rice production into the next year's crop. He didn't want to do that anymore, so that was his motivation to come up with a new system.
What Furuno came up with was: If he were to marry the best wisdom from the past with the best science available today, could he come up with a whole new system?
Loss of 'satoyama' risks loss of face ahead of biodiversity summit
|The Hirabari "satoyama" is a miniecosystem and green oasis in Nagoya and the focus of a struggle between developers and local citizens who see its preservation as a test case for biodiversity preservation. COURTESY OF THE HIRABARI SATOYAMA CONSERVANCY
OSAKA — Home to a biologically diverse "satoyama" ecosystem, a Nagoya land tract is at the center of a struggle between the owners who want to develop it and local citizens who want it preserved to demonstrate environmental responsibility.
Nagoya will host a U.N. biodiversity conference in October, and the central government at that time will push its "Satoyama Initiative" to promote protection worldwide of natural habitats from urbanization. Thus if the site comes under development, this would be a major embarrassment.
Satoyama, literally "livable mountain," traditionally refers to forested areas among small farm communities that help in the sustainable management of ecosystem diversity.
Under the satoyama method, farmers cut and plant trees in a way that maintains a rich forest environment, and the paddies they created as a result provided habitats for birds, frogs, fish and other life. But with the rapid postwar modernization, many so-called satoyama sites have been lost to development.
Japanese Industry Groups Opposed to Specifying Emissions Cut Target
TOKYO, Feb. 26 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Nine Japanese industry groups said Friday they are opposed to specifying the nation's greenhouse gas emissions cut target in an anti-global warming bill which the government plans to present to the current Diet session.
The Japan Iron and Steel Federation, the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan and other groups said in a statement that spelling out the target to cut the emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 would not lead to a "real solution" to the problem unless international fairness is secured.
The groups also expressed opposition to the inclusion in the government bill of a domestic greenhouse gas emissions trading system and taxation to fight global warming.
Small Tropical Family Farms Can Feed the Hungry & Preserve Biodiversity
Feb. 24, 2010
Conventional wisdom among many ecologists is that industrial-scale agriculture is the best way to produce lots of food while preserving biodiversity in the world's remaining tropical forests. But two University of Michigan researchers reject that idea and argue that small, family-owned farms may provide a better way to meet both goals.
In many tropical zones around the world, small family farms can match or exceed the productivity of industrial-scale operations, according to U-M researchers Ivette Perfecto and John Vandermeer. At the same time, smaller diversified farms are more likely to help preserve biodiversity in tropical regions undergoing massive amounts of deforestation, Perfecto and Vandermeer conclude in a paper to be published online Feb. 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
"Most of the tropical forest that's left is fragmented, and what you have are patches of forest surrounded by agriculture," said Perfecto, a professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment. "If you want to maintain biodiversity in those patches of forest, then the key is to allow organisms to migrate between the patches... And small-scale family farms that adopt sustainable agricultural technologies are more likely to favor migration of species than a huge, monocultural plantation of soybeans or sugar cane or some other crop."
Our oceans have been the victims of a giant Ponzi scheme, waged with Bernie Madoff–like callousness by the world’s fisheries. Beginning in the 1950s, as their operations became increasingly industrialized--with onboard refrigeration, acoustic fish-finders, and, later, GPS--they first depleted stocks of cod, hake, flounder, sole, and halibut in the Northern Hemisphere. As those stocks disappeared, the fleets moved southward, to the coasts of developing nations and, ultimately, all the way to the shores of Antarctica, searching for icefishes and rockcods, and, more recently, for small, shrimplike krill. As the bounty of coastal waters dropped, fisheries moved further offshore, to deeper waters. And, finally, as the larger fish began to disappear, boats began to catch fish that were smaller and uglier--fish never before considered fit for human consumption. Many were renamed so that they could be marketed: The suspicious slimehead became the delicious orange roughy, while the worrisome Patagonian toothfish became the wholesome Chilean seabass. Others, like the homely hoki, were cut up so they could be sold sight-unseen as fish sticks and filets in fast-food restaurants and the frozen-food aisle.
The scheme was carried out by nothing less than a fishing-industrial complex--an alliance of corporate fishing fleets, lobbyists, parliamentary representatives, and fisheries economists. By hiding behind the romantic image of the small-scale, independent fisherman, they secured political influence and government subsidies far in excess of what would be expected, given their minuscule contribution to the GDP of advanced economies--in the United States, even less than that of the hair salon industry. In Japan, for example, huge, vertically integrated conglomerates, such as Taiyo or the better-known Mitsubishi, lobby their friends in the Japanese Fisheries Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help them gain access to the few remaining plentiful stocks of tuna, like those in the waters surrounding South Pacific countries.