[It's] Great to re-read Vandana Shiva's great, helpful words after Rio+20, and after these hopeful words prior to Rio+20 and not met by its results at all, by famous Professor Thomas Lovejoy (--Gaia …).
The Greatest Challenge of Our Species
By THOMAS LOVEJOY
Published: April 5, 2012
In a cavernous London conference center so devoid of life as to seem a film set for “The Matrix,” 3,000 scientists, officials and members of civil society organizations met in the last week of March to consider the state of the planet and what to do about it.
Daniel Mihailescu/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The dried river bed of the Susita River near the village of Tisita, Romania, northeast of Bucharest, in December 2011.
The Planet Under Pressure conference is intended to feed directly into the “Rio+20” United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development this coming June, 20 years after the Earth Summit in Rio convened the largest number ever of heads of state and produced, among other things, two international conventions, one for climate change and the other for biological diversity.
While it is not as if nothing has been achieved in the interim or that scientific understanding has stood still, it is obvious that new science is not needed to conclude that humanity has failed to act at the scale and with the urgency needed.
In the United States, in particular (but not exclusively), far too much attention has been given to the non-issue of whether climate change is real or not. In the meantime the heating of the atmosphere proceeds inexorably, the Arctic ice has thinned and retreated at its summer low to a point that it might be tied to the exceptionally warm spring in Europe and North America. Spring bloom has erupted early in North America and Europe. Most people just say how nice the weather is with no sense of the march of climate change.
Since the industrial revolution, developed nations have contributed significantly to the atmospheric burden of greenhouse gases. That led to a two-tier arrangement in the Kyoto Protocol, originally adopted in 1997, basically giving time to developing countries to improve their economies before taking major action.
The response of the United States at the time was to abdicate its traditional leadership position with a Senate vote based on the myopic notion that there was no point in doing anything if China and India were to keep on building coal-fired power plants. In the meantime, China is making measurable progress in decarbonizing its economy and has become the largest producer of solar panels in the world.
But the issue before humanity is, in fact, bigger than fossil fuel combustion, and far bigger than climate change. The Stockholm Environment Institute summed it up nicely in an analysis that identified a planet departing from planetary boundaries in three ways: climate change, nitrogen use and loss of biodiversity.
The use and frequent overuse of nitrogen fertilizer primarily by industrialized agriculture has polluted streams and lakes, and, in turn, coastal waters around the world. The resulting dead zones in coastal waters and estuaries are devoid of oxygen and largely devoid of life. They have doubled in number every decade for four decades — an increase by a factor of 16. The amount of biologically active nitrogen in the world is twice the natural level.
The greatest violation by far of planetary boundaries is in biological diversity. This is because, by definition, all environmental problems affect living systems; biological diversity integrates them all. Running down our biological capital is pure folly.
The planet works as a biophysical system that moderates climate (global, continental and regional) and creates soil and its fertility. Ecosystems provide a variety of services, not the least of which is provision of clean and reliable water. Biological diversity is the essential living library for sustainability. Each species represents a unique set of solutions to a set of biological problems, any one of which can be of critical importance to the advance of medicine, to productive agriculture, to the biology that provides current support for humanity, and, most importantly, will provide solutions to the environmental challenge.
Looking ahead, we not only have to deal with these planetary scale problems but also find ways to feed and produce a decent quality of life for at least two more billion than the seven billion people already here. We need to do this without destroying more ecosystems and losing more biological diversity.
Human ingenuity should be up to the challenge. But it has to recognize the problem and address it with immediacy and at scale.
An important step, a “Future Earth” organization, was announced at the conference. It will bring all the relevant scientific disciplines together to work on this, the greatest challenge in the history of our species. This is essential because many physical scientists seem blind to the importance of biology in how the living planet works, and how it can provide critical solutions. Economics and social sciences are critical as well.
History will measure the impact of the Planet Under Pressure conference and the extent that Rio+20 rises to the challenge. The moment has come to realize that this planet which brought us into existence must be managed as the biophysical system that it is.
Thomas Lovejoy is professor of science and public policy at George Mason University and biodiversity chairman at the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment.
On 04/07/2012, at 9:41 AM, Jason Stewart wrote:
> Vandana Shiva's writing of great, helpful, appropriate words:
> Rio+20: An Undesirable U-Turn
> By Vandana Shiva
> 03 July, 2012
> The Asian Age
> → http://www.asianage.com/columnists/rio20-undesirable-u-turn-649
> (copy) → http://chimalaya.org/2012/06/25/rio20-an-undesirable-u-turn/
> and this clear comment reply letter: → http://www.asianage.com/letters/eco-trade-fair-959
> Quotation: "
> Vandana Shiva
> Rio de Janeiro is a city of U-turns. The most frequent road sign in the city is “Retorno” — return. And Rio+20 or the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development followed that pattern. It was a great U-turn in terms of human responsibility towards protecting the life-sustaining processes of the planet.
> Twenty years ago at the Earth Summit, legally binding agreements to protect biodiversity and prevent catastrophic climate change were signed. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) propelled governments to start shaping domestic laws and policies to address two of the most significant ecological crisis of our times.
> The appropriate agenda for Rio+20 should have been to assess why the implementation of Rio treaties has been inadequate, report on how the crises have deepened and offer legally binding targets to avoid deepening of the ecological crises.
> But the entire energy of the official process was focused on how to avoid any commitment. Rio+20 will be remembered for what it failed to do during a period of severe and multiple crises and not for what it achieved.
> It will be remembered for offering a bailout for a failing economic system through the “green economy” — a code phrase for the commodification and financialisation of nature. The social justice and ecology movements rejected the green economy outrightly. A financial system which collapsed on the Wall Street in 2008 and had to be bailed out with trillions of taxpayers’ money and continues to be bailed out through austerity measures squeezing the lives of people is now being proposed as the saviour of the planet. Through the green economy an attempt is being made to technologise, financialise, privatise and commodify all of the earth’s resources and living processes.
> This is the last contest between a life-destroying worldview of man’s empire over earth and a life-protecting worldview of harmony with nature and recognition of the rights of Mother Earth. I carried 100,000 signatures from India for the universal declaration on the rights of Mother Earth, which were handed over to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
> It is a reflection of the persistence and strength of our movements that while the final text has reference to the green economy, it also has an article referring to Mother Earth and the rights of nature. Article 39 states: “We recognise that the planet earth and its ecosystems are our home and that Mother Earth is a common expression in a number of countries and regions and we note that some countries recognise the rights of nature in the context of the promotion of sustainable development. We are convinced that in order to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations, it is necessary to promote harmony with nature.”
> This, in fact, is the framework for the clash of paradigms that dominated Rio+20 — the paradigm of green economy to continue the economy of greed and resource grab on the one hand, and the paradigm of the rights of Mother Earth, to create a new living economy in which the gifts of the earth are sustained and shared.
> While the Rio+20 process went backwards, some governments did move forward to create a new paradigm and worldview. Ecuador stands out for being the first country to have included the rights of nature in its Constitution. At Rio+20, the government of Ecuador invited me to join the President, Rafael Correa, for an announcement of the Yasuni initiative, through which the government will keep the oil underground to protect the Amazon forest and the indigenous communities.
> The second government, which stood out in the community of nations, is our tiny neighbour Bhutan. Bhutan has gone beyond GDP as a measure of progress and has adopted gross national happiness. More significantly, Bhutan has recognised that the most effective way to grow happiness is to grow organic food. As the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigmi Thinley, said at a conference in Rio: “The Royal Government of Bhutan on its part will relentlessly promote and continue with its endeavour to realise the dreams we share of bringing about a global movement to return to organic agriculture so that the crops, and the earth on which they grow, will become genuinely sustainable — and so that agriculture will contribute not to the degradation but rather to the resuscitation and revitalisation of nature.”
> Most governments were disappointed with the outcome of Rio+20. There were angry movements and protests. More than 100,000 people marched to say this was not “The Future We Want” — the title of the Rio+20 text.
> I treat Rio+20 as a square bracket — in the UN jargon the text between the square brackets is not a consensus and often gets deleted. It is not the final step, it is just punctuation. Democracy and political processes will decide the real outcome of history and the future of life on earth. Our collective will and actions will determine whether corporations will be successful in privatising the last drop of water, the last blade of grass, the last acre of land, the last seed, or whether our movements will be able to defend life on earth, including human life in its rich diversity, abundance and freedom.
> The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust
> Hello everyone! Hoping you're all well -- this writing by Vandana Shiva, my first i thought was it's too special to not take the time to send it to all of you
> -- yes i've been too busy and am busy still;
> back now in Bama Country, Wet Tropics -- Cairns area -- NE Australia;
> after doing some very much welcomed well paid field botany and ecology work in cold wintertime SE Australia, near my nature farm area in far east gippsland, and a few days work in Sydney -- Manly Dam heathlands & woodlands.
> i missed the special talk between Bruce Pascoe and Bill Gammage as the stormy weather was dangerously bad at that time for getting out from my house & farm for travelling to Melbourne for it -- so i can't report here on how good and relevant it was to nature farming -- hopefully they recorded it and i can listen to their discussion that way and share it with all.
> Jason Stewart
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