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A financial trick in the familiar biodiversity tale

Richard Black | 15:08 UK time, Monday, 10 May 2010

Often when I've written about biodiversity down the years, I've been assailed by a strong sense of deja vu.

While "we're screwing up life on Earth" still sounds like big news to me, it isn't always to news editors, whose reaction is often along the lines of "but we know that".

And in truth, the deja vu feeling is justified. Although the evidence that prospects for life-forms on Earth (other than humans) are declining in several different ways gets clearer and clearer, the basic message is as it has been since well before 1992 when governments signed the UN biodiversity convention.

Hawksbill_turtle_hatchling_and_eggLet me pick out a statistoid from the UN's third and latest Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3) report, launched at the Zoological Society of London on Monday.

The abundance of vertebrates - mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish - decreased by about one-third between 1970 and 2006.

Let's put it another way.

If you'd added up the numbers of mammals, fish, birds etc in the world in 1970, and done so again in 2006, one-third of them would have disappeared in between times.

Is it just me, or is that a truly staggering figure?

A couple of other things caught my eye from GBO-3.

One is that over the same time period - 1970-2006 - the Earth's human population almost doubled.

The second concerns the 21 "subsidiary targets" that governments set in 2002, alongside their headline target of significantly curbing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

The main 2010 target has been spectacularly missed
, but some of the 21 subsidiary ones have partially been met, in some regions of the world at least. They're indicated in GBO-3 by a bit of green in an otherwise red circle.

But cloaked in complete red, indicating complete failure, are the two that are most fundamental when it comes to preserving the extent to which human lives depend on what nature supplies :

Reducing unsustainable consumption of biological resources, or that impacts upon biodiversity

and

Maintaining the capacity of ecosystems to deliver biological resources that support sustainable livelihoods, local food security and health care

There are, of course, significant problems in trying to track trends precisely across a world in which the capacity to observe rigorously is not uniformly distributed, and where reliable documentation gets swiftly less global and less plentiful as you go back in time.

Nevertheless, there are few signs even in the most expertly documented countries that ecosystems are returning to full health.

The big white hope of the biodiversity world is, as those of you who follow this stuff regularly will know, the idea of quantifying the economic benefits that nature brings, and then persuading people and governments and businesses that these economic benefits make preservation of said ecosystems a wise policy option.

Oriental_stork_nestingWe'll have a lot more detail on this coming later in the year, but in the meantime I wanted to offer you a couple of snapshots that were offered to me at the GBO-3 launch.

First, a feathered tale from Japan. In the 1970s, Oriental storks left the country; modern rice farming methods, including pesticide use, concrete irrigation canals and keeping paddy fields under water for shorter length of time had reduced their chances of finding prey so much that they couldn't survive.

The global population of this spectacular but endangered species, by the way, is less than 3,000.

In 2003, authorities in Toyooka City, in the south of the main island of Honshu, established incentives for farmers to adopt more traditional farming methods with a strong organic component.

The results: yields are down, but the rice sells for a higher price. The storks are back, and visitors are flocking to see them.

These two factors combined have increased municipal income by more than 1%.

This win-win outcome is in microcosm what the UN Environment Programme (Unep) hopes to achieve across the world by stimulating awareness of biodiversity's economic value.

But are governments interested - those same governments that have so signally failed to meet the 2010 target?

According to Nick Nuttall, the Unep spokesman at the GBO-3 launch in London, 30 developing country governments have recently approached Unep asking for advice on how to "green" their economies and live within nature's boundaries.

That sounds like a new twist on the old story to me.

Whether it's enough to prevent a further 30% drop in the abundance of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians, with the human population set to increase as much between now and 2050 as it did between 1970 and 2006, is another matter.

Comments

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  • 1. At 7:42pm on 10 May 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    "If you'd added up the numbers of mammals, fish, birds etc in the world in 1970, and done so again in 2006, one-third of them would have disappeared in between times.
    Is it just me, or is that a truly staggering figure?"

    A truly unbelievable figure I'd say.
    Where on Earth could they possibly get accurate data for such a statement?
    It seems to me that the same people whose hyperbole has poisoned the AGW debate are still dishing it up.

    Sooner or later the public will revolt against this overstated stream of pseudo-scientific nonsense and the consequence will be loss of support for good science.


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  • 2. At 9:33pm on 10 May 2010, Richard Black (BBC) wrote:

    #1 DrBrianS: the principal source for the figure is WWF's Living Planet Index.

    At the end of the pdf report linked from the index page, there is a list of references used for it. If you know this set of papers and studies, or the synthesis of it, overstates the case, could you elaborate please, for all our benefits?

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  • 3. At 9:51pm on 10 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To 'The Lobby' #1:

    Maybe here:

    United Nations International Year of Biodiversity
    http://www.unep.org/iyb/

    Or maybe here:

    The Interacademy Panel on International Issues - the global network of science academies - see Biodiversity Communique
    http://www.interacademies.net/

    Or perhaps here:

    Measurement of biodiversity - Wikipedia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Measurement_of_biodiversity

    What about a more personal approach? E.O. Wilson
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E.O._Wilson (see Ecology section, for example)

    How about the history of extinction events - Peter D. Ward?

    "According to Ward's April 2007 book, Under a Green Sky, all but one of the major extinction events in history have been brought on by climate change — the same global warming that occurs today."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_D._Ward

    =================

    How about that DR? (Or is it LK, or Bow..., or Lab..., etc., etc., etc.,)

    - Manysummits -


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  • 4. At 9:54pm on 10 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To Rossglory, JR4412, Davblo, et al:

    Please see last blog #142,143 & 144.

    Thank you,

    Manysummits

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  • 5. At 11:01pm on 10 May 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    Thank you Richard for your lesson in humility. I have not read all of the scientific literature but I was struck by this extract from the Solutions section of the synopsis.

    "Shrink and Share.
    Possible allocation strategies could include an absolute allotment of footprint shares, or an initial distribution of rights or permits to consume, which could then be traded between individuals, nations, or regions."

    "Footprint shares" "permits to consume" "trading".
    A wonderful new market to exploit. What odds on a new Al Gore video?

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  • 6. At 11:45pm on 10 May 2010, Scott0962 wrote:

    "If you'd added up the numbers of mammals, fish, birds etc in the world in 1970, and done so again in 2006, one-third of them would have disappeared in between times.

    Is it just me, or is that a truly staggering figure?

    A couple of other things caught my eye from GBO-3.

    One is that over the same time period - 1970-2006 - the Earth's human population almost doubled."

    And then he tip toes around what should be a glaringly obvious link between the loss of bio-diversity and rampant human population growth.

    "In 2003, authorities in Toyooka City, in the south of the main island of Honshu, established incentives for farmers to adopt more traditional farming methods with a strong organic component.

    The results: yields are down, but the rice sells for a higher price. The storks are back, and visitors are flocking to see them."


    And again he misses the connection: "yields are down". If all farmers everywhere went back to organic farming methods sure it would indeed be beneficial to some species but it would be a disaster for our own. Lower agricultural yields on a global scale would mean mass starvation for humans in regions already struggling to feed more people than the land can feed. It's a way to bring human population down to a more sustainable level all right but the cost in lives and disruption to human societies would be apalling.

    There has to be a better way to control human overpopulation but unfortunately no politician wants to touch the issue and try to work out ways to reduce our numbers gradually over time to a sustainable level. One thing is certain, if mother nature is forced to do it for us the fairness of her methods will not be subject to debate and there will be no appeal from her decision.

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  • 7. At 01:12am on 11 May 2010, TeaPot562 wrote:

    So which was the major extinction NOT tied to global warming? The Great Whales? The passenger pigeons in the 18th century? The Dodos in Madagascar? The great dinosaurs in 65 million B.C.? Excuse the feeble attempt at humour, but "we are dying to know!"
    TeaPot562

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  • 8. At 03:49am on 11 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    #6:

    We are a part of Nature, and can control our numbers.
    ===========

    #7:

    According to Ward, the K/T event ~65 mya. However, there was, in addition to a major bolide event, and equally awesome volcanic event - the one which formed the Deccan Plateau in India, from a hotspot.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 9. At 07:05am on 11 May 2010, MangoChutney wrote:

    @manysummits #3

    To 'The Lobby' #1

    .....

    How about that DR? (Or is it LK, or Bow..., or Lab..., etc., etc., etc.,)


    I'm not sure if you mean to be funny or not, but you sure make me laugh

    /mango

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  • 10. At 07:37am on 11 May 2010, andy765gtr wrote:

    "A truly unbelievable figure I'd say. "

    more denial. sigh

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  • 11. At 08:14am on 11 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    There is a lot of conceptual confusion in this discussion. Some of you seem to be talking about species loss, in other words a drop in biodiversity, whereas the WWF report seems to be talking about the loss of individuals based on "populations of 1,313 vertebrate species".

    Does that include humans, whose population rose dramatically in that period? Humans are mammals, one of the most important on the planet because one of the most abundant. Does it include sheep and various kinds of cattle? Does it include chickens? Chickens are a type of bird.

    It is vitally important to distinguish between types and tokens. To illustrate, if I have one hundred pound coins and one hundred pennies in my pocket, I have 200 coin token in my pocket, but only 2 coin types. If I have one pound coin, one fifty-pence piece, one twenty-pence piece, one ten-pence piece, one five-pence piece, one two-pence piece and one penny in my pocket, then I have 7 coin tokens and 7 coin types.

    If I were to compare "the number of coins" in my pocket between these two situations, everything would depend on whether I was talking about types or tokens. The "numismatodiversity" -- i.e. the range of coin types) -- has increased by 250%, but the number of coin tokens has been reduced by 96.5%.

    The fact that these vital conceptual distinctions seem to play no part in this suggest that we are back to the wooly-headed religious mysticism so characteristic of the ecological movement.

    By the way, because humans and livestock are large mammals, it is correct to expect there to be fewer of them per unit area. But their biomass might well be larger than than of the shrews, rats and other smaller mammals they have displaced. Actually it is a safe bet that the biomass has increased, thanks to more heat, and more CO2.

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  • 12. At 08:41am on 11 May 2010, Smiffie wrote:

    Many of those with hidden agendas have dropped AGW like a hot potato and moved on to other issues such as biodiversity loss, but I doubt that they will find another “host cause” with as much leverage as climate change. Telling somebody that their grand-children will starve if they do not do what they are told is powerful stuff, telling them that some creepy crawly faces extinction is nothing.

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  • 13. At 08:50am on 11 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #6 Scott0962 wrote:

    "There has to be a better way to control human overpopulation but unfortunately no politician wants to touch the issue"

    There is a better way (than famine at the hands of organic farming). Let growth in the developing world continue, and like most of us in the West they will want to have fewer children. Instead of going for a large quantity of offspring as "insurance", they will go for a smaller number of "higher quality" offspring (i.e. children likely to reach maturity with good heath, a good education and good prospects for the future).

    If that happens -- or is allowed to happen by the SUV-driving, mountain-climbing, glider-piloting, canoe-paddling-for-pleasure, great-outdoors-enjoying, bourgeois ecologists of the West -- then the human population of the Earth will eventually begin to fall. And without massive loss of life in famines.

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  • 14. At 09:38am on 11 May 2010, Wolfiewoods wrote:

    Whenever there is mention of population control I always think that there is an element of racism at work, people are really talking about African and South Asian population control, aren’t they?

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  • 15. At 10:28am on 11 May 2010, LabMunkey wrote:

    one caveat i'd add here to anything on biodiversity loss is this:

    Thousands of species become extinct over the years through perfectly natural processes. Also, due to the fact we are still, constanly discovering new species (at a terrific rate- go science!), i would suggest a degree of caution over any announcements like this is required.

    We don't know the full 'species' content of the planet. We have only recently been measuring these kind of things in any detail, and it is very difficult to detect any trends. I would wager the loss via human interference is actually SIGNIFICANTLY less than reported.

    However, i do not doubt or question for a second that humans are willfully (and unneccesarily) destroying vital habitats (rainforests being a prime example). That humans are directly responsible for the extinction of countelss species, and that our further actions are going to cause many more, preventable, extinctions.

    I also agree that things need to change- specifically on land use and protection of habitat.

    All i'm suggesting is a degree of caution when 'numbers' like this are touted about. They often, don't reflect the whole story.

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  • 16. At 10:45am on 11 May 2010, simon-swede wrote:

    Bowman at #11

    Oh cripes, the record's replaying itself - types, tokens and mysticism and junior school biology again!

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  • 17. At 10:52am on 11 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #14 Wolfiewoods wrote:

    "Whenever there is mention of population control I always think that there is an element of racism at work, people are really talking about African and South Asian population control, aren’t they?"

    When talking about population growth, it's reasonable to be most interested in places where population growth is highest, lowest, or has changed in a dramatic way (such as Spain). It is reasonable to be most concerned about places where the population growth is highest, such as Africa and South Asia among other places. I don't think there's anything racist about that -- it would be kind of weird to not be extra concerned about such places, wouldn't it?

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  • 18. At 11:15am on 11 May 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    "The abundance of vertebrates - mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish - decreased by about one-third between 1970 and 2006"

    Gosh, how awful. Or at least, it would be if it were anything more than alarmism from Richard Black and his ilk.

    There are, over 58,000 described species of vertebrate known to science. If 1/3 of them are gone, that means slightly over 19,000 species of vertebrate are now extinct.

    I'm willing to believe this claim on one condition. Name them.

    Not all of them, just a small fraction. Post a list or a link to a list of merely 500 named vertebrate species that have become extinct since 1970 and I'll be willing to believe the other 18,500 have joined them...

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  • 19. At 12:37pm on 11 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #18 Brunnen_G wrote:

    "There are, over 58,000 described species of vertebrate known to science. If 1/3 of them are gone, that means slightly over 19,000 species of vertebrate are now extinct."

    Are they talking about individuals or species?

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  • 20. At 12:42pm on 11 May 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    The United Nations Environment Programme has listed only 70 vertebrate species that, since 1970, have either gone extinct or have probably gone extinct.

    70 is a far cry from 19,000, don't you think?

    But then I suppose sexy, alarming headlines are more attractive than the truth.

    And of course, I wouldn't dream of disputing the figures produced by the UN. After all, this is the body that gave us the highly accurate and always trustworthy IPCC.

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  • 21. At 12:45pm on 11 May 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    18. Brunnen_G wrote:

    "Gosh, how awful. Or at least, it would be if it were anything more than alarmism from Richard Black and his ilk."

    Yes that was my point in 1.
    You may have the wrong end of the stick a bit.
    The report says "abundance of vertebrates" not loss of species. So, for example, fishing removes large numbers of individuals but doesn't cause extinction (unless you use the bastard phrase "local extinction" which confuses the picture).
    Like you, however, I just don't believe it. If you look at Richard's graph you see a rise in the number of vertebrates till about 1970 then the fall he talks about. Although I HAVEN'T READ ALL THE SCIENTIFIC PAPERS (humility Richard) I don't see how our growing population would have created this rise.
    I expect, as others have commented, that it's just the next scare. Smiffie 12 says it most clearly.
    The science will fall apart when the blogosphere gets its teeth into the data.

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  • 22. At 12:50pm on 11 May 2010, Richard Black (BBC) wrote:

    #11 bowman - it's wild species - apologies, should have made that clear.

    #18 BrunnenG - we're talking about the abundance of animals, not the number of species. Care to clarify why a reduction of one-third in a single human generation isn't alarming?

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  • 23. At 1:04pm on 11 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    If there is a large increase in the number of individuals of non-wild species such as humans and livestock, it's only to be expected that there would be a drop in the number of individuals of wild species, because the whole thing depends on the food supply at the bottom of the food chain -- i.e. plants.

    Obviously, more food for humans means fewer humans starving to death or dying of diseases of malnutrition. But it also means more farmland, and a smaller area for wild animals to live.

    None of that is unexpected, or even bad. It's "bad" in the sense that there are more humans, but "good" in the sense that the reason why there are more humans is because fewer of them have starved to death or died of diseases of malnutrition.

    Ideally, we would live in a world in which there were fewer humans and more wild animals, not through humans dying, but through fewer humans being born. That has already begun to happen in the wealthier parts of the world, where cities are lined with trees and gardens are filled with wildlife, or at least with plants, insects, birds and squirrels. These are much better places for humans and animals than the filthy and overcrowded cities of the industrial revolution.

    There are reasons for optimism that what has happened in the West can happen in the developing world as well. And as the number of humans and livestock fall, as people no longer want to have many children but just a few, the number of wild animals will go back up, all over the world.

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  • 24. At 2:14pm on 11 May 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    #18 BrunnenG - we're talking about the abundance of animals, not the number of species. Care to clarify why a reduction of one-third in a single human generation isn't alarming?

    My mistake, perhaps your article should have been clearer.

    I find it hard the believe that the amount of vertebrates has reduced by one third in 36 years. Fot that to be true, or even plausible, more than 70 species would have gone extinct. A one third reduction in the number of vertebrates would mean the loss of billions of lives.


    Am I being expected to believe that billions of vertebrates have died and only 70 species have become extinct?

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  • 25. At 2:15pm on 11 May 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @manysummits #4

    Glad to hear jr4412 is still out there.

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  • 26. At 2:21pm on 11 May 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @Wolfiewoods #14

    You seem to repeat yourself a lot, and you never seem to respond to people addressing you.

    Are you some sort of AI bot?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test

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  • 27. At 3:09pm on 11 May 2010, Smiffie wrote:

    If we are to tackle global crowding as many are now starting to suggest then we should ensure that population control seeks to preserve humanity’s ethnic diversity. In China certain small ethnic minorities are exempt from China’s one child policy, similarly the World Population Trust, as reported on a previous blog, advocates little change to the stable populations of the West but sizeable reductions in Africa & South Asia where populations are increasing dramatically.

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  • 28. At 3:25pm on 11 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #16 simon-swede wrote:

    "junior school biology again!"

    Junior school biology is necessary to answer questions like the following:

    #22 Richard Black (BBC) wrote:

    "Care to clarify why a reduction of one-third in a single human generation isn't alarming?"

    As soon as life emerged on Earth, the planet hit "carrying capacity" in the sense that there was too little food for the number of consumers. Their populations were always at a "ceiling" set by the food supply. They have stayed at that ceiling ever since.

    Between 1970 and 2006, the human population (and its livestock, presumably) greatly increased. Therefore the population of other species must have dropped, because their food supply was more limited. The "reduction of one-third in a single human generation" is just a corollary of a more widespread human ability to survive. It may seem "alarming" to you, but it probably seems less "alarming" to the parents whose children did not die in infancy and who managed themselves to escape premature death through diseases of malnutrition.

    We are all capable of "drowning" in three inches of (conceptual) water. Anyone who thinks he is above "junior school biology" will probably "drown" sooner rather than later.

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  • 29. At 3:52pm on 11 May 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    The human tendency to place a monetary value on nature is one of the more foolish proposals that can be made. The human centric view of the world places everything else at less value. Oil spills, dust bowls, polluted rivers, polluted air,plagues, etc., were and are all results of human errors in environmental managment. We are faced with poor choices caused by the economic concept of continual growth. This of course is a dead end theory that can only lead to the elimination of most natural resources and requires the belief that human beings are capable of inventing our way out of catastrophic mistakes. Some believed that the atmosphere would catch on fire when they set off the first atomic bomb but they did it anyway. Human beings are simply ignorant so one cannot expect much from the decisions being made. Trying to place economic justification on a plant or animal should also and can also be extended to humans. Culling of the herd by some standard of economic value. Let us say that those that grow food would be highest on the scale and those in offices are lowest.

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  • 30. At 4:22pm on 11 May 2010, Nikki wrote:

    I think some people may be mising the point - Richard Black is talking about the idea of giving biodiversity a financial figure for the services that the environment provide us that without which we would have to pay for and implement for ourselves (such as vegetation stabilising soil, reed beds purifying water etc etc). The whole concept behind this is that this is a way of communicating to people who are not concerned about the intrinsic value of nature - so we use the language they understand best - money and profits to show just how vital biodiversity is for everyone.

    Also alot of people seem quite concerned about focusing on biodiversity at the expense of humans (particularly in the developing nations) but it is important to remember that conserving biodiversity is of benefit to everyone. This is especially true for those in developing nations who are most dependant on biodiversity to survive - for example for hunting, fishing and subsistence farming. I think the point is conserving biodiversity is of benefit to everyone, so we should use whatever tools possible to get this message across (yes including the use of scary sounding, but true, figures) because often people otherwise just will not listen.

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  • 31. At 4:22pm on 11 May 2010, Wolfiewoods wrote:

    @ JaneBasingstoke #26

    Jane
    I try not to get involved in one to one discussions that so often fill these blogs. I do occasionally repeat my views, not for the benefit of regulars like yourself but to reach out to the passing traffic who may only be occasional visitors. BBC blogs are an excellent way of disseminating ideas to a wider audience.

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  • 32. At 4:34pm on 11 May 2010, Andrew wrote:

    For biodiversity and financials, there is UNEPs TEEB program - the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity - http://www.teebweb.org/ and an upcoming symposium of TEEB for Business in London in July this year.

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  • 33. At 4:52pm on 11 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To Richard Black:
    (Re your article: "Academics urge radical new approach to climate change"
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science_and_environment/10106362.stm

    and Mike Hulme's article:

    "After the crash - a new direction for climate policy" http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8673828.stm
    ==================

    I appear to be at something like the stage as regards global warming and CO2 as these scientists.

    Let me be brief, perhaps we can pursue this in more depth in the future.

    Lincoln said:

    "Public sentiment is everything..."

    Translation:

    \\\ Oiled ducks & the UN Millenium Development Goals ///

    Lester Brown's chapter 7, "Eradicating Poverty and Stabilizing Population," is brilliant ("Plan B 4.0").

    The UN Millenium Development Goals are featured here, and I couldn't help thinking that this is certainly one of the ways forward, i.e., concentrating on these aspects of the world's environmental crisis, as I believe Freeman Dyson has been suggesting, and E.O. Wilson, and also:

    The original United Nation's 1945 Charter's fourth goal,

    "to promote social progress and better standards of life."

    It occurred to me that this fourth goal has in its enactment the necessity of addressing the UN Charters' first three goals - 'war', 'human rights', and 'international law.'

    In other words, an all in one approach which involves what I have headlined as 'oiled ducks and the Millenium Goals, which involve their equivalent - oiled people!'

    Can we do more on this?

    - Manysummits -

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  • 34. At 5:03pm on 11 May 2010, Wolfiewoods wrote:

    At the risk of repeating myself…..
    The populations of Africa & South Asia are set to double in the next 30 years. If we are to feed all these extra people we must all of us, and I mean all of us, slash our water consumption especially the water that goes into the goods that we import, give up meat, give up bio-fuels, turn remaining wild land over to agriculture & accept GM crops. If we do all of these things then there is hope for the peoples of Africa & South Asia and we will not have to face the problem of over population again for another generation.

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  • 35. At 5:10pm on 11 May 2010, Lorax wrote:

    DrBrianS and Brunnen_G seem to be adopting a delightfully naive null hypothesis that goes like this.

    'Everything is fine, unless it can be proved to some absolute degree that it isn't.' Hence "I find it hard the believe that the amount of vertebrates has reduced by one third in 36 years." (#24)

    That's perhaps a comforting psychological place to be, but it makes no sense in the real world. We touched on this in the earlier biodiversity discussion as well - the instinct for some posters to cry 'alarmism!' every time an environmental concern is raised - because of their 'everything is fine' hypothesis. I don't subscribe to the alternative 'everything is terrible' hypothesis either - both of these are extremes not justified by what we know. Given the measurable and recorded impact of humans on the natural world, a far more realistic starting point would be that we are having a significant impact on all natural systems. That should be followed by efforts to go and research the type and extent of those impacts and what can be done about them. Such as those Richard describes in his article.

    Lorax

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  • 36. At 5:43pm on 11 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #30 Nikki wrote:

    "it is important to remember that conserving biodiversity is of benefit to everyone."

    If that were true, there would be no threat to biodiversity. But obviously, most of the things that threaten biodiversity are of benefit to some humans in the short term. Some of the things that threaten biodiversity are of benefit to all humans in the long term. Think of the polio vaccine.

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  • 37. At 6:58pm on 11 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    I thought this article a worthy read:

    "Nature Geoscience study: Oceans are acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred..." (Google and read)...

    The debate has been mainly confined to the land...but the changes to our globe are land and water both. As coastal areas (where the main bulk of our population reside) find both an encroaching sea and a dying sea, the search for food resources and living space will become overwhelming.

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  • 38. At 7:32pm on 11 May 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    @ Lorax

    "'Everything is fine, unless it can be proved to some absolute degree that it isn't.'"

    Interesting. You equate asking for proof with niavity.

    You want to me to believe something, anything, provide proof.

    I don't think I'm being unreasonable in asking for supporting evidence before buying any old wild claim I read on the internet. Even if that claim is made by someone working for the BBC.

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  • 39. At 8:01pm on 11 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To Jane #25:

    I have forwarded your post to JR.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 40. At 8:09pm on 11 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To Wichitazen #37:

    Also:

    "Sea Sick - The Global Ocean in Crisis," by Alanna Mitchell

    "Under a Green Sky," by Peter D. Ward (mass extinction expert, with a new book coming out, "Our Flooded Earth")

    "Our Choice," by Al Gore - really brilliantly illustrated (Global Warming)

    "Tar Sands," by Andrew Nikiforuk (Calgarian) - a brilliant inside look at both the tar sands of Alberta, but of more import for all, a look at Big Oil, from the heart of the oil business in Canada.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 41. At 8:13pm on 11 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    #38:

    Matthew 13:13
    13:13 Therefore I speak to them in parables: because they seeing
    see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
    =====================

    - Manyparables -

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  • 42. At 8:14pm on 11 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    The United Nations Millennium Development Goals

    http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

    - Manysummits -

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  • 43. At 8:17pm on 11 May 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    There are people who still take Al Gore seriously? Yikes...

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  • 44. At 8:27pm on 11 May 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    Quoting the bible to an athiest will win you lots of credibility.

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  • 45. At 8:27pm on 11 May 2010, b5happy wrote:

    There are so many directions I could choose

    to travel in this 'comments' section...

    I choose the mundane:

    Realtor's will tell you that it's all about -

    Location! Location! Location! - whether one

    will sink or swim with their investment.

    Population! Population! Population!

    There simply is nothing else to talk about.

    Mundane and true!

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  • 46. At 8:34pm on 11 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    \\\ Oiled Ducks & Oiled People ///

    1) Bolivia - Peoples' Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth:

    - Professor of Law Christopher Stone's 1972 law paper "Should Trees Have Standing" could be enshrined in the most visible of all places, a new and up to date Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Rights of Mother Earth

    2) United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:

    I would like to see the Science presented by the United Nations of Science, The Interacademy Panel on International Issues, in a clear and succint voice.

    3) The United Nations Millenium Development Goals:

    This is where we can actually make a difference. If we do, all will be well. This is on track to succeed - what will it take to ensure that it does?

    - Manysummits -

    PS:

    "In this and like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed."

    - Abraham Lincoln
    http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jala/15.2/zarefsky.html



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  • 47. At 8:38pm on 11 May 2010, BluesBerry wrote:

    Often I've written that humankind seems to believe that its job is to conquer and control all of existence. I have argued against damning rivers, drilling for oil, cutting down trees, etc. My argument has been that humankind cannot even hope to surpass the checks and balances of Mother Nature.
    When humankind tries to improve on Mother Nature or squeeze her resources, or claw out her minerals, or block her rivers...these attempts always result in pain, suffering and death, including fewer species and less biodiversity.
    Humankind doesn’t seem to realize that it is part of the biodiversity.
    Why on earth can’t we learn to live with nature? Why must we rip, tear, gauge, and otherwise mutilate or destroy what appears to stand in our way.
    We have a thinking apparatus in our heads; it's product is intelligence - at least most of us have this appratus. Why can't we use our thinking brain to incorporate nature into our undertakings. Build around rivers. Leave the trees standing...
    When nature is damaged, of course species lose their habitats. They mutate or die. If a river dries up, the fish die. If oil spills, aquatic animals die...
    How much more beautiful, serene and wondrous the world would be IF we did not bomb it, dump depleted Uranium onto it, scar it, rupture it and otherwise shape it into our grotesque imaginings.
    So, please, let us all throw ourselves with abandon into restoring ecosystems.
    Let’s all try to emulate Toyooka City.
    In fact, each and everytime we succeed, we should stand, arms outstretched and joyfully shout our rallying cry: “Toyooka!”

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  • 48. At 8:42pm on 11 May 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @manysummits #39

    Cheers for that.

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  • 49. At 8:44pm on 11 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To #43 &44:

    "Quoting the bible to an athiest will win you lots of credibility."

    Maybe all of us are not craven?

    Are you familiar with Stuart Kauffman's [1] "Reinventing the Sacred"?

    This student of complexity believes that the atheist and the secular philosopher can be reunited with the religious believers of the world.

    If I read him correctly, he sees the face of God in all of emergent creation, in the process of emergence as well as what he terms agency. We are perhaps too close to see this?

    A fractal Uni-verse - 'One Song'


    - Manysummits -

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuart_Kauffman

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  • 50. At 8:45pm on 11 May 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    Oo gawd. Cameron's just been to Buck House. Lots of Holby City fans will be fuming.

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  • 51. At 8:51pm on 11 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    I take Al Gore very seriously.

    He perplexes me.

    I have followed him for twenty some years - I have read his "Earth in the Balance," "An Inconvenient Truth," The Assault on Reason," and I have his "Our Choice" on order.

    Watched him lose the Presidential nomination.

    Seen him writhe in pain at the near crippling of his child.

    Observed his on and off relationship with James Hansen, our number one climatologist and environmental advocate.

    Seen him put on weight, and do business - travel incessantly - at undoubted cost to kith and kin.

    Try and reconcile the America he believed in as a young man with the America it has become, or perhaps always was - hidden behind the victor's shield.

    "A critic is like a dog who knows the way but can't drive the car"

    - Manysummits -

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  • 52. At 9:08pm on 11 May 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    I love it whenever someone decries human mpact on the planet and then goes on give a rallying cry to restore the planet to a natural state.

    I especially love it when they use a computer, broadband connection and all the technology 21st century humanity has to offer to do so.

    Why? Because it's obvious that the 'grotesque imaginings' of our species don't include their creature comforts. It's obvious that 'throwing themselves with abandon to restoring the ecosystem' won't include them abandoning their comfortable homes and lifestyles to restore the ecosystem.


    Ah, how I love the flavour of sweet, delicious, hypocrisy.

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  • 53. At 9:12pm on 11 May 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    I love it whenever someone decries human mpact on the planet and then goes on give a rallying cry to restore the planet to a natural state.

    I especially love it when they use a computer, broadband connection and some of the best technology 21st century humanity has to offer to do so.

    Why? Because it's obvious that the 'grotesque imaginings' of our species don't include their creature comforts. It's obvious that 'throwing themselves with abandon to restoring the ecosystem' won't include them abandoning their comfortable homes and lifestyles to restore the ecosystem.


    Ah, how I love the flavour of sweet, delicious, hypocrisy.

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  • 54. At 9:29pm on 11 May 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    Firstly, apologies for the double post if it goes through. the site was having some trouble a few minutes ago.

    manysummits - There is nothing 'craven' in not believing in the bible, choose your words more carefully.

    As for you taking Al Gore seriously, well that says it all, doesn't it? You even mentioned 'An Inconvenient Truth' as if it is anything more than a flawed, misinformed (35 substantive errors, impressive in 90 minutes) piece of propaganda for the AGW lobby.

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  • 55. At 10:03pm on 11 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    54:

    'Craven' in my #49 didn't refer to believing in the Bible - it referred to your premise that I would make a Faustian bargain - and buy 'credibility' by withholding a verse from the Bible, just to risk 'not offending' some people.

    I say it like I feel it, and let the chips fall where they may.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 56. At 06:29am on 12 May 2010, simon-swede wrote:

    Lorax at #35

    You wrote: " I don't subscribe to the alternative 'everything is terrible' hypothesis either - both of these are extremes not justified by what we know. Given the measurable and recorded impact of humans on the natural world, a far more realistic starting point would be that we are having a significant impact on all natural systems. That should be followed by efforts to go and research the type and extent of those impacts and what can be done about them."

    Spot on!

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  • 57. At 06:58am on 12 May 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    Science doesn't prove anything -- only mathematics does. Scientific theories predict what will be observed in future studies. To the extent that they fail in these predictions they are modified or replaced. They are always contingent. This is explained in greater detail in Mike Hulme's Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704107104574571613215771336.html

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  • 58. At 09:17am on 12 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    Richard, every article you write reminds me of that old Rolling Stones song whith a line that says "I see a red door and I want to paint it black."

    You do have an eagerness to embrace the doomsday view.

    So tell me Richard, doesn't North America count? Since 1970 there have been huge population increases in so many species that I can't be bothered to list them.

    And not just North America. Perhaps simon-swede would like to tell us about the brown bear population in Sweden?

    Or, dare I say it, the elephant population in parts of Africa.

    Yes, we face plenty of very real problems, and some species are in trouble, particularly in some Third World countries, but there seems to be a profound denial of the progress that has been made.

    Why are doomsday cults so popular?

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  • 59. At 10:39am on 12 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #58 CanadianRockies wrote:

    "the elephant population in parts of Africa"

    Elephants are large mammals (like humans, the livestock of humans, and many human pets). So there are fewer of them per unit area, given the food they eat. If there were fewer elephants, there would be a larger number of smaller animals that eat roughly the same food.

    According to the current simplistic scale of "how many animals there are", more elephants is a bad thing.

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  • 60. At 1:37pm on 12 May 2010, simon-swede wrote:

    CanadianRockies at #58

    There are some signs of recovery for some targeted species (often at rather high cost too), but that is against the overall trend.

    The GBO-3 report actually says:

    "Many actions in support of biodiversity have had significant and measurable results in particular areas and amongst targeted species and ecosystems. This suggests that with adequate resources and political will, the tools exist for loss of biodiversity to be reduced at wider scales. ... It has been estimated that at least 31 bird species (out of 9,800) would have become extinct in the past century, in the absence of conservation measures."

    It goes on:

    "However, action ... has not been taken on a sufficient scale to address the pressures on biodiversity in most places. There has been insufficient integration of biodiversity issues into broader policies, strategies and programmes, and the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss have not been addressed significantly. Actions to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity receive a tiny fraction of funding compared to activities aimed at promoting infrastructure and industrial developments. Moreover, biodiversity considerations are often ignored when such developments are designed, and opportunities to plan in ways that minimize unnecessary negative impacts on biodiversity are missed. Actions to address the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss, including demographic, economic, technological, socio-political and cultural pressures, in meaningful ways, have also been limited."

    The overall conclusion is stark:

    "Most future scenarios project continuing high levels of extinctions and loss of habitats throughout this century, with associated decline of some ecosystem services important to human well-being."


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  • 61. At 11:23am on 13 May 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @Wolfiewoods #31

    Thanks for that.

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