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'Biodiversity' Jamboree in Brazil
U.N. gathering big on warning and words, but leads to little action afterwards
Michael Werbowski (minou)     Print Article 
Published 2006-03-29 14:40 (KST)   
Once again, at the U.N. green gathering at the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Curitiba, Brazil, scientific experts are warning of mass extinction in the making. At the last summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002, they issued the same warnings, highlighting the need to reduce greenhouse gases as well. Who paid attention then? Were these admonitions followed by actions?

The next year, in 2003, a killer summer heat wave hit France and took the lives of thousands of the mostly elderly. In late 2004, a tsunami hit southeast Asia like an A-bomb, killing tens of thousands of people. Most recently, in the summer of 2005, the killer hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast, nearly wiping New Orleans and Cancun off the map, causing billions of dollars in damages and displacing thousands. On TV, the "Big Easy" looked like a scene from a disaster movie.

But what does biodiversity have to do with all this? The preservation and protection of ecosystems keep this planet fit for human habitation and our life support system in balance.

The depletion of the Amazon basin because of industrial farming or deforestation from uncontrolled mining and logging in so-called "protected areas," for instance, affects the climate -- it causes climatic chaos. Those still in denial on this point are either living on another planet already or plan to move to one in the future.

As for the Convention on Biodiversity jamboree, assuming it takes place every four years, there will be the same dire prediction for 2010 about the imminent extinction of species, and along with that the destruction of their habitat, and along with that more frequent freakish and deadly meteorological "man-made" disasters. Is 2010 a realistic the target date to offset or even reverse the consequences of the decline in the Earth's biodiversity? In view of the very slow progress thus far toward making adjustments in our ridiculously "unsustainable" lifestyles, it seems a derisory deadline.

As for the trendy term of "biodiversity," which is on everybody's lips at the meetings, what does it mean? The word is not found in most dictionaries I've glanced into. Biodiversity is a U.N. coinage, it seems, meaning the number of plant and animal species contained in a given area. What remains of the Earth's "biodiversity" is concentrated in remote areas like the Amazon basin, Madagascar, or Papua New Guinea - places that U.N. experts, World Bank technocrats, and several NGOs consider very "rich" in "biodiversity" but quite poor from a material standpoint. A tropical jungle contains an ancient abundance of rare plants and wildlife and the "know-how" of tribesmen, who use their ancient ways to cure all sorts of ailments and to make balms and ointments, which, of course, can be commercially exploited.

This leads us to another term not often mentioned at these meetings but certainly on the minds of many of the CBD delegates - the issue of "biopiracy." Simply put, this word means the plunder or stealing of genetic compositions of rare plants or animals (for experimental purposes) for admittedly commercial gain. The words "biopiracy" -- or, put more nicely, "bioprospecting" -- are omitted from the torrents of press communiques issued by the meeting's organizers. Why? Perhaps because it might lead many of us to think that this jamboree of biodiversity is really a giant trade fair with multinational pharmaceutical companies sponsoring the talks and haggling with U.N. officials on how best to exploit the earth's rich yet increasingly impoverished "biodiversity."

As for the dire warnings of species extinction, not necessarily excluding ourselves, as we humans are still part of the food chain, perhaps they need to be taken seriously. But who is listening at the ministry of trade or at the local chamber of commerce? I will hazard a guess that very few are, as we wait for the next "natural disaster" to hit humankind on the head.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Michael Werbowski

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