What big events are happening right now in a global sense? Well, for many of us we’re in the season of Advent, leading up to Christmas, and there is the football World Cup, for once held in winter this year. But have you heard of the COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference taking place in Montreal, Canada? I hadn’t until I came across it by accident on the internet. Unlike the Cop27 Climate Change conference (where VIPs attended on their private jets), I have not heard very much about this one.
When Extinction Rebellion first protested, I grew hopeful that, finally, people may wake up to all the problems facing nature. But their focus is on humans and climate change, not the ongoing destruction of wildlife and natural habitat. I believe the two are actually connected and it is only by working alongside nature, rather than against it, that we will live in a more sustainable world.
Without a doubt, there is a nature emergency. A study by conservation charity WWF revealed that the world had lost 69 per cent of its animal populations between 1970 and 2018. Losing wildlife habitat has been one of the biggest causes… and it has an impact on the climate too.
Here’s what the WWF says: “Forests are crucial as they are home to over 80% of the world’s land-based species of animals, plants and insects. Millions of people and species depend on forests, and they play a crucial role in helping to regulate the world’s climate. Yet deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has just hit an all-time high and if we lose the Amazon, we lose the fight to limit climate change – it’s that simple.”“According to the UN, we lose 100,000 sq. km of natural forest globally every year – that’s an area of forest the size of London lost every week, or roughly one football pitch every 2 seconds. Only 17% of what’s left has any kind of proper protection.”
The biodiversity conference, which will run until December 19, will involve nearly 200 countries aiming to reach an agreement on stopping and reversing the decline of nature by 2030. At the opening, UN Secretary-General António Guterres gave a stark message, saying: “Deforestation and desertification are creating wastelands of once-thriving ecosystems, our land, water and air are poisoned by chemicals and pesticides, and choked with plastics.”
Words I agree with but will this be another case of a conference full of ‘blah, blah, blah’ (as Greta Grunberg once said)? Regrettably, I have no expectations from this Biodiversity Conference. Targets will be set and, more than likely, ignored. I wish, like Elvis Presley sang, there would be: “A little less conversation, a little more action please.”
The hypocrisy at these events always dismays me. Why fly to a climate change summit via private jet when it can be done over Google Hangout or Zoom (or take your pick of video conferencing system)? How can the UK dictate to Brazil about protecting its vital rainforest when we destroy our own ancient woodland for a ‘high speed’ railway? (https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/protecting-trees-and-woods/campaign-with-us/hs2-rail-link/) How can climate change or biodiversity crises be solved if, even on the smallest local level, mature trees are cut down for vaping factories (which has happened near me)? Planning applications get given the go-ahead whatever the cost to nature. I haven’t even mentioned pollution, the fact that serious pollution by water companies is getting worse in the UK. (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/dec/08/poor-performance-now-the-norm-for-some-uk-water-firms-warns-ofwat). Does the ‘Cop’ in these conferences stand for ‘cop out?’
I don’t like leaving things on a negative note so, although I don’t trust governments or big corporations to do the right thing, and the nature crisis can seem overwhelming, we can take little steps to alleviate the issue. Think globally, act locally is one phrase I’ve heard. If you have a garden, you could plant various flowers, trees and shrubs to create havens for insects and birds, join wildlife charities, volunteer at conservation groups… Be a nature ally (although we are all part of nature whether we realise it or not). By supporting wildlife, we help ourselves as well, both in terms of the climate issue but also our mental wellbeing.