Tasmanian Times

Environment

Catastrophe likely if rapid extinctions continue: UN

AUSTRALIA and the world must make prevention of the rapid rate of species extinction a political priority or face an environmental catastrophe, the head of an international biodiversity convention has warned.

In an interview with the Herald, the executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, Ahmed Djoghlaf, said the legally binding 2010 target to stop the decline in biodiversity would not be met.

Dr Djoghlaf said the world, including Australia, must work next year towards a new international agreement – similar to the UN Treaty on Climate Change – including a 2020 target to halt species extinctions.

Biodiversity is the number and variation of plants and animal species on the planet and the way they interact with each other. It is crucial to Earth’s functioning including agriculture, water quality and pollination.

Ecologists believe the Earth is experiencing the sixth mass extinction of species in its history – losing species at up to 1000 times the normal rate – and the first caused by humans.

The landmark 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment found that 60 per cent of ecosystem services that help Earth function – such as pollination – were under threat or being used unsustainably by humanity.

Speaking in Montreal, Dr Djoghlaf said increased urbanisation had been the primary driver of biodiversity loss as it encouraged over-consumption, unstainable production levels and broke connections between humans and nature. ”The world is becoming more and more urban – last year marked a shift when we had more people living in cities than in rural areas. The battle for biodiversity will be won or lost in our cities.”

Dr Djoghlaf said the ecological footprint of humanity is 20 per cent higher than it can withstand.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Russell

    November 15, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Oh, I forgot to mention whaling, shark and other fishing practices. Krill will be next.

  2. Russell

    November 15, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Garrett acknowledges the findings and blames Australia’s failure to reach bio-diversity targets on the Howard Government, but what exactly has he done in two years himself?

    A short list to ponder this; the recent north-western Australian marine oil spill, the struggling river systems, the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill, forestry clear-felling and practices in general, land-clearing, the Tasmanian Devil, the Koala, the use of toxins and chemicals which enter our water, acid-leach mining, GMOs.

  3. Mike Bolan

    November 15, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    If one specific species became extinct then the problems would be solved for all of the others, who would be able to survive quite well without us.

  4. Kim Peart

    November 15, 2009 at 8:00 am

    It is hard to believe, but koalas are affected by urbanisation, with populations down to maybe 45,000. Part of the problem in this war against Nature is building suburbs that exclude Nature and remove koala homes, trees and their little highways. It would be possible to design suburbs to be koala-friendly, but the focus has been so tightly bound to the property values of polished houses and fast highways, that the koala may now be on the road to extinction. Our society has failed to hear calls for environmental sustainability and now we pay he price and we will all be poorer for it if we lose the koala.

    In a similar way, it is impossible to be alive and not read stories about homelessness. Like the doom of the koala, unemployment and under-employment, why has homeless become such a stubborn part of the Australian landscape? Do we look further than the fierce interest in skyrocketing property values, where the real estate industry has become an alternative State and police force, vetting who gets a roof with rules to match skyrocketing property values

    Environmental sustainability and social equity are two sides of the same coin. Until we re-evaluate the fundamental philosophy of how we build our society and communities, homelessness and the demise of the koala will be our monuments to greed.

    Kim Peart

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