So what should be done at Nagoya? This is the 20 million species plus question. And for all of the criticism that I've (and others) have proffered, we should appreciate that the task at hand is going to be quite the challenge. If nothing else, this is immediately clear from the often anthrocentric (humans rule the Earth and are just playing our role on the evolutionary front, so deal with it!) commentary left on biodiversity pieces throughout the internet.
There is a somewhat official Strategic Plan document out there, one that (with a remarkable lack of brevity) highlights 2020 goals and attempts to identify the process and partners to be involved. It's worth a look, although probably best absorbed by taking in the tables shown on page 19 on. It involves a list of some 20 different target statements. Some of which are short, bouncy, although still vague like a twitter tweet:
1. By 2020, everyone is aware of the value of biodiversity and what steps they can take to protect it.
Others are more to the point:
11. By 2020, At least 15% of land and sea areas, including the most critical terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats, have been protected through effectively managed protected areas and/or other means, and integrated into the wider land- and seascape.
A few establish direct talking points for individual COP members:
16. By 2020, Each Party has an appropriate, up-to-date, effective and operational national biodiversity strategy, consistent with this Strategic Plan, based on adequate assessment of biodiversity, its value and threats, with responsibilities allocated among sectors, levels of government, and other stakeholders, and coordination mechanisms are in place to ensure implementation of the actions needed.
And this one, almost works as a haiku:
3. By 2020 Subsidies harmful
Well, maybe not a 5-7-5 haiku. Still, the 20 targets make for a good, if detailed, read. I'm actually tempted to see how they might fare as a poem: if I stack them one by one, and then giving it the title, "By 2020."
The purpose of this long and comprehensive list of targets, of course, is to address the vagueness discussed before. This is a good thing: but how wieldy these discussions will be, especially in the context of 190+ COP members needing to reach an agreement remains to be seen. In light of this, maybe structuring this discussion around a more simple list is better.
I quite like the suggestions laid out in this recent paper, "Biodiversity targets after 2010" by Mace et al. (pdf). For starters, it's written in a pretty readable fashion, but more importantly, it tries to break the targets into three defined categories, as described in this box.
This seems pretty clever to me. Let's break up the priorities depending on: (1) whether the loss in biodiversity is directly "bad" for you (as well as anthrocentric commenters); (2) whether the loss in biodiversity results in a loss of sociological and/or cultural value (i.e. makes you "sad"); and (3) what kind of things are needed in order to tackle the previous two. If viewed in this manner, the hope is that everyone can find something of value in this process. In fact, I think an important part of 3 (or the blue target) is to also showcase how closely tied 1 and 2 are to each other (things that make you "sad" are often things with a direct "bad" effect - often an effect you're not necessarily prepared for).
In any event, let's end with a list of priorities, whittled from our "By 2020" poem, and worded explicitly for those of you who don't wish to read the strategic document outlined earlier. In fact, let's borrow from a great list seen at the IYB UK website. Here they suggest that at the very least, Nagoya COP10 can provide the following:
1. A new set of targets to protect our natural resources that are achievable and measurable.
2. A protocol for fair access to, and sharing the benefits from, the world's genetic resources. This is called the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) protocol.
3. The need to put a fair economic value on nature's services that are currently used for free, such as fertile soil, pollination of our crops, and flood defences. This will be based on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) report.
4. Support for establishing a single source for access to reliable scientific evidence which can be used to inform policy decisions on biodiversity issues. This is called the Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and will operate in a similar way that the IPCC informs climate change policy.
My favourite is the first one, which in a sort of grant-proposal-speak, is basically asking for a strong and kick ass Nagoya agreement.
Now, what can you do to help move this along? Well, on the high effort scale, you can obviously get involved in various biodiversity outreach programs. I'm sure there are many in your local neck of the woods. However, at the lower end of the effort scale, just being vocal about such things is a good star (even if you disagree heartily about everything I've written). Dialogue generates more dialogue which then generates debate which then generates noise which then, if you're lucky, might generate notice from the government players, which is what you hope for.
The timing is also interesting politically. For the US, biodiversity has inadvertently been pushed into the public's consciousness by the horrible Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The images and stories presented have been visceral and gut wrenching, and tragically informative in providing a look at how a locale is closely tied to its ecosystem. In the UK, Nagoya COP10 is Prime Minister Cameron's first real test on the environmental front - so there's lots of eyeballs monitoring his government's action. And in Canada, where my home is... well... Stephen Harper should be well aware that the sweater vests he loves so dearly are very much a product of biodiversity.
Anyway, since this is my last Nagoya COP10 primer, I'm hoping you can just go on and make some online noise. For example, those four priorities above seemed primed for a twitter rework. Or maybe just come up with any creative/witty/funny/deep Nagoya related tweet. You can even stick a #nagoyaCOP10 hashtag in there. It would be interesting to see what great lines people can come up with.
David Ng likes to find funny things to show in your next science talk.