Nagoya COP10 Primer #2: with a reference to Kevin Bacon


Yes, even Kevin Bacon is part of an ecosystem.

(Continuing on from "Nagoya COP10 Primer #1: with Star Wars references").

Given that the Nagoya COP10 meeting is all about the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), it's probably a good thing to talk a little bit about the convention itself. Let's start with the general stuff, i.e. what it represents, and then save the specifics for later posts.

Put simply, it's the international treaty whose aim is to look after the Earth's biodiversity. Here, the CBD defines biodiversity as:

"the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part; this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems."

In other words, the CBD is there to suggest (as well as enforce) that we as humans, should try to have a decent relationship with all of the other organisms found on our planet.

This might sound obvious, but one of the problems with the notion of biodiversity is that sometimes, it feels like it just doesn't get enough credit – somehow it doesn't feel like a "serious issue." You say the word biodiversity, and most likely these idyllic images of the someplace scenic pop into your head – maybe, you even imagine lots of birds chirping in the background, a deer or two in the distance, and of course, a bear who may actually be waving at you. For lack of a better word, Biodiversity just feels "nice."

However, biodiversity stewardship is really mostly about coming to terms with the fact that we, as humans, tend to over emphasize our importance, and forget that at the end of the day, we have a very strong connection and dependence to the other 20 million or so species out there.

I find it akin to the mother of all Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon exercises, since almost everything we subsist on, make, do, and draw inspiration from, has a tenable link to at least one species of organism out there.

Think about what you're doing right now. You're probably sitting in a locale/town/city that was likely settled because of its proximity to certain conveniences: good soil for growing crops, forests for lumber to build things, decent water supply, terrain that was easily traveled, etc. The accommodation you're sitting in is almost certainly full of things that have organic origins – the wood used in the structure itself, the fabric in many of your clothes, the objects that contain things like natural rubber, most anything with a pleasant scent. Then, of course, you have energy to move, and think, and be, and this energy is coming from your food, perhaps the most obvious connection to biodiversity we can think of. Finally, as you read this post on Boing Boing, the computer is rife with inspirations drawn from biodiversity – you are, afterall, surfing on the "web" and there's also a good chance you're using a "mouse" to do this.

In fact, four out of the four Boing Boing editors even have surnames with biodiversity connotations! "Frauenfelder" being something close to "Lord of the Field" in German, "Pescovitz" possibly relating to "fishing", and "Jardin" being french for "Garden." We could then suggest that "Doctorow" likely has something to do with doctors, a profession that is pretty familiar with microbial life.

In other words, no offense to Kevin Bacon (whose surname also has a biodiversity link), but why not have a Six Degrees of Just Bacon.

Anyway, in the general sense, this is what the Convention on Biological Diversity is trying to do. It's trying to work biodiversity into our collective consciousness, encourage governments across the world to realize its value, and then get everyone to behave in a responsible manner.
Of course, the big question is, "does it work?" And the short answer is, "No." But we'll talk more about this in the next post.