My virtual swag bag for biodiversity and Nagoya COP10 includes Zhu Zhu pets.

So this Nagoya COP10 conference is coming up in a week, and at these events what tends to happen is that all the delegates will receive a "swag bag' of sorts. Actually, the term "swag" is probably over selling it a bit, since what they actually receive is probably better described as a portfolio of resources. In other words, it's less about gadgets, gift cards, and bling, and more about documents and materials that will attempt to inform them on the various issues at stake.

Anyway, the teacher in me is also wanting to put together a virtual swag bag of biodiversity things to look at – especially for those who want to quickly get up to speed on the whole thing. Of course, you can read my "Star Wars" jargon infused primers on the conference itself (see parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and a sidebar; or here as a single post), but why not take a gander at a few other things available on the web.

You should start with the above panel discussion video. In my opinion, it is excellent – I'm going to get all of my students to check it out. Involving five experts who obviously care a great deal about biodiversity, it's a good and pragmatic overview of all the pertinent issues at stake. Admittedly, it's a little close to homework at times (especially the first few minutes where intros are made), but in terms of packing in a lot of great information, it's well worth a look. Best of all, once the questions start (culled from forums and twitter) it gets engaging and lucid pretty quickly. I loved the bit where the entomologist, Dr. Chris Lyal, defends the weevil, and in doing so, you learn just how kick ass weevils are!

The embedded YouTube video just shows the first 8 or so minutes (which includes the introductions), but I highly recommend giving yourself some time to watch the full length version here (think of it as a much more palatable alternative to reading 50 pages of text to stay informed).

However, if reading is more your cup of tea, there are two places in particular where you can dive into the subject. There are many others (for instance, the Guardian's Biodiversity 100 series is great), but I can vouch for two in particular since I've happen to have written pieces for both.

First, if you're more the "I've got an e-reader/iPad and I want to download something" type, the award winning Kyoto Journal (an Asian affairs general interest/academic journal) has just published a special Biodiversity issue. Its awesome, with pieces from a wide variety of experts, writers, educators, and advocates. This specific issue will actually be one of the things provided in the delegate's swag bag. More interesting to us, however, is the fact that the vast majority of the journal has been made available as downloadable pdfs complete with lush graphics, all the more notable since the non-profit magazine has often been applauded for its graphic design. Although you'll have to download articles individually, as oppose to just downloading the journal as a single file, it's definitely well worth a look (in fact, if anyone wants to go to the effort of compiling the pdfs into one, let me know – I can certainly pass that on).


A second good read is the collection of posts hosted at the "Big Nature Debate" blog (this is actually the same place that hosted the panel discussion above). I've quite enjoyed the posts there, and as an added bonus, there's also a forum where you can weigh in on various discussions. Moreover, this site is the bit where my odd reference to Zhu Zhu pets comes in. The fact that the Boing Boing Shop sells Zhu Zhu pets as sacrificial test subjects is awesomely fitting to me, since the piece I contributed to the site happens to involve these toys:

I just noticed, with some amusement, that the 2010 Toy of the Year is something akin to a cute robotic rodent. Specifically, they are called Zhu Zhu Pets, a mechanical universe of furry and mobile hamsters, expandable with a hamster-like ecosystem complete with wheels, balls, and see through tunnels. The fact that this was announced during the International Year of Biodiversity seems deliciously ironic but maybe also informative? (Read more here)

zhuzhubiodiversity.jpgAnyway, this talk of Zhu Zhu pets has made me think an odd and potentially amusing thought. That is, what if the Nagoya COP10 delegates receive a portfolio that is less about intellectual reading and more about being visually emotive – maybe even a little humorous? A "swag bag" that is less about documents for homework, but more about items that symbolically reference or even heckle the often messed up relationship between government policy, corporate culture, and biodiversity. For instance, how about for every delegate, we supply a Zhu Zhu pet with a little note that reads:

"2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity. The 2010 Toy of the Year is a Zhu Zhu pet. What is up with that?"