“If scientists can offer solutions, it is up to citizens and politicians to choose”
Currently in Montreal, COP15, the UN conference on biodiversity, should set framework agreements for the next decade to try to slow the destruction of the planet’s biodiversity. The risks to human societies are enormous. But no other head of state from the host country is going there, Justin Trudeau, the media is struggling to get attention, and the agreements will be non-binding and probably non-ambitious.
However, there is scientific consensus that the loss of biodiversity is currently occurring at an unprecedented rate, with implications for human societies at least as important as climate change and will have dramatic consequences in the short term.
Low mobilization for biodiversity
There are certainly several reasons why mobilization around threats to wildlife is weak. First, understanding the functioning of ecosystems is a complex science, and it is difficult to understand the extent to which the human species derives from biodiversity the benefits essential to its survival.
Still, we depend on insect pollination to produce our crops, and their populations have declined by 70% in the last three decades due to pesticides. However, we depend on wetlands and forests to mitigate the effects of drought and heavy rains, and we continue to deforest.
Yet we depend on species richness in ecosystems to prevent disease and pests in our crops, and we continue to flood our soils and waters with pesticides. Yet we depend on and continue to abuse the diversity of soils to keep them fertile.
Measurement of stakes
Yet we depend on the genetic resources of biodiversity to identify new drugs and continue to allow species to become extinct. However, we depend on forests and life in the oceans to store the carbon we release into the atmosphere, and we continue to deplete and reduce them. Yet we depend on the fish and shellfish in the seas and oceans to feed us, and we continue to deplete them. However, invasive alien species, including pathogens, destroy endemic species, and we continue to translocate species without much restriction. Why don’t we measure the risks of biodiversity loss to human societies?
When scientists document the alarming rate of decline of life on the planet, they are often dismissed and told that it would be a shame to lose that beautiful bird or that little flower. But well, you see, we have more serious and more important issues, and we will find a technological solution to overcome the absence of a species that is really important… From a purely utilitarian point of view, maybe this beautiful bird or this bird. the little flower is really useless to us. or perhaps it forms a small keystone that holds the entire functioning of an ecosystem from which we derive invaluable benefits.
Hundreds of interacting species
Hundreds of species interact with each other in an ecosystem, and it is impossible to predict the chain consequences of the disappearance of a particular species. For example, the disappearance of wolves in Yellowstone Park led to the endangerment of rare plants… surprising, but actually makes sense: the herbivores would have multiplied and eaten more plants without their predators. It’s like we’re sitting in a wooden tower game where we remove bricks little by little without being able to guess which brick to remove will cause the tower to collapse. Ecosystems provide and provide services essential to our survival and well-being through complex interactions among species, and we do not know how to predict which species’ disappearance will cause the entire system to collapse.
If we can imagine technological solutions to replace one or two species, it is illusory to imagine that we can live without a functioning global ecosystem, without the huge amount of worms and microorganisms that fertilize the soil, without millions of pollinating insects. , without ocean plankton that capture carbon, plant roots that prevent soil erosion and flooding, insects and microorganisms that recycle organic matter, birds that regulate pests…
Give yourself a tool
Acknowledging the challenges of biodiversity loss and giving ourselves the means to meet ambitious commitments will be essential to the well-being of human societies in the short term. As with climate, if we don’t act, the immediate costs will be many times lower than the short-term future costs, and there are fairly simple solutions. One of the challenges of COP15, for example, would be to aim to reduce pesticide use by two-thirds. However, by promoting biodiversity and justifying the use of pesticides only when necessary, our agriculture can actually be more productive.
Other goals of COP15 are to restore 20% of degraded ecosystems, reduce the introduction of exotic species by 50% and protect 30% of land and sea areas. The most promising and sustainable solutions to combating global change are nature-based, goals that will increase rather than decrease our well-being. But it is important to understand that while scientists can make findings and propose solutions, it is up to citizens and politicians to choose, act or not.