Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Looking after the environment, our home

As published by the Samoa Observer by Mata'afa Keni Lesa, Editor Samoa Observer, a member of The Pacific Voyage Media Team, in Nagoya Japan at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity

This is a big week for biodiversity and nature conservation.
It’s a week where a series of meetings and negotiations about how the environment and the need to care for it are being held in Nagoya, Japan.
Experts in environment issues and science are joined by people with expertise in different areas – money and otherwise - to work out strategies geared at reducing the damage done by man’s negligence to the environment.  
Our negligence has been known for many years so that in 2002 in Johannesburg, some 110 world leaders agreed to a number of targets to reduce the loss of biodiversity.
They then gave themselves until 2010 to see if they succeeded.
Progress, however, has been slow.
As a matter of fact, it’s been a miserable failure, if a report titled Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 is anything to judge by. The report assesses the state of biodiversity and the implications of its continued loss. Based on scientific assessments, national reports submitted by governments and a study on future scenarios for biodiversity, the report laments that the world has failed to meet the targets. It warns about further losses resulting in severe reduction of essential services to human societies. It also identified what are now commonly referred to as "tipping points." The tipping points analysed by the report includes:
• The dieback of large areas of the Amazon forest, due to the interactions of climate change, deforestation and fires, with consequences for the global climate, regional rainfall and widespread species extinctions.
• The shift of many freshwater lakes and other inland water bodies to eutrophic or algae-dominated states, caused by the buildup of nutrients and leading to widespread fish kills and loss of recreational amenities.
• Multiple collapses of coral reef ecosystems, due to a combination of ocean acidification, warmer water leading to bleaching, overfishing and nutrient pollution; and threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of species directly dependent on coral reef resources.
The report, however, argues what’s happened today is “avoidable if effective and coordinated action is taken to reduce the multiple pressures being imposed on biodiversity.”
So this is why the meeting in Nagoya is important. World leaders – including Samoa and the Pacific islands – are here to talk about a new approach. They are discussing a new Strategy Plan for the next decade with a vision on 2050.
The challenges are not new. Money is among the sensitive issues.
The level of ambition for financial resources and capacity building are among the most difficult issues, David Cooper, the Secretary of COP 10 in Nagoya, told us during the weekend.
“The developing countries are saying that if we have ambitious targets for reducing biodiversity loss in various ways, then we also need ambitious targets for funding and there isn’t yet a clear agreement on that,” he said. And so it goes.
Organisers of COP 10 are hoping that by the end of the week, the plan will be adopted and new targets will be set. There are other matters, for example, organisers are hoping the Aichi-Nagoya protocol on access and benefit-sharing (ABS) will be adopted at the end of the week.
Anything could happen.
But what do these conventions, protocols, frameworks and whatever tongue-twisting terms mean for the average person in the village? Is what’s being discussed in Nagoya relevant to them? Are they being considered in the discussions?
Of course they are. What’s decided in Nagoya will directly affect the average villager in Falealupo and Asau. It will determine how the forest at Vaisala is kept. It will influence and most likely shape plans by our government which involves you. Most importantly, such discussions attract the millions we need to implement efforts to reverse the damage.
The point is low-lying island countries scattered around the Pacific are at the mercy of changes to the environment and the climate.
Environment issues of most concern to Samoa include the loss of forests, damage to water catchment areas, marine life and sea creatures. 
Our Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) has already started working on a number of these issues. With the National Environment week coming up, MNRE is expected to make some exciting announcements about some of its plans; central among them will be waste.
And that’s something to cheer up about. Because if there’s anything this country doesn’t need but it has an abundance of, it’s waste. We’re confronted by it everywhere we go, and yet we don’t seem to be bothered very much by it.
Indeed, we hope the national Environment Week will open our eyes to the perils arising from maintaining a negligent attitude towards the environment, and the need to care for it at all times.
For years, we have taken our environment for granted. We have recklessly exploited it without caring about the consequences.
Today, we are confronted by the result of our actions. And they are not pretty. Our world is in grave danger both by our reckless attitude towards our environment and changes to the climate.
The most serious of which is the rising sea level and water shortages caused because our rain forests in water catchment areas are felled for lumber, or to make way for new homes.
As this column has said before, education is naturally the key to saving the environment. Everyone should be educated about the consequences if we don’t look after our biodiversity, our home. It’s up to us to make the change. God bless!

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