1. How biodiversity emerged in international conventions
Decisions regarding protection of biodiversity have usually been detrimental economically in a short run, since they created a limitation in exploiting natural resources. Biodiversity has been presented like a capital to be managed for future generations to better convinced governments. Beyond ecology it became a life insurance policy for Human beings and for the international economy.
In 1972 emerged the concept of ecodevelopment during the Stockholm conference for human environment hosted by the UN. 15 years later the word "sustainable development" appeared out of the Brundtland report in 1987. The Brundtland report was a conference about substances threatening the ozone layer. What is Sustainable development ? It is defined in this report as “what enables current generations to meet their needs without jeopardizing the capacity of future generations to do so”.
Good will exists. But governmental actions are rare.
One needed to wait the 1992 UN conference of Rio named the Earth summit to assist for the first time to a gathering of head of States on sustainable development. The agenda 21, the final declaration made at the end of the summit is a true action plan. A convention on biodiversity and also on desertification and climate change is signed. This agenda is funded on three pillars, ecology encompassing management and protection of biodiversity as well as limitations of environmental pressure on threatened geographic area, economy with an objective of sustainable growth, meaning stable and durable and politics taking into account the needs of future generations, fair trade and debts of emerging countries.
Five years later the Kyoto Protocol puts into effect the commitment of 50 States in limiting the emission of greenhouse gas. Nevertheless some States with a strong green house gas emission economy have not signed the document, including the USA (producing 36% of greenhouse gas), China and India. It is estimated that the effort makes up for 3% of what shall be expected to stop the vicious cycle of global warming. States struggle to implement action. The Johannesburg summit in 2002 did not have the expected effect: no strong commitment is imposed to start a new dynamic and the North and South relationship is really tackled.
The last conference in Curitiba in 2006 tries to invert such trend. It schedules States will have to draft before 2010 a code limiting the access to natural resources. International law is targeted with this code as well as the split of profit from the exploitation of natural resources especially by the pharmaceutical industry. A laboratory exploiting a plant from the forests have to inform the State of origin and pay local population who have provided therapeutical information. Unfortunately environment activists judge that 2010 is too late, enabling firms to get a patent before then. (Source: Les Echos 4th of April 2006, p.24). (Source : Les Echos, 4 avril 2006, p 24)
2. Biodiversity on a daily basis
The Agro industry like the manufacturing sector nurture itself from wild or tamed nature. Nature in its diversity is the mother breastfeeding our economy. Natural genome has always been exploited by agriculture to enhance resistance of tamed species. With genetics the raw value of wild species is priceless especially at a time when the resistance of viruses has been improved through mutation.
Pharmaceutical industry, other powerful lobby, still uses nowadays nature as prime source of its molecules. The 2/3 of manufactured drugs come from exploitation of natural plants. Estimates of new drugs that could be created base don natural resources are even more impressive. More than 500 marine organisms have been listed as provider of substances against cancer. And 90% of tropical species have not yet been identified!
Botanist Francis Halle believes the pharmaceutical industry is the only one able to save the tropical biodiversity considering its needs, financial stakes and added value potential. During an interview he estimated life expectancy of the tropical biodiversity at less than 10 years. (Source : Les Echos, 15th march 2006, p 12). Indeed the secondary forest is made of soft trees, not offering any potential chemicals for the pharmaceuticals company or biotechnologies. Secondary forests only contain lipids, sugar and cellulose used for the tree growth. Once the primary forest has been destroyed, it takes 6 to 8 centuries to regenerate. And primary forest has almost entirely disappeared in Asia. Other primary forests are probably living their last years.
3. And tomorrow
We barely notice in our daily lives, the utmost necessity of biodiversity, so we are dominated by our current way of life, with its 10 animals and 20 vegetables diet accounting for 90% of our alimentation. Processing of plants and animals for our consumption, have made us loose the connection with the biodiversity of our world. Our interest for biodiversity suffers from this representation and makes for most of us biodiversity a matter of touristy interest.
The shrinking diversity of the living is badly known. Scientists assess the number of species between 12.5 M and 15 Million, when we have identified and listed only 1.7 M species. The scientific observations are unambiguous: "LThe natural environments are changing at a pace never seen before in the history of the planet. Animal and vegetal species are getting extinguished faster than ever before. For years the number of species getting extinguished on Earth were 3 to 4 a year. For a few centuries, this rhythm got faster. (…) Since 1900, half the tropical forest has been destroyed (800 million ha). Every minute, 40 new hectares disappear for cattle, intensive agriculture, wood industry. " (Source : UNESCO, 2004)
Ahmed Djoghalf, secretary of the convention on biodiversity introduced its 8th conference on March 20th 2006 observing: "We are at the beginning of the biggest extinction crisis since Dinosaurs disappeared." (Source : Le Monde, 20/03/2006, page 7)
The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), the widest global network of information gathering information and knowledge about the environment highlights that 16 000 known species, vegetals or animals are nowadays facing extinction. By drafting its red list, the IUCN highlights that despite the rising awareness "the trend (...) is clear : he loss of biodiversity is getting faster instead of slowing down". Achim Steiner, managing director of the IUCN adds: "Biodiversity will not be saved by the only specialists of the environment, it needs to become the responsibility of all of us". According to the IUCN, one third of endangered species are amphibians, one fourth of conifers, and another quarter of mammals. The IUCN also noted that 784 species of which the organization was especially following the evolution are officially extinguished and 64 only exists in captivity or cultivated. (Source : AFP, Genève, 02/05/2006)
The European commissioner in charge of the Environment Stravos Dimas assessed the 10th of April 2006 that 42% of mammals, 43% of birds and 52% of fresh water fishes in Europe are facing extinction. (Source : EIS, 11 avril 2004).
Le Commissaire Européen à l’Environnement Stravos Dimas a estimé le 10 avril 2006 que 42 % des mammifères, 43 % des oiseaux et 52 % des poissons d’eau douce d’Europe étaient menacés d’extinction. (Source : EIS, 11 avril 2004).
4. Biodiversity in Ecuador
Ecuador signed the Convention on Biologic diversity drafted in Rio. But like most of Latin American countries it did not manage to value its environmental and cultural wealth against oil exploitation. Ecuador seems not to invest on the wealth of knowledge of native communities and focuses on other social and economic priorities. The economic development of Ecuador leaves little room for the native minorities and to the potential of biotechnological reservoir often considered hypothetic..
Biopiracy, meaning exploitation by pharmaceutical companies of the local communities knowledge of plants, selling it worldwide is spoiling the local populations. Native communities are abused. They do not get any dividends on the massive turnover generated by pharmaceuticals and are dispossessed of their own knowledge. This bonanza would help local communities finance their local and sustainable economic growth. The recognition of the value brought by native knowledge would help maintain the identity of communities also facing extinction. This matter is nowadays mainly discussed at the WTO and at the WIPO, where industrialized countries outweigh emerging countries and representatives of native communities not familiar with the legal and technical aspect of negotiation. Nevertheless it is estimated that the worldwide market of drugs processed from the knowledge of the native communities amounts to tenths of billion dollars. (Source: globalnet.org, DIAL).(Source : globenet.org, DIAL).