Sustainability crisis no less critical than climate change

If self-immolation were somehow our collective goal, there is no surer way of expediting this outcome than to allow the rampant clearing of the world’s remaining forests. A critical place to start is in cracking down on imports of illegally logged timber to try to save rare forest species and tackle climate change.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas has called for an end to global deforestation by 2030. Commissioner  Dimas produced a set of plans to try to curb the wholesale destruction of the world’s forests by half by 2020 – but his action was slammed as ineffective by environmental groups.

EU officials are already negotiating voluntary agreements with Indonesia, Malaysia and Ghana to stop wood logged in protected areas from reaching the European Union. Dimas said EU nations would have to change their national laws so the importers of wood from unsustainable sources can be fined or jailed. The EU does not have the power to draft criminal laws.

The EU plan will also offer extra money for producer countries to preserve old forests and place the burden on importers to prove the wood is from sustainable sources. “When forests disappear so does a vast array of plants and species with disastrous and irreversible consequences,” Dimas said. His demand for an end to global deforestation by 2030 may well be realistic, since by then, there may be little or no original forest standing anywhere on Earth left to protect. Well, it’s one way of meeting a target.

“These precious resources also play a vital role in regulating climate change”, said Dimas. He may have been reading the WWF’s report, 2010 and Beyond: Rising to the Biodiversity Challenge. This revealed that biodiversity has declined by more than a quarter in the last 35 years and highlighted the inequitable burden placed by developed countries on the world’s biodiversity through unsustainable production and consumption.

“Biodiversity is not just a green issue – it is the life support system of our planet providing food, fuel, fibre, medicines and services such as pollination, soil fertility and clean water,” said director of international policy at WWF International, Gordon Shepherd. He said that the report recognises the economic value of biodiversity both to our global economy and for the millions of people directly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods.

“We have to integrate biodiversity in all policies. The loss of biodiversity is now affecting the economy of our countries through the depletion of fish stocks in our oceans through overfishing and illegal fishing to agricultural activities polluting river basins,” added Shepherd.

While many governments and agencies are rightly exercised by the carbon-driven climate crisis, even if somehow a switch could be thrown that miraculously fixed this problem worldwide, the ongoing human-driven environmental holocaust would continue unabated. As the lessons of Easter Island and the collapse of the Mayan civilisation illustrate, civilisation can no more exist without an intact environment than a salmon can exist on the riverbank.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog by journalist John Gibbons focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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