Protecting biodiversity starts in the community

Amid shaky global negotiations on biodiversity protection that have been stalled by the Covid-19 pandemic, a researcher who has studied the impact of humans on nature around the world argues there is hope to be found in local initiatives.

This content was published on June 29, 2022 – 09:00

United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability

In March in Geneva, 195 countries debated the next global biodiversity framework. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, negotiations have been deadlocked for more than two years. The latest global biodiversity agreement, known as the Aichi Biodiversity TargetsExternal link, expired at the end of 2020 and a new biodiversity framework is needed to replace them. But in Geneva, participants failed to produce concrete goals for moving forward, or even agree on overarching goals for the next framework. Another negotiation meeting is scheduled for July in NairobiExternal link, Kenya, ahead of the UN Biodiversity Summit in Montreal, Canada in December. But the process was characterized by a lack of urgency, according to many NGOs present at the Geneva negotiations.

Threats to nature persist

The pandemic has interrupted biodiversity management efforts in many places, and global threats to nature have continued largely unabated. Although the early days of the pandemic heralded the return of dolphins and swans to crowded waterways and mobility was significantly restricted due to pandemic response strategies, consumption and land use patterns hardly changed – with impacts on nature all too clear. And as weeks of lockdown stretched into months, it became clear that humanity’s response to the pandemic was itself harming nature.

As pointed out International Conservation,External link “There is a misperception that nature is ‘taking a break’ from humans during the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, many rural areas in the tropics face increased pressure from land grabbing, deforestation, illegal mining and wildlife poaching.

The situation in developed countries is even more insidious. The amount of plastic waste resulting from sanitation has exploded and the resulting plastic pollution has skyrocketed in many countries in Europe and the Americas, which had tried to phase out the use of plastics. And in the developed world, people fleeing cities out of fear or simply to take advantage of remote working are driving demand for resources and energy-intensive single-family homes in suburban or rural areas.

Overall, there have been some positive developments for biodiversity conservation as a result of the pandemic, including greater attention to regulating wildlife trade, but researchers around the world have noticed many other negative impacts.

reason to hope

A goal of protecting 30% of global ecosystems by 2030 was discussed ahead of the upcoming biodiversity summit in Montreal. To achieve this requires not only a return to pre-pandemic levels of aspiration, but also an overshoot of them. While it may seem daunting after two years of little progress, we must remember that the real work of implementation takes place in local communities. There are already a large number of successful biodiversity practices and initiatives underway in various contexts around the world.

The Regional Centers of Expertise (RCE) are an example of this. There are 175 RCEs around the world, each bringing together local actors to advance Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). These NCEs join formal education providers (such as schools and universities) with non-formal education providers (such as city governments, national parks, museums and zoos) to use education and training in order to promote an integrated sustainable development program in a given region.

Launched in 2003, the NCE initiative is facilitated by the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) in Tokyo and funded by Japan’s Ministry of Environment.

The protection and restoration of the biosphere have been at the heart of the concerns of the RECs since their creation. The recent publication Engaging Communities for Biodiversity Conservation: Education for Sustainable Development Projects from the RCE Global NetworkExternal link highlights successful cases such as the restoration of mangrove ecosystems in Bangladesh and the Philippines or the reduction of human-wildlife contact in Brazilian and Kenyan communities. The post offers many other concrete examples of how communities around the world have used education as a mechanism to take concrete action to protect biodiversity in their area. Whether taking an ecosystem or species-based approach to conservation, the NCE projects featured offer the next steps we can all take in our own communities to translate education into action to protect the biosphere.

Clearly, we will need global goals and targets in the future as we seek to protect nature around the world. But with these examples, where communities have been able to take the lead in using education and training to implement biodiversity conservation, we are that much closer to making these elusive global goals a reality. .

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