Sunday, May 30, 2010

Loss of reality?

"Governments have made “positive moves” towards coming up with a plan to reduce the current loss of biodiversity, which is threatening the future of our planet. Over the past two weeks, delegates at a meeting in Nairobi have been discussing the scientific and technical aspects behind a new “big plan” to save all life on earth, the planet’s biodiversity. Scientists from IUCN, who have been taking part in the discussions, say that they’re encouraged by the commitment shown by governments to develop a new Strategic Plan for the next ten years, which would set targets to reduce the global rate of biodiversity loss." IUCN-SSC, May 23, 2010

Reading this press release together with the recent article in Science "Barometer of Live" I really wonder what these people think. Didn't the target date of Countdown 2010 just pass by? Could we say that within the last eight years the conservation community achieved something really significant towards this clearly ambitious goal? I doubt, and furthermore other competitors came up like the climate change or global financial crisis that use some of the limited resources to be used for the environment.

Now, they either hope that politicians think that this cause is important or that a philanthropist is stepping forwards to pay another 60M USD over the next few years.

I consider our biodiversity conservation a global failure. There are plenty of small initiatives that succeed, but at global level we haven't achieved anything. We still have not even a list of the species of the world, not to speak a global assessment strategy that is living up to modern standards of biodidversiy prospecting and taxonomy.

If such as failure would happen in the industry, heads would have to roll. I think, we need a new generation of leaders that are ingenious, that bring in new approaches, that include the collection of environmental data that can be used and reused; real observation data. That would mean, that we have to talk to each other, we need to build the necessary infrastructure and clever strategies on what we are going to measure, and how we are going to finance it sustainably.

As much as the biodiversity informatics community seems to luck guidance in their development, the conservation community fails the necessary scientific insights to create such a global monitoring program that would stand up to criticism. The funding agencies could steer such an endeavor into the right direction.

Star power obvioulsy is not the way to succeed. We need bold ideas and people with a vision that can be implemented and lives up to scientific rigor. It is, nevertheless the scientific methods and data that have the power to change, not good stories.


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