Happy New International Year of Biodiversity

Happy New International Year of Biodiversity2010 has been declared the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB) by the United Nations. It was officially launched on January 10th in Berlin by Angela Merkel and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The global campaign is being run by the Conventional on Biological Diversity (CBD) which was created after the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

The campaign is an opportunity to promote the understanding of ecosystems and to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity, the variety of life around the planet and how human activity is endangering it. And ultimately to slow if not to stop the extinction of many species.

“You are biodiversity. Most of the oxygen you breathe comes from plankton in the oceans of the world and lush forests around the globe. The fruit and vegetables you eat were likely pollinated by bees, and the water you drink is part of a huge global cycle involving you, clouds, rainfall, glaciers, rivers and oceans.”IYB Message (excerpt)

The campaign aims to impact both the world’s decision makers and citizens.

Indeed, 2010 will be punctuated by a series of official events. On January 21st and 22nd in Paris, the UNESCO hold an inaugural event to present what we know about biodiversity and raise awareness of the alarming rate of biodiversity loss among world leaders. During this meeting Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the CBD highlighted that member states “failed to fulfil the target to reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010” and warned that biodiversity was being lost at an “unprecedented rate”; stressing thereby the urgency of drastic actions. But as a good communicator and as recommended by the UN Campaign Guidelines, Ahmed Djoghlaf also instilled optimism and excitement to his audience by reminding them of the regional successes. “We need to identify these important successes and build upon them as we prepare the next strategic plan of the CBD.”

Current trends make it hard to share his optimism. Indeed, in 2010, approximately 34,000 plant and 5,200 animal species face extinction (the current global species extinction rate is estimated to be 50 to 1 000 times higher than the natural background extinction rate). Forests are home to much of the known terrestrial biodiversity, however, forest biodiversity is increasingly threatened as a result of deforestation, and about 45 per cent of the Earth’s original forests are gone, mostly during the 20th century. Climate change is also progressively becoming a more significant driver of biodiversity loss.

Anyway, in the UK the IYB is supported by the campaign “Biodiversity is life”. It showcases simple things you can do every day to preserve biodiversity: i.e. “eat organic”, “seek out a rare British food crop or animal, like Scottish Beremeal and support biodiversity by eating it”, “don’t mow your lawn”. There will be also a plethora of events run all over the country for the public. From the dodgy exhibition The Occurrence of Malformation in Amphibians (London 5- 31 March) to the hippie Bristol Festival of Nature (12–13 June).

The UN campaign for biodiversity preservation is well done. The UN have led to a multitude of national and local campaigns. By adopting some clear communication guidelines the UN incites the national actors to apply some basic communications tricks to foster awareness and behaviour change such as targeting audiences, being inspiring and translating the messages into practical actions. It’s tricky to assess the success of such planetary campaigns. The UN seems to be good at mobilising political and it’s a good thing that they delegate the task of communicating to citizen, to local actors. But who remember that 2009 was the International Year of Natural Fibres?

“It is hard to imagine a more important priority than protecting the ecosystem services underpinned by biodiversity. Biodiversity is fundamental to humans having food, fuel, clean water and a habitable climate.” Professor Georgina Mace

Posted by Caroline Martinot

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