Biodiversity, Montreal & Us

The opening plenary of the U.N. biodiversity conference in Montreal. Photograph by Andrej Ivanov / AFP / Getty

We continue, as a species, to document our impact on other species. The warning signs keep getting clearer. It is not pleasant reading, but it is documented for a reason; it is about us. It is about our responsibilities. Our thanks, as always, to Elizabeth Kolbert:

Can the U.N. Save the World from Ecological Collapse?

At this week’s summit, delegates will consider ambitious new conservation targets—even though the old ones have yet to be achieved.

The Red List of Threatened Species might best be described as a lack-of-progress report. Every six months or so, the list, which is maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is updated, and, with each update, more creatures are classified as heading toward oblivion. The latest update, issued last week, added seven hundred species to the roster of those threatened with extinction. Many of the new additions are classified as “critically endangered,” including the Hot Creek toad, found only in Nye County, Nevada, and the Dixie Valley toad, found in neighboring Churchill County. The trend “is that things are getting worse,” Craig Hilton-Taylor, the head of the I.U.C.N.’s Red List unit said, when the additions were released.

Not coincidentally, the latest Red List update was released just as the latest talks on the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity were getting under way. Some twenty thousand delegates from around the world have gathered in Montreal, where, it is hoped, they will agree on a “road map” for saving the world from ecological collapse. (The talks are scheduled to conclude on Monday.) António Guterres, the U.N. Secretary-General, outlined the enormousness of the task in his opening remarks. “Our land, water, and air are poisoned by chemicals and pesticides, and choked with plastics,” Guterres observed. “The addiction to fossil fuels has thrown our climate into chaos. Unsustainable production and monstrous consumption habits are degrading our world. Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction.”…

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