Why is society failing to halt biodiversity loss? Professor Joern Fischer Email :  [email_address]   Blog :  http://ideas4...
The “father of conservation biology”: Michael Soulé <ul><li>Concern with sustainable use of resources is an old theme – bu...
Biodiversity <ul><li>The diversity of genes, species and ecosystems </li></ul><ul><li>For most purposes, species are a rea...
On the verge of the sixth mass extinction? Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, see also Barnosky et al. 2011, Nature
Proximate drivers <ul><li>Results from scenario modelling </li></ul>Source: Sala et al. 2000, Science
Protected areas <ul><li>Currently about 12% of the world’s surface </li></ul><ul><li>An important backbone of biodiversity...
Source:  Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_dXEL7_-VClA/TOiOkByUxmI/AAAAAAAAAg8/p5rEpIr-YWQ/s1600/090103_Wing.jpg
Source:  The insurance value of biodiversity <ul><li>Biodiversity provides resilience through “redundancy” </li></ul>Sourc...
Why should we care about biodiversity decline? <ul><li>Use values “ecosystem services” </li></ul><ul><li>Non-use values </...
01.03.12 13.04.2011 Source: Steffen, W., et al. (2004) Global change and the Earth system. Springer-Verlag The ‘Anthropoce...
01.03.12 13.04.2011 Source: Steffen, W., et al. (2004) Global change and the Earth system. Springer-Verlag The ‘Anthropoce...
01.03.12 The ‘Anthropocene’  (Paul Crutzen, 2000) 13.04.2011 Source: Steffen, W., et al. (2004) Global change and the Eart...
What kinds of things are we trying? <ul><li>In the case of biodiversity loss: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Meetings, ‘strategies’...
But the gap is growing, not closing 13.04.2011 Source: Fischer et al. (2007). Mind the sustainability gap. Trends in Ecolo...
Sustainability and human behavior <ul><li>New paper in Frontiers in Ecology & the Environment </li></ul><ul><li>Some ‘ulti...
Population and consumption <ul><li>1971, Ehrlich and Holdren: Impact  = f ( P, A, T ) </li></ul><ul><li>Population, Afflue...
Population and consumption <ul><li>Population and consumption increases seen as inevitable: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ With t...
Equity and fairness <ul><li>Political processes often fail because they don’t consider: </li></ul><ul><li>- Interactional ...
Institutions <ul><li>Key imperatives of political and economic institutions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Look after the national...
Reminder: the sustainability gap 13.04.2011 Source: Fischer et al. (2007). Mind the sustainability gap. Trends in Ecology ...
The elephant in the room! <ul><li>“ An important and obvious topic, which everyone present is aware of, but which isn't di...
Is the elephant finally being noticed…? <ul><li>WBGU 2011 (Scientific advisory board of the German government): </li></ul>...
Where is ‘real change’ going to come from? <ul><li>Not from more research on its own </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Probably not ...
Conclusion: so why are we failing? <ul><li>Obsession with proximate drivers and proximate solutions, firmly ignoring the f...
Acknowledgements <ul><li>Thanks to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Germany Ministry of Education and Researc...
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Leuphana sustainability summit joern fischer 2012

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Keynote talk presented by Joern Fischer at the Leuphana Sustainability Summit 2012.
Visit http://ideas4sustainability.wordpress.com/

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  • State what you will do – including the hope that some of it is controversial
  • + state its multidisciplinary We should keep this mix in mind – later I will come back to this multi-facetted nature
  • Example: EU target to halt biodiversity loss by 2020
  • Make links to other people here
  • We’ve had a quote from Obama before – now let’s look at what his chief scientific advisor has to say (John Holdren)
  • Example: EU target to halt biodiversity loss by 2020
  • For those of us interested in sustainability, I believe that our goal should be to do whatever we can to start such a movement
  • Thank you.
  • Leuphana sustainability summit joern fischer 2012

    1. 1. Why is society failing to halt biodiversity loss? Professor Joern Fischer Email : [email_address] Blog : http://ideas4sustainability.wordpress.com/ Twitter : @ideas4sust Image source: http://www.ygoy.com/2011/10/01/top-biodiversity-hotspots-the-endangered-ones/
    2. 2. The “father of conservation biology”: Michael Soulé <ul><li>Concern with sustainable use of resources is an old theme – but formalised through “conservation biology” </li></ul><ul><li>Firmly based on values: diversity of life is good, evolution is good, … </li></ul><ul><li>“ Conservation biology … is often a crisis discipline. Its relation to biology… is analogous to that of … war to political science. … one must act before knowing all the facts; crisis disciplines are thus a mixture of science and art, and their pursuit requires intuition as well as information” Soulé 1985, BioScience </li></ul>Source: http://www.conservationgis.org/scgis/ScgNews1/graphics/soule1b.jpg
    3. 3. Biodiversity <ul><li>The diversity of genes, species and ecosystems </li></ul><ul><li>For most purposes, species are a reasonable proxy </li></ul>Source: http://www.life.illinois.edu/ib/335/images/piechart.large.jpg
    4. 4. On the verge of the sixth mass extinction? Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, see also Barnosky et al. 2011, Nature
    5. 5. Proximate drivers <ul><li>Results from scenario modelling </li></ul>Source: Sala et al. 2000, Science
    6. 6. Protected areas <ul><li>Currently about 12% of the world’s surface </li></ul><ul><li>An important backbone of biodiversity conservation, but insufficient </li></ul><ul><li>Too small, too isolated, not safe from human disturbances </li></ul>Source: http://www.cbd.int/images/map20.gif; Gaston et al. 2008, Annual Review Ecol. Syst.
    7. 7. Source: Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_dXEL7_-VClA/TOiOkByUxmI/AAAAAAAAAg8/p5rEpIr-YWQ/s1600/090103_Wing.jpg
    8. 8. Source: The insurance value of biodiversity <ul><li>Biodiversity provides resilience through “redundancy” </li></ul>Sources: Walker 1992, 1995 Conserv. Biol.
    9. 9. Why should we care about biodiversity decline? <ul><li>Use values “ecosystem services” </li></ul><ul><li>Non-use values </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Option value </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bequest value </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Existence value </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Moral value </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intrinsic value </li></ul></ul>Sources: Gaston and Spicer 2004; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
    10. 10. 01.03.12 13.04.2011 Source: Steffen, W., et al. (2004) Global change and the Earth system. Springer-Verlag The ‘Anthropocene’ (Paul Crutzen, 2000)
    11. 11. 01.03.12 13.04.2011 Source: Steffen, W., et al. (2004) Global change and the Earth system. Springer-Verlag The ‘Anthropocene’ (Paul Crutzen, 2000)
    12. 12. 01.03.12 The ‘Anthropocene’ (Paul Crutzen, 2000) 13.04.2011 Source: Steffen, W., et al. (2004) Global change and the Earth system. Springer-Verlag
    13. 13. What kinds of things are we trying? <ul><li>In the case of biodiversity loss: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Meetings, ‘strategies’, ‘action plans’, conventions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ambitious targets (e.g. “no loss” by 2020) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Explaining the use values of biodiversity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Paying people to preserve biodiversity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Sustainable intensification’ of land use </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Implicit assumption appears to be: The same methods applied more rigorously will lead to success </li></ul>
    14. 14. But the gap is growing, not closing 13.04.2011 Source: Fischer et al. (2007). Mind the sustainability gap. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 22, 612-624. “ What's troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics…” (Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope)
    15. 15. Sustainability and human behavior <ul><li>New paper in Frontiers in Ecology & the Environment </li></ul><ul><li>Some ‘ultimate’ drivers of biodiversity loss relate to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Population & consumption </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Equity & fairness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Institutions (political, economic, civil society) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Value and belief systems </li></ul></ul>Source: Fischer et al. 2012. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
    16. 16. Population and consumption <ul><li>1971, Ehrlich and Holdren: Impact = f ( P, A, T ) </li></ul><ul><li>Population, Affluence, Technology </li></ul><ul><li>Population: “… easy access to family planning could make a difference of billions in the world in 2050” (Prata 2009) </li></ul><ul><li>Consumption: Expectations of constant comfort and consumption must be addressed (Christensen 2008) </li></ul>Sources: Ehrlich and Holdren 1971, Science; other references are detailed in Fischer et al. 2012 Frontiers
    17. 17. Population and consumption <ul><li>Population and consumption increases seen as inevitable: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ With the human population predicted to rise to between 8 and 10 billion and with rapidly increasing … consumption, overall food demand is expected to increase two- to threefold by 2050.” (Green et al. 2005; similarly Phalan et al. 2011; Tilmann et al. 2011) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The answer: “sustainable intensification” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>But we should not take these trends as given: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dietary shift could lead to 28% more food (Foley et al. 2011) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>40% of food is currently wasted (Foley et al. 2011) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Food distribution is greatly unequal </li></ul></ul>Science : Godfray et al. 10; Phalan et al. 11, Fischer et al. 11; PNAS : Tilmann et al. 11; Nature : Foley et al. 11
    18. 18. Equity and fairness <ul><li>Political processes often fail because they don’t consider: </li></ul><ul><li>- Interactional justice (how people are treated) </li></ul><ul><li>- Procedural justice (participation and voice) </li></ul><ul><li>- Distributional justice (who gets what) </li></ul>Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
    19. 19. Institutions <ul><li>Key imperatives of political and economic institutions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Look after the national or company’s interests </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maintain a strong economy ( de facto = material growth) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maintain security </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Get elected </li></ul></ul>Source: Leunig
    20. 20. Reminder: the sustainability gap 13.04.2011 Source: Fischer et al. (2007). Mind the sustainability gap. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 22, 612-624.
    21. 21. The elephant in the room! <ul><li>“ An important and obvious topic, which everyone present is aware of, but which isn't discussed, as such discussion is considered to be uncomfortable.” (www.phrases.org.uk) </li></ul><ul><li>What are the core values of our society ? Are they g rowth, constant comfort and consumption? </li></ul>Source: http://absolutecytron.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Elephant2.png
    22. 22. Is the elephant finally being noticed…? <ul><li>WBGU 2011 (Scientific advisory board of the German government): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Need social transformation including enhanced participation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>10 bundles of actions – changed values mentioned in passing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>UNEP 2012 (United Nations Environment Programme): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>21 priorities for the 21 st century </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>One relates to “transformative changes in human behaviour” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>So transformation is increasingly on the radar </li></ul><ul><ul><li>But societal values are seen as one of many parallel issues, not as the central foundational issue </li></ul></ul>
    23. 23. Where is ‘real change’ going to come from? <ul><li>Not from more research on its own </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Probably not even if it is on transformation! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Not from more meetings and targets </li></ul><ul><li>Not from political or economic institutions </li></ul><ul><li>Civil society can be the origin of social change </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g. end of racial segregation in the USA </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g. beginning of US environmental movement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g. end of nuclear energy in Germany </li></ul></ul>Source: http://www.kladeradatsch.de/resources/Marionette.jpg
    24. 24. Conclusion: so why are we failing? <ul><li>Obsession with proximate drivers and proximate solutions, firmly ignoring the foundational issues underpinning our problems </li></ul><ul><li>For more ultimate solutions we need: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A new public discourse on what we value </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stronger linkages and new alliances within civil society </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ultimately: a new global movement </li></ul></ul>
    25. 25. Acknowledgements <ul><li>Thanks to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Germany Ministry of Education and Research for funding via a Sofja Kovalevskaja Award </li></ul>Source: http://www.conservationgis.org/scgis/ScgNews1/graphics/soule1b.jpg We need to broaden our beam of compassion to encompass all life on earth – not just in our immediate area of interest (paraphrasing of Michael Soulé, Canberra 2006)

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