Nature is not only a source of profit for man

Humanity must stop viewing nature as a source of short-term profit and base itself on “values” that link its well-being to the state of our planet, the United Nations warned in a report published on Monday.

Without such a change, the goals of sustainable development and reduction of inequalities in the world will remain pious wishes, underlines the UN’s biodiversity experts, IPBES, in the volume devoted to “values ​​and evaluation of nature”.

“The way we approach economic development is at the heart of the biodiversity crisis”, summarizes Unai Pascual for AFP, environmental economist at the University of Bern and co-chair of the IPBES session, which adopted this report at a meeting of 139 countries in Bonn.

The text “aims to integrate different types of values ​​into decisions”, continues the expert.

It comes three days after another IPBES report warned that overexploitation of wildlife threatens the well-being of billions of people.

These two reports will form part of the discussions at COP15 biodiversity in December in Montreal, which will set a framework for the protection of nature and its resources at a global level by 2050.

For this second opus, 80 experts analyzed more than 13,000 scientific studies on the destruction of ecosystems and its causes and the alternative values ​​that could promote their sustainability.

Because men are the main causes of this life crisis, which is closely linked to climate change.

Since 1950, the average life expectancy has almost doubled, while the wealth per per capita (in terms of GDP) has increased fivefold.

“Nature is what allows us to live,” remarked the head of the UN Environment Programme, Inger Andersen. “It gives us food, care, raw materials, oxygen, climate regulation and much more”.

But Earth has physical limitations, and according to scientists, at least six of the nine “planetary boundaries”—thresholds that humanity should not exceed in order to preserve the favorable conditions under which it was able to evolve—have already been crossed.

Two previous UN reports, Climate Change 2019 and Biodiversity 2019, had already concluded that only a profound transformation of the way we produce, distribute and consume could help correct the barrier.

An almost impossible task if humanity does not change the way it sees and evaluates nature, warn IPBES experts. Because the majority view is still that sustainability can only be achieved at the expense of human well-being, whereas the good future state of our society requires a healthy nature capable of regenerating itself.

The report divides into four main categories, which can be combined, human “values” in relation to nature, which can be summarized as living “from”, “with”, “in” and “like” one’s surroundings.

Humans live “off” nature if they focus on the utilization of resources to fuel their growth and lifestyle. This is the dominant view, which has recently led some to want to put a price on the “services provided” by ecosystems (CO2 sequestered by forests, for example).

Living “with” nature implies considering it independent of human needs. The stated objective of placing 30% of the world’s surface under protected area status falls particularly into this category, while also joining the first, allowing for example the maintenance of fish stocks thanks to no-fishing zones.

For communities, especially indigenous people, who live “in” nature, the environment is part of their identity and culture, an association pushed even further for those who live “as” nature.

Large projects, especially infrastructure projects such as the Grand Renaissance Dam that Ethiopia has built on the Blue Nile or the “Maya Train” project in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, should especially be decided taking into account all these “values”, not just the cost/benefits according to the report .

The future text under negotiation for the Montreal conference may in this respect “change things”, hope members of IPBES, many of whom are part of the two bodies.

“We believe that this study on values ​​can help the negotiations politically,” said Unai Pascual. “But there is the disturbing feeling that it will not be easy at all,” he admits, while according to the dealers there are many differences.

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