on Local Grassroots Networks POSITION PAPER
Conservation of biodiversity is a profound challenge for both local people and the world as a whole. This means that we need to think globally and cooperatively when working on local issues, and at the same time, live in harmony with our local ecosystems and pass them on to our descendants intact.
Throughout history, traditional communities have taken the greatest responsibility for biodiversity's conservation and its sustainable use to support human livelihoods. Recently, however, biodiversity has been drastically damaged by modern society's heedless development and consumption as well as a globalized economic system that increasingly fragments production, distribution, finance and labor with little regard for biodiversity's critical supportive role.
It has recently been reported that species extinction rates due to human interference are now 100 – 1000 times higher than natural background rates throughout history. The primary causes are overexploitation, excessive development, pollution, climate change and the introduction of alien species. Therefore, we must first be aware that this unprecedented extinction crisis originates from ourselves and our current ways of life.
Second, we must recognize that nature's benefits or "ecosystem services", which provide us with the most basic necessities of life, are not produced by industry or manufacturing, but by the contributions of other species' lives.
Humanity often tries to control or conquer nature, but it is only as a part of Mother Nature's structure and processes that we survive or understand anything. Mother Nature exists as one interconnected system in which all forms of life depend upon each other and this includes the human race. We thus need to have deep regard for other creatures' lives and not succumb to an ignorant anthropocentrism.
Consequently when we try to create biodiversity policies, it is critically important for us to consider the views of people who have historically cared for nature and are able to speak on its behalf.
The Earth is home to many different environments, which have nurtured diverse traditional cultures, knowledge and racial traits in every locale. The modern destruction of ecosystems thus not only threatens living creatures with endangerment or extinction, it also imperils the local people and communities who have traditionally cared for these lands.
We believe that diversity is the root of all richness and we want to pass on biodiversity's gifts to future generations via local conservation activities, mindful traditions of coexistence and cultural regeneration.
We therefore pledge to:
- Respect the rights of nature just as human rights are respected and maintain a humble attitude toward voiceless nature, because human beings are merely late arriving minority members of the Earth’s great natural community.
- Oblige all parties to respect the variations of cultures that have coevolved with nature's own rich diversity..
- Work to build healthy societies that balance the virtues of local self-sufficiency with those of global interdependence and a just universal economic regime.
- Promote exchanges among local communities to realize a society in which people respect diverse cultures and their wisdom and knowledge regarding biodiversity. In particular, we shall strive for ways that grassroots groups can exchange ideas and cooperate to monitor the sustainable and reverent use of nature's gifts.
The Japanese Government's Basic Act on Biodiversity (Act No.58) adopted in June 2008 urges local governments to establish regional biodiversity strategies and advocates the expansion of biodiversity programs according to each area's natural and social conditions. Act No.58's focus on grassroots participation makes this legislation quite promising and we therefore recommend the following proposals to Japan's central and local governments:
- Based on Act No.58, every local government shall create a regional biodiversity strategy based on the Basic Environmental Plan by mutual agreement of the following interested parties: local residents, citizens’ groups, NGOs, land owners, businesses and local officials. They shall then enact Basic Regulations for the protection of Biodiversity.
- Regarding these measures, local governments shall work in cooperation with neighboring governments which share the same bioregions, watersheds and ecosystems.
- The government shall enact measures to protect biodiversity with consistent policies that effectively link all related factors and affected positions.
- The government shall introduce programs that relate local living and biodiversity into school curricula.
- The government shall promote scientific ecosystem surveys of each region
- The government shall gather and compile local information and traditional knowledge regarding biodiversity and identify people who are capable of teaching such knowledge.
Development-driven species extinction and ecosystem destruction are now approaching crisis levels everywhere in the world. Especially in regions of rich biodiversity the impact is devastating.
Japanese biodiversity hotspots are likewise facing crises due to many construction and development projects carried out under the banners of energy policy, national security and public works. For such projects, both the disclosure of administrative information and citizens’ participation in decision making are still grossly inadequate. Both these factors contribute greatly to the destruction of Japan's biodiversity today.
We therefore propose the following to Japan's central government and local governments concerned:
- The government shall mandate Strategic Environmental Impact Assessments during the planning stages of these projects in agreement with local residents, citizen groups and relevant experts.
- In order to conserve biodiversity, the government shall convene conferences where stakeholders such as local residents, citizen groups, NGOs, land owners, businesses and local officials can engage equally, and which will continue until participants reach mutual agreement on the wisest, most responsible course.
- The government shall review projects which are already underway to allay concerns about biodiversity if stakeholders agree that this is necessary. The government shall suspend and re-evaluate any projects that have not taken biodiversity concerns into account.
Since biodiversity is threatened globally by climate change, genetically modified organisms, environmental pollution and other destructive forces which transcend national borders, we will not be able to solve these problems on a country-by-country basis. We need to build a future based on common international understandings and worldwide cooperation.
In addition, we need to create independent and sustainable communities that express distinctive regional features, prioritize the unique values of local cultures and promote localized economies.
We think that international contributions to the conservation of global biodiversity must include the study of and respect for indigenous traditional knowledge and culture; bridge-building and traditional knowledge transmission between generations; and the fostering of people capable of maintaining regional cultures as well as disseminating the benefits of local cultural lore.
We therefore propose the following to parties and non-parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity:
- When big projects are initiated that are predicted to entail cross-border environmental effects, all parties shall require an Environment Impact Assessment at the planning stage, which shall include local residents and indigenous peoples living in the countries to be affected, along with citizen groups and relevant specialists.
- In order to build more self-sufficient and waste-free economies and localized food systems, all parties shall work for the conservation and regeneration of traditional industries in their countries, and for the sustainable use of regional resources.
- All parties shall encourage their indigenous peoples and local communities to contribute their traditional knowledge, cultural lore and wisdom to these efforts.