Opinion: We're tearing holes in the fabric of life on Earth |  CNN

Opinion: We’re tearing holes in the fabric of life on Earth | CNN

Editor’s note: Jane Alexander is the former president of the National Endowment for the Arts. She has served on the boards of Audubon, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the American Bird Conservancy. Alexander is the author of “Wild Things, Wild Places: Adventurous Tales of Wildlife and Conservation on Planet Earth”. She is also a Tony and Emmy award-winning and Oscar-nominated actress. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion pieces on CNN.


From my home in southwestern Nova Scotia, I watch with concern the warming and rising Atlantic Ocean. This summer, the kelp forest, nursery for so many aquatic species, was turning white in its struggle to cope with the temperature. This continued years of decline in this precious aquatic ecosystem.

The beach near my house was a graveyard for eiders, guillemots, gulls, curlews and other birds, many of which succumbed to their own pandemic – bird flu – which devastated seabirds in the provinces Atlantic Canada.

Joan Alexander

Meanwhile, my spruce and other local evergreens are giving way to deciduous trees, ending much of the seed cone production that rodents, birds and insects depend on.

It is with this urgency and in my capacity as a board member of the nonprofit National Audubon Society that I attend the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (COP15) which kicked off this week in Montreal.

As this vitally important convention begins, here’s what we know: Due to human activity, life on Earth is undergoing an extinction crisis about 1,000 times faster than natural rates, according to a landmark study. published in Conservation Biology. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reports that one million species are threatened with extinction by us. A 2019 scientific paper led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds – 29% of the continent’s total – since 1970, and BirdLife International shows that almost half of all birds are in decline worldwide.

We are tearing holes in the fabric of life on Earth that sustains our own human lives. We rely on Earth’s diverse and varied life forms for food, medicine, clean air and water, our sanity, inspiration and materials for great feats of art and engineering. , pure joy and recreation – and much more.

Yet there is hope. In my lifetime, for example, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and osprey have rebounded strongly from mid-twentieth-century population crashes resulting from the widespread use of the insecticide DDT, which thinned and cracked the eggshells of the birds. The banning of the pesticide led to their recovery.

This is why countries must reach a strong and meaningful agreement to protect global biodiversity in Canada. And there are three steps we can follow to achieve this goal.

First, we need to recognize, support and fund Indigenous leadership. The World Bank has estimated that indigenous territories hold 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity. In Canada, Indigenous Guardians and Indigenous Protected Areas programs are successfully defending large tracts of boreal forest.

But indigenous environmental activists often risk being threatened, injured and even killed by criminals who profit from logging, mining, land grabs and other illegal activities. For example, an investigation in Mongabay in 2022 found that dozens of indigenous conservationists had been killed in the Amazon basin from 2016 to 2021 and that most investigations into their deaths faced “delays and irregularities”.

Too often, governments and NGOs still fail to honor and invest in the rights and expertise of indigenous peoples at all levels. We can change that, and we must.

Second, nature can help us solve the climate crisis, so let’s invest in biodiversity-based climate solutions and healthy natural ecosystems. For example, boreal coniferous forests cover 11% of the Earth’s surface, but store one-third of Earth’s carbon and serve as vast living sponges to safely absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere.

If we intend to limit global warming and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must protect and restore our northern forests. The same goes for wetlands, grasslands, temperate and tropical forests, marine ecosystems and landscape architecture in urban areas. The nature-based solutions roadmap recently announced by the White House is an encouraging start.

Third, the governments of the world must commit to taking extraordinary action in the face of extraordinary circumstances. Apathetic half-measures simply won’t cut it – there’s too much at stake. We need solid and meaningful commitments from Montreal.

Among other things, this means committing funds that can do the job. An analysis by the Paulson Institute estimated the biodiversity funding gap to average $711 billion per year globally for 10 years. And it’s not just about proactively putting funds to work – we also need governments to phase out subsidies that promote nature destruction and greenhouse gas emissions.

Another example of ambitious thinking and action is the 30 by 30 initiative, which challenges governments around the world to protect 30% of land and oceans by 2030. The United States and Canada are one of more than 100 countries supporting this global goal.

Back home in Nova Scotia, I have found a partner in restoration and rejuvenation: a beaver, who has called my pond home. Thanks to the beaver dam, small fish, frogs, turtles and insects thrive, feeding all manner of creatures. The beaver, Canada’s national emblem, was once threatened with extinction due to overhunting for its fur. Life finds a way if we give it a chance.

On a world stage now, let us give life a chance – we will be rewarded with human well-being and great joy.

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