Corporate raid on conservation
- Category: Environment Updates
(Antonio M. Claparols President of the Ecological Society of the Philippines)
I have been to many environmental congresses but never did I experience what happened at the Fourth World Conservation Congress in Barcelona.
At a time when the Earth is at its worse state and climate change is killing the planet and humankind, that Conservation Congress was a circus.
My first was the General Assembly of IUCN in Madrid in 1984, followed by Perth in 1990, Buenos Aires in 1993, Montreal in 1996 (where I was elected regional councilor), Amman (Jordon) in 2000 (where I was re-elected councilor for my last term), and Bangkok in 2004 (memorable for the resolution calling for a moratorium on GMOs). This was a victory for the conservation movement.
The Rio Summit was an authentic Earth Summit. Then things began to change.
In the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, 10 years after Rio, corporations first showed their presence.
There was a green wash as IUCN and Shell announced a partnership, which having been met by an outcry among the participants, was downgraded by the IUCN Council into a dialogue.
Just last year, however, a contract was signed between IUCN and Shell. Congress members, moving with outrage, put up in the wee hours a resolution calling for the termination of the contract. However, we were shaken to find out that everything had been orchestrated.
I have never seen a conservation congress where so many corporate representatives showed their wealth and power.
As the 10-day congress went into play, we gave the other side -- which had thought that it would be that easy -- a run for their money. Emotions were high.
The circus continued, as if unmindful that one fourth of every mammal is going extinct and one third of every amphibian is going extinct.
With all that was said and done at the many hours of meeting, the sleepless nights and the forging of new friendships, it can be said we won most of the controversial biodiversity resolutions until we came to the controversial biodiversity resolutions until we came to the contract with Shell.
When the vote came, the NGO house voted 70% for, the government house voted against, with 15 countries voting for. We had lost.
We were saddened by the vote, fearful of the effects to the environment. We did not think we could win anyway.
But a powerful message had been sent to all.
What gave us relief was that either party could terminate the contract after giving notice. And we had elected a good number of members to the council, giving us the numbers in time to do so. The battle has moved to the new members of IUCN.
Dr. Robert Goodland of the World Bank was vested the Dr. Harold Coolidge Award for his dedication to the environment.
The award was presented by former IUCN Director-General Dr. Lee Talbot, my good friend whom we were honored to be with at a 5-day safari of Kruger National Park and Blyed River Canyon in South Africa after the 5th World Parks Congress in Durban.
Dr. Talbot said Robert Goodland, while at the World Bank, pumped environment in every corner of the bank.
Then Dr. Talbot mentioned a critique on the extractive industries and told the congress that the real effects of climate change are far greater than those predicted by the UNIPCC and FAO, referring to the effects of destroying pristine forests as carbon sinks compared to reforested forests.
What made an even bigger impact was FAO's estimate of Greenhouse Gases from livestock, said to be even higher due to methane.
Dr. Goodland had co-authored and documented a 200-page report on mining in the Philippines, mentioning extrajudicial killings and destruction of biodiversity.
My mind and those of many others have shifted to the next Wilderness Congress in Yucatan (Mexico) where I expect participants like those in Anchorage (Alaska) in 2005 would be hard-core conservationists who love the wild and the wilderness.
All in all, we came out of the circus ahead, having echoed our say.
Long live the environmental movement.
All this in the worse economic crisis ever.
God help us to protect and conserve His creation.
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