IT IS A GREAT HEADLINE. The United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Montreal agrees to an historic plan to halt biodiversity loss -- protecting 30% of the world's nature by 2030.
Historic! Unprecedented! A landmark agreement!
This is precisely the kind of news we all want to hear although most people did not hear this news. The looming biodiversity crisis doesn't get nearly as much publicity as the global temperature crisis. But assume it did. Imagine that everyone heard the news (and believed their news providers). What then?
Obviously, the citizens of the Earth -- including those who populate the overlapping emergent networks that seek to address the metacrisis through social, personal and systemic upgrades -- will be happy. It is legitimately good news. It is the highest profile and boldest historical attempt by organized nations to combat biodiversity loss.
Will Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion be satisfied? Of course not. Nor should they be. We must keep up the pressure. Does this new treaty address the underlying metaphysical assumptions of modernity's blindspots? Of course not. Do we even know what we mean by "conserve"? (Read this critique
of the basic premise that area-based conservation itself is a viable strategy).
Yet it is nonetheless a real and symbolic step in the right direction. Read the 2030 targets
of the COP15 Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. They sound pretty good.
There are definitely some serious drawbacks. The United States is not a signatory to the agreement. In fact, it is not even a member of the Convention on Biological Diversity
. And the targets are probably insufficient. The agreement is also non-binding. Plus, widely-embraced international ecological protocols have almost never been implemented following the official agreements. And even if they were -- how could we possibly pay for it, ensure quality control & prevent local corruption and foolishness from undermining the endeavours?
Well, at least it was unanimously agreed upon!
Or, almost. The Congo appears to have rejected the deal but was told that its disagreement didn't count. Apparently numerous North African (and a few other smaller, less wealthy nations) were steamrolled by the Chinese under the leadership of their Minister of Ecology Huang Runqiu
. Unpleasant -- but maybe that's okay? At some point, the ecological situation gets so serious that we will probably have to be unfair in regulating the ways in which nation-states pursue development. Especially when despotic and narcissistic administrations abound.
The ambiguity is enormous. Optimism, cynicism, pragmatism and idealism are deeply tangled. Fortunately, ambiguity is not necessarily a problem. All complex phenomena are ambiguous in their straddling of the known & unknown. This points to the need for individuals and communities that can operate well with complex, tangled, multi-directional situations that require both ongoing skepticism and the passionate moral pursuit of projects that will ultimately prove to be incomplete.
We (that means you, dear reader) are, hopefully, such a culture in its nascent stage. And so we should be keeping biodiversity in our sights -- as an issue that needs metacognition, integrative pluralism, flexible adaptive networks and sincere irony.
The crisis of anthropogenic climate change is potent but the many-sourced problem of anthropogenic biodiversity loss is equally (or more) important. Our species can survive some droughts and sea-level rises but it cannot evade a cascading die-off of ocean species or the sudden vanishing of lynchpin pollinator insect species.
And as we look with our curious eyes and mixed feels upon the latest international agreement, supporting it in whichever ways it deserves, we should also be inquiring deeply whether nations (as opposed to cities, corporations, digital networks, etc.) are actually the agents who will be able to deal with problems at this scale?