July 7, 2010

Halt land clearing to preserve biodiversity

During the recent international Climate Adaptation Futures Conference that ended Thursday, July 1 in Brisbane, Australia, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Chief Scientist Dr. Joseph Alcamo urged for further tangible goals to protect biodiversity loss.

His call followed a vote by UNEP nations earlier in June to establish a new intergovernmental platform on biodiversity and ecosystems, in light of the gravity of such issues as they are linked strongly to human survival. In the face of alarming declines of animal and plant species worldwide due to human activities and climate change, Dr. Alcamo added that an ideal strategy would be to focus on setting limits for human impacts to entire ecosystems, rather than attempting to protect individual species based on their chance for recovery.

He suggested, for example, reducing land-use changes such as deforestation to protect habitats. According to Dr. Clive McAlpine, environmental researcher at the University of Queensland, land clearing through deforestation has been observed to have a large impact on Australia’s biodiversity.

Prof. Clive McAlpine – Researcher in landscapeology, environment and climate change, University of Queensland (M): When you look at landscapes like in Western Australia, Southwestern Australia, New South Wales and Victoria and then Queensland, that amounts to some areas having less than 10% or even 5% of native vegetation remaining. There’s very extensive clearing in those areas and that’s had major impacts on biodiversity and also for catchment hydrology and for feedbacks on climate.

VOICE: Professor McAlpine explained that the foremost reason for Australia’s rapid and dramatic removal of trees has been for agriculture and livestock grazing.

Prof. Clive McAlpine (M): Trees compete with grasses for moisture and nutrients. As a result, farmers have gone out to larger areas to convert that into new crops and pastures.

VOICE: To save the environment, Professor McAlpine emphasized that it is vital to restore wildlife habitats and address such land use issues along with climate change.

Prof. Clive McAlpine (M): If we focus beyond climate change and greenhouse gases without looking at land use, including beef cattle grazing and other forms of livestock grazing, then we’re still going to have problems further down the track. So we need to address them all collectively and try and get to some sort of sustainable land use in the future.

VOICE: Many thanks, Professor McAlpine for your insights on the interrelatedness of deforestation, biodiversity loss and livestock grazing. May wise government policies and individual actions together prevent a further demise of the remaining ecosystems on which we all depend.

In an interview published in the September 2009 edition of The House Magazine, Supreme Master Ching Hai addressed the very issue of how livestock agriculture is impacting the ecosphere.

Supreme Master Ching Hai: On land, meat consumption is responsible for vast regions being cleared for grazing crops that are fed to livestock. With these activities essentially robbing our biodiversity, there has been an alarming rise in the disappearance of plants and animals. Besides the land being cleared for livestock raising,the livestock itself causes further biodiversity loss due to potent greenhouse emissions, which accelerate global warming.

The answer to all this, you know is quite clear. Stop the meat consumption. Stop it yesterday. This will eliminate the so-called need for livestock raising, which will immediately return immense amounts of land to natural sustainability or to natural growing methods that allow biodiversity to be replenished. This is the way we need to go, and fast.


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