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Countries are gathering in an effort to stop a biodiversity collapse

63 points3 hoursnytimes.com
neonate2 hours ago
xenocyon41 minutes ago

I'm paying close attention to the direction that (my native) India takes w.r.t. GM food crops, which have so far been illegal.

Background: India went from colonialism-induced massive serial famines to self-sufficiency and then some, while entirely eschewing GM foods. (NB: this doesn't mean there is no malnutrition in India, where inequalities are rife, but it means that the country as a whole is able to produce more than needed. The causes of hunger are non-intuitive; for e.g. the dumping of cheap foods is more likely to cause hunger than solve it, as hunger stems from poverty which stems from economic disablement - which is caused by dumping cheap foods.)

Now, the Green Revolution did result in a loss of biodiversity (among other problems) but without creating the kind of monocultures you see in the US. For example, there are still numerous varieties of rice in India, especially locally variated.

Despite this, the Indian government has been increasingly warming over recent years to introducing GM foods (which is largely a solution in search of a problem, in the Indian context). The threat from GM foods is almost always misunderstood. It is not about the individual health effects of eating GM foods; it is about the largescale replacement of a system where farmers own their biodiverse seed, with a top down monocultural approach that essentially makes farmers franchisees of a massive corporate behemoth and eliminates biodiversity, putting all eggs in one basket.

ch4s330 minutes ago

> it is about the largescale replacement of a system where farmers own their biodiverse seed with a top down monocultural approach that essentially makes farmers franchisees of a massive corporate behemoth and eliminates biodiversity, putting all eggs in one basket.

No one is out there forcing people to switch to GM crops when those seeds become available. Now the business model of large agriculture in the US isn't necessarily the one you would want to import, but GM crops could happily coexist in a country's agricultural mix along side traditional crops. You could probably even tweak some of your traditional seeds domestically to be more pest/drought resistant, give those seeds out, and call it a win.

It could be a really useful tech if people deployed it responsibly.

Retric28 minutes ago

Market forces heavily push GM crops when you let them enter the market without labeling laws.

mistrial913 minutes ago

LOL - Bayer-Monsanto looking at you!

mc321 hour ago

People keep saying we can feed 10 billion people. We can. But at what cost to the diversity of biological systems?

It’s not popular to say but we need to stabilize population growth and stop encroaching on natural habitats and put a brake on consumerism.

The developed world has in many parts allowed previously used areas to revert to a natural state. However in high pop growth countries the opposite is happening as both thd developed world and developing world both need as well as demand more resource extraction. We're depleting ocean fisheries, contributing to soil erosion, having water shortages, etc.

Stabilize populations to 1960s or whatever, but we need to do the same as we’re doing for pollution set a benchmark and aim for it. Get those people educated, provide them with prophylactics and get them out of a pop explosion curve and get to ZPG like Italy and Japan (US as well if we didn’t import pop growth).

zip123412 minutes ago

Look at this: https://ourworldindata.org/crop-yields

The yields/unit area go up and to the right, which means two things. One is that we need less land for agriculture, which frees it up for other purposes, including allowing biodiversity/forestland.

mistrial91 hour ago

With actual land use planning, the tension between production and conservation is a false dichotomy.

Second, agricultural products are already produced to meet needs

Third, the "reduce people" argument is almost always a losing one

mc321 hour ago

We could handle 10 billion if we consumed as people consumed in 1901, but not at the rate middle class people consume in even middle of the road developed countries.

Japan, Italy and the US are "reducing the people" naturally. We're there already. Yes our pop happens to be "growing" but that's due to others exporting their excess to us.

i_haz_rabies1 hour ago

It's not a false dichotomy, there's just some slack in the current system. Eventually, no matter how hard you try, you hit a point where population and conservation are incompatible. We just don't know what that point is.

throwawayfear20 minutes ago

With vertical farming, we can feed any number of people with less and less inputs. It's a solved problem, if we just scale up this technology everywhere.

"It’s also indoors, can be placed anywhere on the planet, is heavily integrated with robots and AI, and produces better fruits and vegetables while using 95% less water and 99% less land."

https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkoetsier/2020/11/20/this-2-...

alexgmcm49 minutes ago

> People keep saying we can feed 10 billion people. We can. But at what cost to the diversity of biological systems?

Also those 10 billion people in the future will be consuming far more per capita as developing nations continue to industrialise.

This is a good thing as everyone deserves a decent life. But if we are all going to have a decent life without destroying the planet then we need to be mindful of how many of us we can sustainably support.

skeeter202048 minutes ago

>> Stabilize populations to 1960s or whatever,

What exactly does this mean? People were pretty upset with China's one child policy (all the unintended side-effects ignored); this sounds even more nefarious? .

mc3245 minutes ago

It’s not something we achieve in 20 years. It would be a century long goal via reduced fertility rates that do not include barbaric tools like forced abortions, etc.

Scarblac17 minutes ago

Yeah, if it takes a century then it will be way too late for biodiversity. The man-made great extinction is right now.

mc3215 minutes ago

It’s not like we want to be authoritarians and control reproduction directly.

We can only incentivize via education, opportunity and availability of contraceptives.

India for example offers sterilization for men who want to avoid unintended impregnation of partners. They could even incentivize such a thing.

slothtrop1 hour ago

Isn't global population already projected to stabilize in 100 years? The only way you could accelerate this is through aggressive policy measures to allow universal access to contraceptives, and investments to hasten development of manufacturing or other (which, in the interim, will raise emissions - but it would be unethical to disallow it) in the 3rd world. I'm for it but I don't expect it. The alternative is what China opted for which is likely not possible in developing countries.

There's a class conflict in the backdrop and I see this as the reason media is planting the idea that consumers ought to be content with less, not because of the environment. They still want and expect you to consume, but will spin lower quality of life (owing to unaffordability of housing and certain lifestyles) as a virtue. Realistically your carbon footprint +/- on an individual level stays in the same rough ballpark if you live in the West since a lot of it is due to city infrastructure, electricity, gas. It's just compounded by sheer population. In my view everyone ought be able to live and pursue a life of high quality; reducing quality of life is not the solution, it's a problem. The solution will lie in innovation, population stagnation, growing economy for developing nations, etc.

skywal_l1 hour ago

Population will stabilized. But the question is how it will be stabilized. We could do it in a controlled way or through environmental collapse, war, pandemic...

slothtrop54 minutes ago

The projection is owing to improved quality of life through global trade. Since the 20th Century the rate of extreme poverty has been decimated and continues to drop.

In 1st world countries the fertility rates are already stagnant. The growth rate is targeted and achieved through immigration, from countries with lower quality of life and higher child mortality.

mc321 hour ago

Obviously we don't want to go the route China went (even without their bad policy, most people there we having fewer children). But as you say contraceptive availability and education coupled with opportunities.

alexgmcm52 minutes ago

I mean "Stop at two" isn't a particularly awful policy, yet that is sufficient to curtail population growth.

I doubt it even needs to be a policy in many countries - I don't know many people with more than two kids.

mc3226 minutes ago

Agreed. Two even three. The issue is when most people go over that. It's not usually because they want to but because they don't have the means or options to control their family's growth.

sleepysysadmin1 hour ago

>Stabilize populations to 1960s or whatever, but we need to do the same as we’re doing for pollution set a benchmark and aim for it. Get those people educated, provide them with prophylactics and get them out of a pop explosion curve and get to ZPG like Italy and Japan (US as well if we didn’t import pop growth).

So about 3 billion people is stable? You're saying we need a reduction of about 5 billion? How do we do that? Which countries need massive depopulation?

mc321 hour ago

I dunno, how did we establish which countries have to reduce greenhouse emissions the most?

When it comes to population regulation it's via reproduction policies that educate women and offer them job opportunities and incentivize them to have sustainable family sizes.

sleepysysadmin59 minutes ago

>I dunno, how did we establish which countries have to reduce greenhouse emissions the most?

You will be frightened how we did that. Canada for example is net-positive and effectively doesn't have to do anything. Not surprising given we have a gigantic boreal forest that stretches across the country. We have almost 10,000 trees per person. So then why do we show up in top 10 worst countries? Our trees don't count, they are considered against us.

>When it comes to population regulation it's via reproduction policies that educate women and offer them job opportunities and incentivize them to have sustainable family sizes.

Well, the 'climate clock' has only 8 years left before DEADline. Education and reproductive policies like only allowing 1 child won't work. We have to obviously do far more to reduce the world population by more than half. What do you think we should do?

caiobegotti2 hours ago

As a brazilian I don't believe for a second that these are actual efforts unless Brazil (holding 1/5 of all planet's biodiversity alone) is held accountable enough to see economical sanctions being enforced by more developed countries. I can't think of other last resorts efforts other than economical ones and Brazil would surely listen to those if they were enforced right.

sleepysysadmin1 hour ago

>As a brazilian I don't believe for a second that these are actual efforts unless Brazil (holding 1/5 of all planet's biodiversity alone) is held accountable enough to see economical sanctions being enforced by more developed countries. I can't think of other last resorts efforts other than economical ones and Brazil would surely listen to those if they were enforced right.

How do you feel about external countries dictating your government policy? Often this won't go the way you want.

Is Mercosur unpopular in Brazil? Eliminating it would be quite costly to the world.

marcosdumay37 minutes ago

I'm not the GP (clearly), but... You mean, having the Brazilian people be denied chances of getting less poor by some high polluting countries that made the (implied correct) choice to destroy their biodiversity before the 20th century because we are unable to stop individuals from destroying part of what we preserved until today?

I don't see any chance of this not going bad. It would set the climate to somebody much worse than Bolsonaro to get into power. I don't see how the GP could ever want it, but there is a small and loud political movement that does ask for it.

(By the way, Mercosul is popular in Brazil. Preserving forests is too. Preserving non-forest biodiversity is less popular, but as soon as people see the choice, they like it. All of those have strong opposition from small groups.)

caiobegotti1 hour ago

Personally I believe in full sovereignty and I want that, but it can still exist inside economical dynamics. Also, Mercosul is popular enough, I've never heard about people wanting it to be over for economical reasons or borders (only due to ideological politics fights).

mistrial91 hour ago

"dictating" is a landmine word, and almost certainly causes an arguement

sleepysysadmin1 hour ago

>"dictating" is a landmine word, and almost certainly causes an arguement

I believe it's a fair statement. If you come in with economic sanctions with policy in mind. You have dictated what that policy is. There's no beating around the bush.

FerretFred38 minutes ago

"What’s next .. The working draft .. Create a plan"

Yes, but the real problem is that the people in power have actually just realised that there is a problem, and they can't buy it off.

The "plan" right now is to extend the needed extreme measures to 10 or 20 years time when the current generation of clued-up kids will be in power: I hate to think what they'll have to work with though.

goohle53 minutes ago

First, we need to save genetics of as many wild animals, birds, insects, trees, etc. as we can, including their variations, to be able to revert damage to the ecosystem in the future.

Second, we need to make artificial breeders, to help nature to regenerate.

Third, we need to make a continuous web of wild nature, to allow migrations, because isolated ecosystem will die with time no matter what, e.g. because of climate change alone.

mistrial91 hour ago

greenwash, cash changes hands, repeat

Proven29 minutes ago

Haha....

That's nothing but another globalist & socialist power grab that will result in more regulations, higher taxes and fewer freedoms.