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Experts provide three necessary solutions to the biodiversity crisis

It came as a shock to many people: one million plant and animal species are threatened to become extinct. But this number isn’t the most relevant aspect, argue Alexander van Oudenhoven, Koos Biesmeijer and three other experts in Dutch newspaper Trouw. ‘It is more important to realise that the fate of nature, and with that our own fate, lies in our own hands. That is why we need to make a shift towards solutions in our debate and reporting on the biodiversity crisis.’

‘Focus on solutions’

The number of one million was derived from the recently published report by IPBES, the UN panel on biodiversity and ecosystem services. In the recent years, Koos Biesmeijer and Alexander van Oudenhoven have been involved with IPBES in different capacities. With the final findings published, they wrote an opinion article in Trouw, together with Esther Turnhout and other Dutch experts involved with IPBES. Instead of focusing on the problem, the piece presents a number of solutions.

Alexander van Oudenhoven

Conventional nature conservation insufficient

For long, it has been assumed that protected areas and nature conservation are essential to halt the rapidly declining biodiversity. In an earlier published IPBES study on Europa and Central Asia, Alexander van Oudenhoven came to a striking discovery. He found that although the spatial extent of protected nature areas have increased in Western Europe, the biodiversity and ecosystem service have nevertheless decreased. ‘This indicates that conventional nature conservation alone, however important, is by no means sufficient to turn the tide,’ according to the Dutch experts.

Human impacts on biodiversity

Deforestation, overexploitation of natural resources, climate change, environmental pollution and invasive species; the causes of biodiversity loss can all be linked back to humans. Among others, this has led to food shortage, conflicts over natural resources and reduced resilience to climate change. The experts offer three solutions in the opinion article in Trouw, which target the structural causes of biodiversity loss.

Three solutions

First of all, Van Oudenhoven and colleagues make a plea to make biodiversity, nature, and the natural landscape a cornerstone in the planning and realization of building, infrastructure, sustainable energy and climate adaption projects. There are examples aplenty that underline the importance of this strategy, such as the Sand Motor and the ‘Room for Rivers’ programs. 

In addition, economic structures need to be reformed, with the overarching aim to stimulate and encourage sustainable options while strongly discouraging non-sustainable ones. This applies to the business sector as well as consumers, and it can be achieved by setting strict sustainability demands to products and services (by governments and private companies) and through taxes and subsidies.

Finally, sustainable agriculture plays a key role in biodiversity restoration and conservation, as well as improving the quality of our living environment. European agricultural policy must be revised and available subsidies must be utilized optimally, according to the experts. The latter provide a unique chance to stimulate sustainable development.

Redefine welfare

The authors conclude that perhaps the most formidable obstacle might be our interpretation of welfare. In practice, the gross domestic product still remains our most important guiding principle in our society and economy. Therefore, in addition to the above-mentioned measures, it is crucial to redefine welfare and wellbeing. Moreover, we need to guide our efforts towards achieving the required transformation to a more sustainable economy and society, in which nature and biodiversity play a crucial role. This is a long-term vision, according to the authors, but we need to get going straight away. ‘This is where all of us have a duty, an obligation to contribute, for instance by casting a vote during the upcoming European Parliament elections.’   

The full text can be read (in Dutch) on the Trouw website.

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