Kyoto Journal’s biodiversity articles

Here’s 10 take-away ideas from the inspiring Kyoto Journal issue No. 75, which focuses on the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to be held this Fall in Nagoya, Japan.

1.  David Kubiak’s introductory article notes the probable lack of really meaningful actions from this meeting (impacted by the global economic downturn and the current “corporate conciliatory” stance of governments), but overall he’s optimistic about the impact that grass roots activists around the world can have locally and collectively, with new innovative theories and concepts of cross-organizational efforts forming as we speak which can increase the impact on public opinion and special interests, while drawing more average people into the fray with focused information about flora and fauna having a right to co-exist and not just be identified as “property” by whoever owns the habitat.

2.  A paleontologist, Anthony Barnosky, writes about the five previous eras of Earth history, when at least 75 percent of species went extinct, and how we’re conceivably approaching a similar condition because of our way of living in a “me first” mentality. Some numbers: mammals, already up to 45 percent “too low” (another 21 percent endangered); amphibians, up to 43 percent endangered; reptiles, up to 28 percent endangered; birds, at least 12 percent endangered; 75 percent of genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost; 75 percent of the world’s fisheries are over-exploited; 23 percent of plant species are threatened with extinction, and the list goes on….

3.  Some good news: 48 species of plants or animals which were at the brink of extinction have been reclaimed back and are now being successfully nurtured to survive. Reading about their individual stories is akin perhaps to the feeling of giving birth to life. Fulfilling, rewarding, makes you proud of people and what they can do at the individual and governmental level.

4.  For a sophisticated look at what really goes on at a huge UN international conference on the environment, see Eric Johnson’s primer on who attends, what to expect, and how delegates and participants can actually make a difference.

5.  Twenty-five pages of the magazine explore “Satoyama,” a Japanese word that means “mountain village,” but which stands for an ancient way of blending human’s footprints into the web of Nature rather than altering it. The concept and practices personify the smaller-is-better approach to a sustainable relationship with flora and fauna, while recognizing that Nature is always feeding off itself, as do humans feed off nature. The articles are precise and detailed, taking the reader into the minds of the villagers who have timbered the forests, fished the lakes and rivers, burned the meadows and preserved the habitats for centuries.

6.  The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment article explores the findings of a UN-mandated study to assess the consequences of ecosystem change and to map out a scientific basis for actions to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems. Sounds technical, and it is, but it’s the level of scientific analysis that is required in order to bring governmental bodies into the same boat. For the report, click here

7.  Pavan Sukhdev ( looks at the “The nature of value and the value of nature,” a concept first discussed by economist Adam Smith. Practical, utilitarian and philosophical issues are at the heart of the role played by humans within their home in Nature, and this article redresses the balance while making one feel that Nature, and man’s relationship to it, was far better understood by people before the scientific revolution than now. Yes, we understand more about Nature’s workings, but the practical distance between humans and Nature has grown so that people feel less individual responsibility.

8.  The Ecozoic Era article by Thomas Berry is a refreshing exploration of what might go right in the next era if humans can reorient themselves to celebrate and nurture Nature and our place in the matrix or life.

9.  In 10 Challenges for the Next Decade, Quentin Wheeler notes how many species are still unaccounted for, and he calls for a systematic inventory of known and unknown species of plants and animals.

10. Poet and activist Gary Snyder calls for more self reliance, the cultivation of each person’s role and responsibility in understanding their place in the environment, in exercising a personal role in keeping Nature and local culture alive and entwined within one’s daily life and home ground.

Some relevant websites:

On endangered fisheries:

A new visual PR effort:

You can read all the articles above and many more online at

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