Absent-Minded Killers

Like so many other international treaties, the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity remains essentially unknown, un-championed, and unfulfilled. But several simple, affordable steps could be taken to conserve species and habitats, yielding large net benefits in the future.

As a species, human beings have a major self-control problem. We humans are now so aggressively fishing, hunting, logging, and growing crops in all parts of the world that we are literally chasing other species off the planet. Our intense desire to take all that we can from nature leaves precious little for other forms of life.

In 1992, when the world’s governments first promised to address man-made global warming, they also vowed to head off the human-induced extinction of other species. The Convention on Biological Diversity, agreed at the Rio Earth Summit, established that “biological diversity is a common concern of humanity.” The signatories agreed to conserve biological diversity, by saving species and their habitats, and to use biological resources (e.g., forests) in a sustainable manner. In 2002, the treaty’s signatories went further, committing to “a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss” by 2010.

Unfortunately, like so many other international agreements, the Convention on Biological Diversity remains essentially unknown, un-championed, and unfulfilled. That neglect is a human tragedy. For a very low cash outlay – and perhaps none at all on balance – we could conserve nature and thus protect the basis of our own lives and livelihoods. We kill other species not because we must, but because we are too negligent to do otherwise.

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