IPBES needs to learn …. from biodiversity

When my human medium left the IPBES-5 late Thursday evening, flying back home, she was mumbling something again about this thing called money and that there is not enough of it for your IPBES animal. Following the squaks on twitter later on Friday it indeed became apparent that this thing called budget once again hinders that relevant endeavour to start flying. (And flying is difficult, I can tell you from own experience)

I guess I have mentioned several times that the human focus on small coloured pieces of mashed, dried tree pulp appear strange to a dodo, especially when you could invest it in reasonable things like IPBES. But as of now, it seems you don’t even seem to know some biodiversity and natural resource management basics. So let me help you: As a dodo population living on a small island, we had to live according to our local resources: we could only eat what was there, whether calvaria fruits (delicious, but don’t believe your early scientists about our relation with this tree – wrong, wrong wrong) or anything else. More dodos would have meant: more calvaria trees etc… As said: Basics!

Soooo: living and thriving beyond your resources is pretty hard, not to say unlikely. Translated back: putting too many dodos (assessments, task forces, deliverables…) on a too small island (your “budget”) is simple as unsustainable as all those unsustainable uses that you maybe will never address in the now scoped assessment on “Sustainable use of wild species”.

btw: I would also propose an additional study on the UNsustainable use of wild species – finally the dodo would be subject to IPBES, jointly with my friends up here in extinction heaven, the great auk, the passenger pidgeon, the moas, …- quite some insights to get from this as well – happy to be nominated as CLD for this  – Coordinating Lead Dodo.

IPBES wanted everything with its huge work programme, to please everyone, to feed everyone in its membership population and its baby deliverables. And many of those members just prefer to consume and don’t bring own calvaria trees in the deal. As in biology, this may work for a while (especially when a huge trunk of calvarias has been provided once, see IPBES/5/10, table 1, sixteenth row, third column – I think this were the elks?). You may grow and start flying (“oooh, we have a great first assessment and some nice new communication tools now, we even have flags…”), but shortly afterwards, the calvarias are eaten up, and maybe even the trees chopped (or giving the calvarias somewhere else…).And soon nothing left to nurture your babies called deliverables. Standard population biology.

On the other hand: thousands of motivated volunteers that provide calvaria substitutes for free… impressive, but you need some calvarias nonetheless to organise them… What do you do? Lessons from dodo biology:

  1. Don’t grow too fast (less deliverables, but relevant ones – see my opening address)
  2. Think carefully about where to put your calvarias (flags? Too many delegates paid? Which task forces?)
  3. Not only use but also value and acknowledge your volunteers – not only “as appropriate”
  4. Make an honest plan (you are so good in this if you want, but unfortunately you are also good in making them based on depth…) based on the lessons above
  5. Be aware of storms, consider some resilience….

For now, IPBES is back on the ground, like a flightless bird – belief me, I know this feeling, but it’s not as bad as it feels in first place. Living on solid ground has its advantages.

Yours, Dodopanic

Dodo’s opening address to #IPBES5

Dear human delegates, distinguished fellow species at the brink of extinction,

[Like many others of you I have stayed inactive between the last IPBES plenary and now. This is partly because my own human medium is so unreliable that I needed to find a new one. But it is also because I was once again, as every year between 1680 and now, bewildered by the level of human activity and ignorance against its own races’ interests. Evolution is a strange thing – it allows species to thrive that are so focussed on killing its own specimen… bracket closed]

As said last time in Kuala Lumpur (way better climate for a dodo than Bonn in winter, btw), IPBES is an impressive endeavour. With the finalisation of the regional and global assessments in 2018/2019 you will know better (or better: even more precise), how you are destroying the planet, the only place of living for my fellow species and yourself. You may also get reminded on the options you have, globally speaking, in reducing that threat (I don’t see how you may be able to stop it though…).

It also remains that this knowledge gathering endeavour is impressively triggered mainly by the about 1000 volunteers that spend their time (and their institution’s resources) on it. I am not economist (the dodo god may hinder me!), but surely the amount of 14 Mio USD (btw: the UN should switch to another currency these days…) announced by the secretariat is surely a heavy underestimation taking all the networks behind the official experts into account. So again, it is a quite poor sign that IPBES still has to beg for the small amounts they need to carry out its supporting work for these experts. This is a sign of disrespect to those working pro bono.

But let me come to the thematic issues at stake at IPBES-5.

As global body, IPBES still tends to strongly overestimate the global view  in its activities. Every second speech in Bonn will somehow recognize the importance of action and knowledge needs on local to regional levels. So you need to look at your instruments in a problem- and scale-oriented manner. No global models and scenarios will help you address this, no global assessment on the SDGs will do. For making a difference, IPBES has the right elements though in its work programme – its “smaller” assessments and tools. Speaking as a dodo, my extinction could have been prevented by having by 1650:

  • An assessment of values and valuation that would have made sailors coming to Mauritius of my intrinsic (and other) values
  • An assessment on sustainable use making these sailors aware that harvesting all trees (and dodos) from a small island is not so good for the future
  • An assessment on invasive species showing that introducing pigs, rats and goats to a tropical island might not be soo clever with respect to nature and economics
  • A catalogue of policy tools and methodologies might have helped early island settlers to at least roughly plan what they do and be aware of its impacts.

Of course, having such assessments on the global scale again waters down their concreteness (and they come roughly 370 years too late for the dodo) – but they have messages – a thing made big by the new IPBES communications strategy, I’d say. So: have courage and make these assessments NOW. And fill this catalogue (with these huge number of clever ways of using nature sustainably that humans have developed) and spread its use via capacity building and local to national action (IPBES is not an excuse for inaction – every country should have its -BES).

It’s not for me, you know, but for some other species and in first place yourself (I know human race is selfish, so I partly adapt).

Especially the assessment on your own values is so crucial – there is more than economics, and IPBES seems to be one of the few places humans discuss about this openly across nations – value this discussion on your values, strengthen it and spread the word.

That’s it from the dodo, courage for your deliberations.