Sunday, October 05, 2008

Conservation Olympics begin

I'm glad the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had the good idea of offering us today, at the opening ceremony of the World Conservation Congress here in Barcelona, an exquisite artistic function which included a wonderful orchestra and a Cirque-du-Soleil-kind of choregraphy which [that's my interpretation anyway] meant to remind subliminally to all of us that we must beware if we dare to play with Nature's balance.

The only glitch was the way "Security" over-reacted when a group of young activists showed up on stage with a banner calling for the protection of the Serra de Coserolla, a mountain park just outside Barcelona which is apparently under threat from developers. The activists jumped on stage [peacefully as far as I could see] exactly when the IUCN displayed a banner calling for "Action". So, the way the activists' banner was literally ripped apart by Security was a bit unfortunate message.

To be fair, others were off message too. I'm thinking of Elena Espinosa, Spain's Minister for Environmental, Rural and Marine Affairs, who gave us a College speech, so far behind that it looked like she'd cut and pasted something pronounced around the time of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. It's a bit sad, really when you think that Elena was 12 years old in 1972. Maybe it's just that she's a slow learner. In many ways, the World Conservation Congress, with its thousands of participants from all over the world and all walks of life [governments, academia, NGOs, private sector and so forth] competing for their issues, for their values and -- often -- for their vested interests] is some sort of Green Olympic Game. If I was to bet, I wouldn't think Elena Espinosa would get the Gold.

[The World Conservation Congress is taking place every four year, always a few weeks after the Olympic Summer Games, but that's pure coincidence]

Thanks to the IUCN we also had the privilege to listen today to Mohammad Yunus, the Founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and Peace Nobel Prize Laureat, 2006. Yunus told us of the difference between his bank struggling for social justice and conventional banks struggling [almost] exclusively for profit. He reminded us of the fact that whilst many conventional banks are not doing so well lately, his own bank is not for sale. I trust that Elena's learned a lot today from Yunus, and that as a result she's increasing her chance to get a medal.

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the IUCN, which was created on 5 October, 1948 in Fontainebleau, France in the wake of World War II by a group of visionary scientists concerned with the fate of the natural environment. Three generations have now passed since the IUCN was created. Of course it's easy to say that they completely failed, given the way biodiversity and natural habitats have been shrinking in those 60 years. But...imagine for one second what the world would be like today if the members of the IUCN hadn't been active all these years...A scary thought, indeed!

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