[Taxacom] Rio+20 (was LSID versus names / Rio+20)

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Thu Jun 21 17:50:42 CDT 2012

Dear Donat,

Since Rio 1992 we have been spectacularly successful at reproduction. There were 5.5 billion people in 1992, and 20 years later there are 7 billion, an increase of 27%.

The added 1.5 billion people required food, water, shelter and a range of material resources. These have been taken, in part, from other species, because there is no unused land or water on this planet. We have also increased the area of land and the volume of water which is less livable for other species, through pollution and habitat degradation.

The idea that more people means less biodiversity can be found in a few places in UN and national state of the environment reports, but nowhere in these consensus documents will you find any proposal to stop population growth. There is a comforting notion promulgated by demographers that world population will 'stabilise' at some larger figure, which allows policymakers to avoid thinking about population policy. Many optimists believe that we can stabilise world population more quickly by raising living standards, educate people better and reduce gender inequality, at the unacknowledged cost of more intensive and extensive use of other species' habitats.

A popular but foolish idea is that we can transform the world's economy so that each person requires fewer hectares of land, fewer megalitres of water and fewer megajoules of energy, and that this will put less pressure on Nature. Unfortunately, if we achieve this we create the conditions for even faster population growth, following Jevons Paradox. Lowering the cost of living means that more people can live.

Pushing for a stop to population growth is a waste of your time, because everyone wants kids and only a few brave politicians will agree with you (http://www.kelvinthomson.com.au/page/population-debate/default.asp). If you are a taxonomist passionate about discovering and documenting biodiversity, your most effective cause will be biodiversity salvage, i.e. the collection, preservation and documentation of species, populations and genetic resources that are
likely to vanish in the near future. Start doing it tomorrow and you will have positive results tomorrow. Start arguing at the international level for greater attention to biodiversity loss, and you might get a sympathetic hearing in Rio in 2032.
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Agricultural Science, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
Ph: (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/?articleID=570

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