Status: 07.12.2022 06:28 a.m
The World Conference on Nature in Canada is specifically about more areas for nature conservation. But all in all, it’s about preserving our livelihood, says the biologist Mosbrugger in an interview. And about preventing a mass extinction.
tagesschau.de: Representatives from almost 200 countries are gathering in Montreal, Canada, with the central theme being species protection. What are the specific goals of the UN conference?
Volker Mosbrugger: It is about something extremely important, namely the preservation of our livelihoods. Because biological diversity is the basis of our existence, we cannot live without it. The conference in Montreal wants to adopt measures to preserve this basis of life. Specifically, a total of 21 goals have been set. One of the most important goals is the plan to protect 30 percent of the land area and also 30 percent of the sea area so that nature can develop there.
Volker Mosbrugger is a biologist and geoscientist. He was a professor at the Institute for Geosciences at the University of Frankfurt am Main and Director General of the Senckenberg Society for Natural Research.
“The sixth mass extinction has begun”
tagesschau.de: Where do we currently stand in terms of species protection?
Mosbrugger: Biological diversity is disappearing at a dramatic rate. The species’ death rate is tens to hundreds of times faster than what would normally happen. And we know from Earth’s history that the trail we’re leaving now will be there for at least another million years.
tagesschau.de: Some experts are currently talking about the sixth mass extinction in the history of our planet. The last was 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs disappeared. Would you agree with that?
Mosbrugger: Yes, the sixth mass extinction has started, no question – but it can still be stopped. Ultimately, this has been going on for hundreds of years. It is not only since today that species have been lost due to humans, but since humans have been actively engaged in agriculture. Since then, we’ve brought more and more species to extinction. And that has accelerated dramatically in the last 50 years with the explosive growth in the world population.
Volker Mosbrugger, Senckenburg Nature Research Society, on the UN meeting on species protection
12/7/2022 6:28 am
“We cannot live without nature”
tagesschau.de: Together with other scientists, you signed the Frankfurt Declaration, a call for more species protection. Why is the preservation of biodiversity so important for us humans?
Mosbrugger: Because biological diversity is the basis of our existence. It provides us with so-called ecosystem services, i.e. services from which we live. And that can also be quantified in euros: These ecosystem services are worth about twice as much as the entire economic services that we humans provide. The global gross domestic product is around 96 trillion US dollars. And what nature provides us with is on the order of $150 to $200 trillion a year.
We cannot live at all without nature: This becomes particularly clear, for example, in the pollination of plants. We need insects, birds or bats to pollinate plants and therefore also for most of our food.
tagesschau.de: How do you assess the political situation? Will the world be able to pull itself together to protect species more?
Mosbrugger: People and also decision-makers are becoming more and more aware of how urgent this topic is. I’m assuming that there will be significant progress, but the decisive point afterwards will be in the implementation. And now we have to hope that we not only agree on ambitious goals in Montreal, but that there are also clear measures on how they can be implemented, controlled and monitored.
“Everyone can watch their consumption”
tagesschau.de: What could we actually do in Germany? And what can each individual do for more species protection?
Mosbrugger: A very important point is the agricultural policy, ie the subsidies for foresters and agriculture. In the future, it is important to ensure that not only intensive agriculture is promoted, but above all organic farming.
And each individual can also do something. One possibility is to plant and use my immediate surroundings, such as my terrace, my garden, my small parcel of land, in as many different ways as possible. Mow less, less golf turf ambience, but dare wilderness.
And a second important point is consumption. It helps a lot to eat less meat and animal products, because meat production is simply harmful to the environment in many places. And you can make sure that you mainly buy and use regional products and do not use long supply chains.
Goal: Reduce pesticides and nutrients
tagesschau.de: The conference will also deal with pesticides and fertilizers.
Mosbrugger: This is actually a very big problem: Because the entry of pollutants and additional nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus damages nature and many species. The goals for this in Montreal are quite ambitious: the basis for negotiations is to reduce nutrients by 50 percent and pesticides by as much as 60 percent. And you would really like to avoid plastic waste altogether.
But regardless of whether they are now adopted by the international community in Montreal, Germany and the EU could easily implement these goals for themselves. And that should be the goal.
tagesschau.de: What are your hopes – personally and as a scientist – from the conference?
Mosbrugger: I think the most important thing is that we understand how urgent the problem is and that we all need to act. You can’t just park the issue with the heads of state, it has to affect us all, our consumer behavior, our tourism behavior, our energy consumption. So that we all contribute to using as few natural resources as possible.
A second important point for me is that we should focus more on the economy. Actually, the environmental damage that an economy always creates should be added to the prices and this income used to repair environmental damage. This would mean that environmentally harmful products would become more expensive. And I would certainly hope that there would be a fundamental reversal in how we take nature into account in our economic cycle.