Climate Change and Biodiversity - Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor of New Zealand Geographic (submitted but not yet published) by Ian Spellerberg FEIANZ, CEnvP. Ian is Professor of Nature Conservation, Lincoln University and President of the New Zealand Chapter of EIANZ.

Dear Editor,

Congratulations on your editorial in the September-October issue of New Zealand Geographic. I hope that all New Zealand politicians read your editorial and take your message very seriously.

Climate change may well be 'the most significant geographical story of our generation'. However, climate change is but a symptom of our unsustainable use of the environment and nature. Addressing the symptoms is one thing but we need to put far greater effort into dealing with the causes.

In my opinion, the amount of attention devoted to climate change is unjustified and overshadows a far more significant and widespread problem. That is, the unsustainable and inequitable use of nature. In support of this statement, I would draw the attention of the readers of New Zealand Geographic to the results of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment published in 2005. This report is by far the most compelling argument about the degradation of ecosystems. The implications are diverse and long lasting.

Human unduced climate change is a fact and it will have serious and long-term consequences. More serious is the fact that that we have exploited nature's sources, services and sinks to the extent that there are now long-term and serious consequences.

"...the amount of attention devoted to climate change is unjustified and overshadows a far more significant and widespread problem. That is, the unsustainable and inequitable use of nature".

Humans depend on plants, animals and ecosystems for food and fibre. The quality or the water we drink, the quality of the air we breath, the quality of the soils we use, and the quality of human life is all dependent on the diversity within nature and the services provided by nature.

The losses of agricultural land, losses of genetic diversity, damage to fish populations, increasing biosecurity risks, and the growing number of taxa that are now threatened are but a few of the dire consequences of the unsustainable interplay between nature and humanity.

Human impact on the diversity of nature is surely the most significant biological story of our generation and one that is desperately in need of far greater attention and better understanding.

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