International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) World Conservation Congress
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Faith communities are calling on governments to strengthen the Global Biodiversity Framework. For too long, economic development has come at the expense of Nature. It is driven by a mindset that measures value according to short term monetary gain, no matter how much pollution, depletion or inequity results.
The scale and pace of this pattern has brought us to the brink of unimaginable loss. This loss is indeed economic, in part; all wealth is derived from the biosphere. But it is more than that too. It is cultural, moral, and spiritual. To be effective, the Framework must reflect the totality and urgency of what is at stake.
Faith traditions are diverse but they share a sense that values run deeper than politics or price-tags, that life (including nonhuman life) has meaning, and that there is some form of higher power to which our actions are ultimately accountable.
From this viewpoint — which has corollaries in secular thought — we did not create other species and we have no right to destroy them. They have a right to exist. The Framework should reflect those rights of nature and the rights of future generations. It must also secure the rights of the Indigenous peoples and local communities who are courageous guardians of so much of what remains. Indigenous peoples must give free prior and informed consent for any project (including any conservation project) in their territories.
I am honored to be with you and convey my strong support for this call. The Center for Earth Ethics draws from the world’s faith and wisdom traditions to pursue the changes in policy and culture necessary to create a world that values the long term health of the whole community of life.
We must look at the level of cause, not just the level of effect. That means regulation of the most serious drivers of biodiversity loss — such as the current industrialized food systems and the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. It means investment in positive solutions such as ecosystem restoration, which can bolster carbon sinks to fight climate change and provide good work for people who need it. It also means changing social norms that encourage gross overconsumption and waste by some while tolerating deprivation for others. Life on Earth is interrelated and we need reciprocity and balance to sustain it.
In closing I note that diverse faith groups have been carefully reviewing the First Draft of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and will put forward their response soon. Please stay tuned for that.