Nial Moores, October 14th
Earlier this week, there was a side-event at the ongoing Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of the Parties (CBD COP). Thirty-five or so expert participants discussed mid- to long-term strategies toward implementation of IUCN Motion 32 (on intertidal wetlands) and other relevant initiatives. These discussions recognised that the next CBD COP will be held here in the ROK, in 2014.
It seems clear to us: for the 2014 CBD COP to be a turning point for the Yellow Sea and for the Flyway, the next two years needs to be a period of honest reflection, sincere debate, and improved tolerance – allowing more in society to envision and embrace a longer-term view of sustainable development and of sustainability. Here in the ROK, this discussion needs first and foremost to include fuller recognition of the multiple values of intact tidal-flat systems. Intertidal wetlands help to absorb atmospheric CO2; they help to absorb the impacts and energy of storm surges; they provide nurseries for some fish species, and life-long habitat for others; they support the livelihoods of many thousands of people; and they support a tremendous biodiversity – including some of the world’s most charismatic species.
The same discussion also needs to accept that while there have been many benefits from decades of self-sacrifice and development, the costs of the present economic model are also increasingly evident. This year has been remarkable for record drought and a record number of typhoons in the ROK, and for the record-breaking melt of Arctic ice caused by the global increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases; for increasing food prices and a continuing decline in regional and global fisheries; for economic downturns and street-protests against austerity measures in several nations around the world; and also for the continuing decline of the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper. This autumn, there were probably only 10 or so Spoon-billed Sandpiper recorded nationwide. This compares to almost 20 only a year ago, and probably several hundred only 10-15 years before that.
Tidal-flat conservation alone, including restoration of tidal-flow at Saemangeum, will not solve all these problems of course. But because of the multiple values of tidal-flats, their conservation is clearly a step in the right direction – environmentally, socially and economically.
Much of the influence of small NGOs like Birds Korea comes through providing best information and advice, openly, honestly and consistently. We believe that together, small and large NGOs can indeed help to change our world – by engaging with local stakeholders, getting the message out through media, and by empowering the best of elected officials. Towards the 2014 CBD COP, we will therefore continue doing what we can to help import and export best information, and to provide honest, scientific advice to all interested parties and stakeholders.
If you agree with this kind of way forward, please join us.