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article imageScientists: Denmark's pledge to biodiversity a fiasco Special

By Bradley Axmith     Jan 13, 2011 in Environment
A report due to be released next week reveals how poorly Denmark's national environment has been managed, despite obligations and rhetoric. Presenting a picture of plants and animals under attack, the results are much the same for the rest of the world.
A classic tune by the Doors, when the music’s over, laments mankind’s treatment of the planet; how we “ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her... and tied her with fences and dragged her down.” Man-made environmental degradation remains a germane issue with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and director James Cameron leading high-profile awareness campaigns and 2010 being the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity. There’s even a UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity (actor Edward Norton).
Now armed with comprehensive data, scientists are joining the flower child echo of the 60s, raising the Cassandra spectre and warning policy-makers of the dangers of ambivalence. Denmark’s Biodiversity 2010: Status, Development and Threats, research prepared by the National Environmental Research Institute (NERI) at the University of Aarhus paints a bleak picture for the natural environment in this Scandinavian state despite its successful eco-branding.
Denmark is cited as a beacon of hope in the struggle for increased environmental sustainability, but the report proves otherwise and should therefore transform that beacon’s message into a global distress signal, according to Professor of Biodiversity Kaj Sand Jensen of Copenhagen University.
In Denmark “we’ve gone from doing a pretty good job [protecting the environment] to doing a really bad one,” said Jensen. “We’re on par with countries like Macedonia. That’s pitiful,” he told Jyllands-Posten, a daily.
Biodiversity is a measurement of a given ecosystem or biome, the diversity of which indicates the degree of wellbeing. An area with greater diversity provides more sustainability for the industries that rely on its particular resources and the food chain on the whole.
The natural capital found in biodiversity is vital to human prosperity, just as the ecological goods (eg. food) and services (eg. waste assimilation) is critical to human survival, according to another report assessing the value of the world’s ecosystems.
In April 2002, Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992)—including Denmark—committed to reduce the current rate of biodiversity loss “as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth,” according to the agreed 2010 Biodiversity Target.
But that more should or could have been done to slow or prevent the decline of diverse habitats, the Danish Minister for the Environment rejects, noting to Jyllands-Posten that this “is not a Danish phenomenon, it’s a global problem.”
But Rasmus Ejrnæs of NERI, one of the reports’ main contributors, remarked that Denmark is the country in Europe that has preserved the second least amount of nature as special habitat areas. “Protecting biodiversity from the consequences of continued human expansion and growth,” he continued, “requires serious consideration and priorities at top political level.”
Ejrnæs notes that one major hurdle associated with sound lawmaking is the tendency for environmental policy to generally target the human environment.
China is the best example of this practice, where a sustained economic expansion has resulted in energy intensive consumption, demanding new technologies. According to the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental think tank supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “China has become the global leader in clean energy, topping the world in production of compact fluorescent light bulbs, solar water heaters, solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, and wind turbines.”
“Biodiversity targets the environment of other species which is not always the same," notes Ejrnæs. "In Denmark we have green and healthy forests producing timber and drinking water. But they are poor habitats for wildlife due to the lack of wetlands, woodland glades, old deciduous trees and dead wood decomposers.”
“If we leave the responsibility with locals or subordinate ministries, biodiversity will probably continue to be replaced by growth in other sectors,” Ejrnæs predicts.
Spokesmen for the Danish ministry of the environment did not return requests for further response.
More about Biodiversity, Environment, James cameron, Bill gates, Degradation
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