The information that Juan Carlos del Olmo just put on the table in the “En Código Abierto” conference cycle, organized by the Inditex-University of A Coruña Sustainable Chair, is overwhelming. Half of the planet’s corals have disappeared, as has 69% of vertebrates since 1970. The Secretary General of WWF Spain reports the “Live Planet Report”, prepared by the organization, which indicates that the world’s biodiversity is in crisis. We talk to him about the future of the planet (and its human inhabitants or not).
Are we oblivious to biodiversity when we talk about the effects of climate change and what we need to protect? Are we really talking about two parallel and connected crises, the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis?
While the problem of climate change is complex, this is only one side of the coin. Another very serious aspect is the loss of nature, the destruction of biodiversity and ecosystems. Sometimes they have different reasons, but they complement and feed each other. In other words, climate change has resulted in the loss of biodiversity, but the ecosystems and nature needed to mitigate the effects of climate change are being degraded and disappearing. Measures are necessary to fight against climate change, but also to fight against this: concrete policies and strategies such as changing the food system, which is behind the majority of the situation.
We can’t reverse what we’ve already lost, but can we still change things in time and not lose more biodiversity?
We are in time. The traditional measures that have been used up to now to protect nature, such as the protection of habitats, spaces or species and ecological restoration laws – although they are very serious, fail; Other types require much more systemic changes in the way we produce and consume. A change of values is also necessary, because those of our society, for the most part, look at the immense growth. It is necessary to strengthen the classical remedies, but at the same time it is necessary to change the way of production and consumption.
“It is false that the intensity of agriculture is compared to food security”;
In the end, we can conclude that nature’s resources are scarce, but not enough if we continue to burn fossil fuels or waste water.
Also, another important part, the price of the foot and the things. In the case of biodiversity loss, we have seen globally that food production is destroying at a faster rate. In the areas of the planet where the greatest loss – in Latin America it is 94%, which is a real evil – refers to the conversion of land to the production of soybeans or meat. The loss of nature has many scattered causes, and one of the great problems that fight against it, but there are many converging parts. We know that there are some – like food patterns, food waste and the way we eat food and consume it – that if we plan to change them, we will be able to stop a lot of the process that is behind the loss of tropical forests. . The same goes for fishing. The problem is the model of the fishing industry and its intensity, as it happens with agriculture. Everything is future expansion. As a society, as we consider ourselves to adopt an energy transition, we must assume that if we want to stop the loss of biodiversity, conserve water and ecosystems, we need to fundamentally change the way we produce fuel.
And with a less intensive pattern, are we not hungry?
No, it is actually a fallacy that intensity is compared to food security. The argument is that the industry used lobbies to oppose the policies that the European Union was taking to make agriculture more sustainable. In view of the war in Ukraine, they said that we will suffer from hunger if we stop using pesticides. What they are really going to do is to lose rivers and aquifers. This model is the one that really leads us to the crisis of lack of food and something as essential as water. If we use more regenerated, ecological and small-scale agriculture, we will generate much more labor and much better quality. The same applies to cattle. Spain has an immense territory where you could have a large, quality cattle, with animals in ethical conditions perfectly, but the state aid is great with intensity. This leads us to climate change and the ecological crisis, which is the greatest threat to humanity at this time.
Continuing with Spain, how is this crisis of biodiversity carried out in the region?
Spain is perhaps the richest country in Europe: we have ecological conditions of extraordinary biodiversity. Intensive farming came much later than in the rest of Europe, which meant that biodiversity was preserved. When he said that Spain is a European country that has destroyed it very quickly in recent years. A huge decline. First, because we are at the epicenter of climate change. There is no land in Spain. But let’s also add here organizations that directly destroy ecosystems and that have nothing to do with climate change. La Mancha’s aquifers and aquifers are completely driven by intensive agriculture; you go to Donana and it is very dry because of the strawberry crops; you go to the Mar Menor and it is destroyed because the nitrates have ended up turning it into a pump. Spain is a country that represents biodiversity, but which is placed on its laurels: the trend is very negative and all the relations from the European Union to Spain at this time, as the country with the greatest decline in biodiversity.
“Climate change and the ecological crisis are the biggest threats facing humanity now.”
As soon as these issues are published, we always talk about the economic issue, because many jobs depend on all these uses, but you explain that, in fact, the removal of biodiversity has an economic impact in the long term.
In the short term, that is, it is convenient for him to extract and use this natural resource to the detriment of everyone – but in the middle term it is a disaster for everyone. If aquifers are not developed or become saline, as is happening in many coastal areas, or are contaminated with nitrates, it is society and posterity that will find themselves without them. And this in the context of climate change, where it rains less. In the end, there is bread today and he is hungry, but not tomorrow, but even today. Biodiversity is not only beautiful species. Our economy is based on biodiversity. Our species is so unusual that we have become so detached from nature in our interactions that we believe we are separated from it. But when we get up in the morning and turn to the light, whether we hit the stove or open the refrigerator, we use it. All of this is because they have allowed some ecosystems to produce food and energy. For an ecosystem to function, there must be biodiversity.
In your study you show that its outcome is not only related to the pocket, but also to health. Have we learned the lesson of the pandemic?
Indeed, that is one of the things we have discovered that helps us understand the importance of nature to society. Many of the diseases we see, like covid-19 and others, are zoonotic. They were in the wild and as we destroyed nature, we came into much more contact with them in the ecosystem. We turn animals into real meat factories, and when there is a question about Swedish or avian fever, it is easier to spread. Protecting nature is a way to protect ourselves in terms of good health. On the other hand, the pandemic has taught us something very important and that is that we need contact with nature. It not only gives us material things, but also gives us immaterial things for recreation, mental health or entertainment.
Do you see more emotions in people?
Thus in general the sensibility grows. I think it has to do with the fact that the whole world is seeing, especially with climate change, that the impact is already here. This makes the whole world aware and more prepared for the measures that need to be taken. We are seeing a real eco-awakening. There are many people around the world, as well as associations, platforms, large and small companies or municipalities that do very interesting things to bring solutions to the table. The challenge now is to connect them and develop those performances to accelerate those changes. The problem is that we don’t have time and we need to work much faster and more systematically.