September 07, 2012

A blueprint for the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

In a sequel (Conservation policy: Listen to the voices of experience, published in Nature) to this letter, Esther Turnhout and coauthors (including Mike Hulme) advocate using the World-Wide lnterethnic Platform on Food Security and Ecosystem Cultural Services, and not the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as the blueprint for the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Thus, they propose using concepts like "window of opportunity" (instead of just opportunity), "synthesizing wider perspectives and spurring action by multiple policy actors" (instead of just giving scientific advice), "drawing on the expertise of stakeholders and knowledge-holders, including indigenous people, businesses, farmers, community partnerships and fishers, and recruiting multiple peer communities, including specialist citizens, biodiversity practitioners and place-based experts" (instead of just asking experts), and "forging productive and trusted connections between organized global knowledge and the many biodiversity actors operating at multiple levels and scales" (instead of just whatever they mean with that).

Turnhout and colleagues further accuse the IPBES of:
promoting a predominantly science-based understanding of biodiversity, with ecosystem services taking centre stage. 
This focus reduces biodiversity to an object of exploitation and runs the risk of bringing it even further into a system of market exchange. Although the concept of ecosystem services prompts private-sector and governmental responses in the developed world, it alienates important political actors. Objectors include Bolivian, Ecuadorian and Cuban delegates at IPBES meetings, and other developing countries at the Convention on Biological Diversity.
In an editorial in the same issue Nature endorses Turnhout and coauthors' proposal even if "discussion of values, stakeholders, community partners and engagement — the language of the social sciences — can make some traditional scientists uncomfortable." That is not the language of the social sciences but of the social pseudosciences. And anyway, what does it matter if this language makes traditional scientists uncomfortable? The truly important goal is to appeal to the Bolivian, Ecuadorian and Cuban delegates.

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