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Statement of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda: International Day for Biological Biodiversity

May 22, 2021

Statement of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda
International Day for Biological Biodiversity

We humans measure time based on our dreams and aspirations. We make decisions for ourselves and our children, thinking about 10 or 20 years hence. Those timelines are short in evolutionary terms, so our life paths would not immediately seem to be relevant to what happens to nature.

Sadly, these life paths chosen with such short timelines are what have driven us to the precipice.

In 2014, Elizabeth Kolbert released her book The Sixth Extinction. This is a seminal work comparable almost to Rachen Carson’s dire warnings in Silent Spring nearly 60 years ago. In it, Kolbert used intellectual and natural history and field experience to tell the world that our biodiversity is in a rapid decline trajectory — we are in an ongoing mass extinction event. The previous five times this happened, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically dropped, the causes were natural. Biologists, ecologists, climate scientists are all in a mad scramble to monitor and document what is happening, and some expect it to be as devastating as the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is being caused by us.

In 2019, this call to action to try and halt the biodiversity crisis was followed up by a higher alarm level — the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a report saying that unless we reduce the intensity of human actions that cause biodiversity loss, “there will be a further acceleration in the global rate of species extinction, which is already at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years.” The drivers of these biodiversity losses have accelerated in the past 50 years and current efforts cannot suffice to meet our conservation goals. Only transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors will work.

It is not enough that we have biodiversity conservation organizations and a Bureau to manage our parks and our wildlife. The way of life and the system of governance and development that has been causing this spasm and resulting chains and chains of extinctions will need to change. And we have a small window to do so — until 2030.

This is why the passage of the Philippine Environment and Natural Capital Accounting System Bill, that I authored in the House of Representatives, is sorely needed. We have valued priceless services offered by nature as free thus far in our trajectory for economic progress. What is happening is that our economy is contracting drastically as well, no thanks to the pandemic but also no thanks to the deterioration of nature. We can no longer operate our economies as if nature’s gifts are limitless.

If any of us still hope to see a decade further than 2030 with the things we now enjoy and cherish, we must be part of the necessary change that must happen this decade, the UN Decade of Ecological Restoration.

Many of us must change our life goals and our dreams so that humanity can collectively address this threat with expertise and knowledge. We have to have more biologists, ecologists, circular economy experts, renewable energy and zero waste professionals who can dream of a fresh start for the planet past 2030.

I am confidently and optimistically claiming that our youth today, who make up majority of the population, would be the driving force of innovation in this decade. I am counting on the young people to transition us from being unwitting destroyers of our own habitat to nurturers of our home planet, knowledgeable about the impacts, values and costs of what we are losing or gaining in our quests for livelihoods and enterprises.

As we mark the first International Day of Biological Diversity on the first year of our turn-around decade, let us have a common understanding of a better normal, an agreement for a greener path, and a new green compact for an economy that does not take what cannot be put back.