25 August 2006

No water.

I find that the older I get, the more concerned I become about the world around me. I am less selfish and want to do more to help those who are less fortunate than me. I have more concern for the hungry, the homeless, those affected by war. I am also more concerned for the planet we live on, about the totally ignorant way we abuse finite resources.

If Peak Oil is true, we're all screwed already. But if the report I just read on the BBC website is true, then we're doubly screwed.

Oil is the basis for everything we do in our modern society. There isn't an industry, or a product that is not somehow reliant on oil for operation or production needs.

Clean, fresh water is fundamental for life itself. What worries me is if I am an average representation of the general public at large, when they become old enough to be concerned about the world and it's finite resources, it may be too late.

The report on the BBC site can be found here:


Full report copied below:

" As Samuel Taylor Coleridge said: "Water, water every where, nor any drop to drink."

Less than 0.02% of the water on the Earth's surface is liquid freshwater in rivers, lakes and wetlands, and the management of this finite resource has been the subject of this year's World Water Week.

Freshwater is important to all life on earth, including sustaining human populations and meeting development goals; this has been self-evident to all who participated in events in Sweden this week.

The miniscule fraction of freshwater available on Earth is also home to an extraordinarily high level of biodiversity. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) therefore recognises that the stakes are very high.

As human populations have grown and consumption of water increased, our activities have taken an enormous toll on global freshwater resources. Not only are we over-consuming a very valuable and finite supply, we are abusing it.

We are allowing pollution from activities on land to flow into rivers, to be transported for eventual dilution in the sea, or to accumulate in lakes and other wetlands.

It is not surprising that the stresses we have placed on inland waters have resulted in them being in the poorest condition of all ecosystems.

The Global Biodiversity Outlook 2 report confirms that the rate of ecological loss in these habitats is the fastest of all.

This in itself is cause for concern; an even deeper concern is that too many people regard this consequence as a necessary outcome of our quest for development. I beg to differ. In my view it is the outcome of mismanagement.

The biodiversity that inland water ecosystems support is directly used by countless millions of people worldwide for food and nutrition, fibre, medicines and a host of other benefits, including supporting cultural and social well-being.

The poorest and most vulnerable groups rely on these animals and plants the most. Yet their dependence continues to be under-valued by policymakers.

Of even greater significance is our growing awareness that the problems and their solutions are best addressed from the perspective of the vital range of goods and services that inland water ecosystems provide.

These services include food, freshwater, fuel, the regulation of climate and water flows, water purification and waste treatment, erosion control and mitigation against the growing threats from natural hazards.

All of these functions need to be managed in order to achieve human development targets. I echo the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment by noting the inescapable link between ecosystem condition and human well-being.

The CBD is much more than an agreement that implores that whilst managing water we must conserve biodiversity. It is not just a consensus on minimum standards as we strive to move people out of poverty, or grow richer.

As water is managed and used, biodiversity will change; this is inevitable. The CBD is not in conflict with such change, but its concept of sustainable use implies two major things:

  • we must maintain ecosystem options so that we do not deny our children the right to do better than us
  • the changes that we make must result in sustainable, equitable and desirable human development outcomes

Not an easy task, but the 188 Parties to the CBD have already agreed that this is what we shall do.

On taking up my appointment as Executive Secretary I have made my own commitments. I intend to spare no effort taking the message of the CBD to those who need to hear it - including the world's youth, women, NGOs, the private sector and civil society.

I will reach beyond our traditional borders and offer a partnership to all to contribute to ensuring our common future. I will ensure that we work even better with our major partners in this endeavour.

Despite the despair at the rapidly deteriorating situation regarding water and associated biodiversity, there is room for optimism.

We are learning to manage multiple objectives for water better, and the tools to help us improve by the day. There is growing awareness of the multi-dimensional nature of water resources management, and increasing signs of willingness to make fairer and better informed trade-off decisions.

But we will only completely achieve the wise use of water when we understand that we are all trying to achieve the same result."

Ahmed Djoghlaf is Executive Secretary of the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity

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