Save the oceans: feed the world PDF Print E-mail
In brief
Written by Albert Norström   
Friday, 08 June 2012 14:55

Oceana is the worlds largest international organization focused on ocean conservation and protecting marine ecosystems. They run a great blog that focuses on these issues, which I highly recommend. They recently released a short report that stresses the point of marine ecosystems being an untapped source of protein that can help feed the world. While it simplifies some issues, I like the explicit link it makes between conservation and human well-being - and the focus on some key positive case-studies that can serve as inspiration and catalysts of broader change.

Here's the link to the report. Happy weekend reading.

What can we expect from Rio +20? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fredrik Moberg   
Monday, 04 June 2012 10:37

Our friends of the Think Globally Radio in Stockholm had a set of very interesting guests yesterday, Sunday June 3.  The programme was entitled "Rio +20 and the state of global environmental governance" and featured  two key individuals in this context: Bo Kjellén and Maurice Strong.

Listen here>>

Ambassador Bo Kjellén played a key role in the preparatory process leading up to the original Rio conference, and was instrumental in the negotiations that resulted in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and other major achievements of the 1992 Earth Summit. In the programme Kjellén shares insight from 20 years of environmental diplomacy and discusses some of the key aspects of the upcoming Rio +20 summit.

Interestingly, yesterday's episode of Think Globally Radio also includes a recent interview with Maurice Strong, who served as secretary general of both the Stockholm Conference in 1972 and the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

Think Globally Radio is heard every Sunday evening in Stockholm, and an extensive archive of past programs can be listened to on demand on

Senegal cancels foreign fishing licenses PDF Print E-mail
In brief
Written by Albert Norström   
Friday, 18 May 2012 12:41


The new government of Senegal has cancelled the licences of 29 foreign fishing trawlers, demanding that they offload their catches in the capital Dakar before leaving the west African country's territorial waters.

Local, small-scale fishing industries in developing countries face a barrage of inter-connected global drivers that threaten their existence. For example, heavily subsidized EU fleets are currently out-muscling the local fishermen of many west African nations. Fisheries in developing countries are also victims of unscrupulous mobile, marine traders (roving bandits) and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing vessels. Roving bandits take advantage of slack trade local and international rules and sequentially harvest from unprotected marine resources in order to feed growing market demands fro marine resources (e.g. sea urchins for the Asian sushi market). Once a local fishery has collapsed, these roving bandits quickly move to the next, adjacent fishery and exploit it. The result is a sequential depletion of local fish stocks that literally pushes the boundaries for what is sustainable exploitation. IUU vessels are another great threat to local fisheries in developing countries. These vessels work on the fringes of international law despite various enforcement measures and international pressure on their flag states (the nation states under which these vessels are registered). IUU vessels frequently change their names and flags and regularly dumped catch, log books, computers and other potential evidence if they are captured. Taking action against IUU vessel owners is made even more difficult as ownership is often disguised by complex company structures, often in part registered in tax havens.

Can developing countries themselves take any steps to break out of these situations? The recent developments in Senegal give rise to some hope. There has recently been fears, stemming from statements made by Senegalese fishers themselves, that piracy (as seen in Somalia) might become a response to overfishing in the region by EU-fleets. Following this growing resentment and threats the new Senegalese government has now decided to revoke the licenses of 29 fishing trawlers. Similar moves where taken in 2006, when Senegal cancelled its licencing agreements with the heavily subsidised EU fleet in an attempt to protect its industry from foreign vessels. Back then dozens of giant factory ships registered in Russia, Lithuania, Morocco, Ukraine, Mauritius, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, China, Belize and elsewhere were able to acquire new licences. The move comes in a critical period where Senegal is reviewing its longer term fishing policies. Greenpeace Africa welcomed the decision in an open letter to the Senegalese government.


Poll predicts Rio+20 summit failure PDF Print E-mail
In brief
Written by Albert Norström   
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 15:04

A major international poll suggests that very few sustainable development experts (13%) think Rio+20 will succeed.

As part of The Regeneration Project, the GlobeScan/SustainAbility Survey polled 642 experts in sustainability from business, NGOs, academia and government in 77 countries. Some of the results are sobering. For example, the poll found that 35% of surveyed experts are not confident that key influencers and decision-makers will even attend the summit (35%). And although experts agree that the green economy and the institutional framework for sustainable development are the right themes for the summit, few experts believe that the conference will succeed in making significant progress in the transition to sustainable development.

Interestingly though, while corporate entities were often thought to be at odds with the environmental and development goals of the 1992 Summit, corporate leadership is today seen as key to ensuring a successful outcome at Rio+20 in June 2012. The poll found 70% of respondents saying that global businesses need to work together to set priorities within an industry-specific context and 62% saying the private sector should both lobby national politicians on key issues ahead of Rio+20.

Read more about it here.

Bringing different knowledge systems to the IPBES PDF Print E-mail
Written by Albert Norström   
Thursday, 10 May 2012 10:44


As we reported in our previous post, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was established in April 2012 after several years of international negotiations. This is a great victory for biodiversity and a powerful way to mainstream issues of biodiversity and ecosystem services into important sectoral policies such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and energy. IPBES will bridge the distance between where science “speaks” and policy is enacted and will hopefully lead to an improved understanding of biodiversity loss and its implications for human well-being.

IPBES also represents an opportunity to establish a dialogue between diverse knowledge systems, and to find ways for a diversity of knowledge systems to contribute to better policies. "Science" is one knowledge system that constantly generates new information and insights on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Other, equally important, knowledge systems in the context of ecosystem dynamics, sustainable practices, and interdependencies between people and nature exist based on the rich diversity of indigenous, traditional and local knowledge around the world. Unfortunately, these knowledge systems have often been ignored by decision making on ecosystem management beyond the local level.

IPBES officially established PDF Print E-mail
In brief
Written by Albert Norström   
Thursday, 26 April 2012 09:05

This weekend saw the official establishment of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Its been a long process to get this up and running, but now finally it exists and has the official backing of more than 90 governments. The IPBES aims to function rather like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and will hopefully lead to an improved understanding of biodiversity loss and its implications for human well-being. Hopefully, that will increase the political ambition to act in the same way as the IPCC has done for global warming.

A while back we ran a Q&A with Håkan Berg regarding IPBES.

More material on the establishment of the IPBES can be found here

Watch the video - "it is time to get out of your cozy Holocene cave" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fredrik Moberg   
Thursday, 05 April 2012 12:52

We are welcomed to the Anthropocene. Almost everywhere right now. It all started with scientists declaring that the Earth has entered a new epoch—one that is characterized by human impact on the planet’s biophysical processes. After the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability held in Stockholm May 2011 the concept has been picked up by the Economist and Time Magazine, just to mention a few places. "If you haven’t heard of it, it is time to get out of your cozy Holocene cave", as Thad Miller from Portland State University put it in a recent blog post at Resilience Science.

The notion of the Anthropocene also dominated last week’s Planet Under Pressure conference in London. London was also the place for the launch of a new website "Welcome to the Anthropocene", which aims to inspire, educate and engage people about humanity’s impact on Earth. Its combination of high-level scientific data and powerful imagery seeks to help people visualize and better understand humanity’s geographic imprint in recent time. Does it work? Judge for yourself. Watch the introduction video below and visit the website.

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Food for thought at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fredrik Moberg   
Wednesday, 28 March 2012 14:45

SDUpdate is in London for the Planet Under Pressure conference. It implies we're spending four days in a huge and ultra-modern conference center far from the beautiful summer weather outside. It is, however, compensated by the many interesting, engaged and energetic scientists and other experts discussing global environmental change issues and actually trying to  find and implement concrete solutions for a planet under increasing pressure.

Among many interesting things happening are a bunch of talks and sessions dealing with food security, poverty alleviation, biodiversity and ecosystem services.

For instance, earlier today I listened to Professor Ivette Perfecto from the University of Michigan who spoke on "Agroecology, biodiversity and food security: transcending the land sparing debate". She mentioned their well-known meta-analysis done a few years ago showing that agroecological farming practices can increase production substantially in developing countries and that biodiversity conservation can indeed be combined with increased yields within an agroecological approach to farming.

Another interesting food-related activity was the launch of the final report of the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change launched at the Key Conference Session ‘Science-based policy actions needed to achieve food security under a changing climate’. The Commission was set up in 2011 to come up with concrete actions to transforming the food system to achieve food security in the face of climate change. Read its 7 recommendations targeted to policy makers here.

Tuesday 27 March also featured the food-related session on "Intensifying agriculture within planetary boundaries". It included presentation by e.g. Line Gordon from Stockholm Resilience Centre and featured research by Jonathan Foley (presented by one of his colleagues) and others on options for feeding a growing world population and developing agriculture to fight poverty while remaining within the guardrails of planetary boundaries.

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