by Thomas McAuley-Biasi, Canada
It’s been a week since the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity officially started, and while I could take this time to beautifully sum up everything that’s happened, I’m not going to do that. This is for two reasons: 1. So I can shamelessly plug our live updates on twitter (@GYBN_CBD), where you can get these types of updates in real time, and 2. Because discussing which brackets were and weren’t removed doesn’t make for the most compelling of blog posts. What I want to talk about today is more big picture.
At this very moment, members of 196 parties have come together from across the globe to talk about biodiversity- a term that, arguably, less than 50% of the world knows and understands. They are spending tons of time, money, and resources to make sure that the correct policies and plans are made in order to protect, sustain, and mainstream biodiversity across our planet- once again, something most people don’t understand- and that’s incredible. Furthermore, 196 parties are all coming to agreements. Think about that for a second. My family can’t agree on what movie we all want to watch, and that decision will only affect what we do as a family for somewhere between 2 and 3 hours. These decisions affect close to 7.5 billion people, and will affect them into the foreseeable future.
So yes, a lot of what happens at COP13 deals with brackets around single words, sentences, and paragraphs. And brackets aren’t engaging as a topic in a blog. The words within those brackets, and the discussions they produce, however, should be. Almost 200 countries argued about the inclusion of “for example” over “inter alia”, “in particular”, and “such as” for close to an hour. That’s two words in a document containing 3,188 words. And that’s only one document. There are about 115 documents currently on the site, all which of have passed, or will pass, over everyone’s eyes, and need to be agreed upon. We might look at those 8 words I previously mentioned and think that they’re all the same (or maybe think, “what the hell does ‘inter alia’ mean”), but they’re not, and their minute differences become much larger when you take into account the varying cultures and languages that these words will affect.
From the meeting happening at all, to the fact 100s of people, representing thousands of people, representing billions of people, can come to any agreements at all, is something truly special. So even if, from an outsider’s perspective, these discussions, negotiations, and brackets may seem tedious, just remember that this entire process is anything but boring.