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Biodiversity

Jean-Marie Breton
Cet article est une traduction de :
Biodiversité
Autre(s) traduction(s) de cet article :
Biodiversidad

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Photo 1. Saint-Barthélemy (Lesser Antilles), the difficulty of reconciling human pressures and biodiversity management in small islands

Photo 1. Saint-Barthélemy (Lesser Antilles), the difficulty of reconciling human pressures and biodiversity management in small islands

Credits: O. Dehoorne, 2018

  • 1 The term ‘biological diversity’ is due to R. F. Dasmann (1968), then to T. Lovejoy who uses it in p (...)
  • 2 Diversity, in space and time, of ecosystems, living species (micro-organisms, plants, animals) and (...)
  • 3 ‘Biodiversity refers to the range of lifestyles (functions) of one or more organisms, specific dive (...)
  • 4 1st ‘Summit of the Earth’, then reproduced every 10 years, in Johannesburg in 2002, then again in R (...)
  • 5 Some may think that ‘this term is far too broad to have a real scientific connotation. In reality, (...)
  • 6 Entered into force on 29 November 1993.

1The notion1 of biodiversity2, a contraction of ‘biological diversity’3, was used and then widely popularized at the Rio-de-Janeiro International Conference held in June 19924. It has never really given rise to criticism or controversy5, most authors and actors agreeing as much on its definition as on its content or its multiple implications: political, economic, scientific or sociological. On this occasion, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a legally binding international treaty6, was signed on 5 June 1992 with three main objectives: the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of biological diversity; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of resources.

  • 7 lemonde.fr, 24.08.2018.

2Preserving and perpetuating biodiversity are today a crucial, critical and unavoidable issue for the planet, for the living and therefore, ultimately, for the survival of the human species. A group of ecologists have declared that there is now an urgent need to combat the erosion of biodiversity, because ‘everyone understands that our societies cannot remain passive in the face of the magnitude of the problem: The current erosion of biodiversity, its multifaceted and global nature. Any individual action in this area, no doubt necessary, will be insufficient. An overall vision and a political determination are the only ones capable of helping to stop this phenomenon and to mitigate the consequences for our societies7.

3The preservation of biodiversity, because it is a vital issue, and therefore a national as well as international priority, is now everyone’s business.

  • 8 Law n° 2016-1087, August 8th, 2016, for the recovery of biodiversity, nature and landscapes, JO n° (...)

4The protection of biodiversity is therefore more than ever on the agenda in France, with the adoption, two years ago, of a new legislation to this effect8, the draft of the introduction in the Constitution of binding ecological references, and, more generally, the now frequent and systematic denunciation of environmental damage and, consequently, of the accelerated and dramatic losses of biodiversity, in the French overseas jurisdictions as much as in mainland France. The problems encountered - which call for urgent and drastic solutions - are expressed respectively in terms of identification, management, use and governance.

  • 9 Draft Constitutional Law, National Assembly No. 911, May 9, 2018.
  • 10 M. Prieur et al. Environmental Law, 12th ed., Dalloz, Paris, 2016.

5In the last few months, several proposals have been put forward, following in particular parliamentary reports9, with a view to inserting into the French Constitution provisions that would somewhat ‘green it up’, by introducing provisions to give a constitutional dimension and a constitutional scope to the protection of the environment, at large, in the sense of consolidating and strengthening the state of law in this area, in the name, at least latently, of a principle of ‘non-regression’ today more or less openly claimed if not explicitly embraced10.

6First of all, the aim is to inscribe in Article 1 of the Constitution that France must be regarded as a republic not only ‘indivisible, secular, democratic and social’, but also ecological. It is also envisaged to include in the panel of legislative powers, as listed in Article 34, the fight against climate change.

7It is, however, rightly regrettable that this new legislative competence - if ratified - should be limited to climate protection alone, thereby blindly ignoring that of biodiversity, the destruction of which is equally dramatic and its safeguarding and is as much an imperative concern.

8It should be kept in mind that all that can be done to strengthen the protection and enhancement not only of the climate but also and above all of biodiversity is essential and decisive, including an eventual ‘locking in’ of the gains, in the name of the aforementioned principle of non-regression, via a strong legislative competence in this respect. Such a measure would protect possible errors of a regulatory power more vulnerable to the tendencies, interests and pressures of the moment.

9These two issues - climate change and biodiversity - are indeed priorities for French overseas territories, and are at the forefront of concern and discussion. But biodiversity must not be overshadowed, or minimised, for the benefit of climate alone, when we know the nature and importance of the biodiversity resources it houses, as well as their alarming degradation and disappearance, four times higher than what we see in mainland France!

10The protection, conservation and sustainable and reproducible management of biodiversity raise a number of questions which, in practice, challenge decision makers and environmental stakeholders in different ways. They concern jointly, through the various aspects of management and governance, the protection of biodiversity in se; that, correlatively, also of natural resources; their conservation and enhancement, especially tourism, within the privileged framework of protected areas; and finally, the design and development of alternative tourism and ecotourism practices that respond to these requirements.

11The contributions gathered in this dossier illustrate in various ways, under different approaches, in various places, and often through original experiences, the answers that may be given to these questions and the necessities related thereto. Their apparent heterogeneity actually responds to a common concern, widely shared today, beyond sensibilities, policies and borders: that of the safeguarding of our planet, and more particularly of the living – a common and crucial heritage of humanity, if any - in favour of a sustainable development for the benefit of both present and future generations.

12Biodiversity protection, in addition to individual and collective practices expected from the raising of the awareness of individuals - which are largely developing today, although at different rates and degrees depending on the country and the populations -, goes first, in this case, through legal, normative and contentious devices, adequate, effective and efficient, in the implementation of public policies resolved in this direction. The relationship between biodiversity, ecology and law is crucial in this respect (Breton). It is not unrelated to the management strategies of island territories (Magnin), as well as larger countries where the problems encountered can assume a more worrying dimension (Macias Gomez, Tardif and Sarrasin).

13It can as well take the form of a relevant, reasoned, responsible and efficient management of a territory’s biodiversity resources, as well as the determination of an adapted and proactive policy in dedicated regions or zones, which is a more restricted approach. It can also, in a more punctual and targeted way, face hazards, exposing it to serious threats, if not to irreversible destruction, justifying the design and activation of appropriate prevention plans, against natural risks in particular (Stahl).

14The management of natural resources, especially flora and fauna, can not escape this initiative, as, more generally, that of all biological and abiotic resources. This is particularly the case with those that are non-renewable and finite - due to the disastrous grip of globalization – and being extracted at an uncontrolled rate, generating catastrophes that are all the more inevitable and will inexorably lead to very serious environmental and health issues unless tackled by both drastic and radical solutions. The rational and controlled promotion and exploitation of certain resources (Faouzi) can then be an interesting policy measure and, if successful, be an example for other areas to follow.

Photo 2. Common iguana or Green iguana (Guadeloupe)

Photo 2. Common iguana or Green iguana (Guadeloupe)

Credits: J-M. Breton, 2017

15It is indisputable that the creation and rational management (except to specify what ‘rationality’ it is, in each case and with regard to each type of environment or category of resource) of protected areas is part of such an object, and can offer a relevant answer, if the primary and intrinsic objective of protection is not, over time or reform, obscured and challenged by development and leisure requirements, especially at the local level, which come from a different approach, and do not generate policies, even implicit and not overtly declared, that would hinder it.

16The subject can then concern the conservation and the valorisation of megafauna (Koumantiga et al.), of the whole compendium of biodiversity resources (Magnin), or, from a more targeted and economic perspective, the conservation of resources able to feed a request for ecotourism (Rivas Ortega).

17However, there remain particular, if not sectoral, underlying issues that need to be taken into consideration, unless we end up to engaging in a futile and unrealistic process, almost inevitably doomed to failure. This is the case for the political and economic, but also for the cultural and social, aspects and parameters, grasped through the lens of appropriation - if not re-appropriation - of the territories concerned by local populations and actors, particularly the poor ones, including within protected areas (Rojas Correa et al.).

18Here, in a threefold, almost consubstantial, process of protection, conservation and valorisation. Normative support may prove decisive, in its constitutional, legislative and regulatory formulations, at the international as well as regional, national and local levels (Breton).

19New attitudes, new behaviours, both individual and collective, both public and private, are challenged at the level of decision makers and actors, through a successive, but unavoidable, process of information-awareness-involvement-accountability. Its implementation can take many different forms, on a case-by-case basis, depending on the particular circumstances of place and time. An appropriate ‘pedagogy’ is then essential to ensure satisfaction.

  • 11 On the different forms of alternative tourism, as well as ecotourism, and their implications, v. J. (...)

20This is particularly the case for the development of sustainable tourism development, as it is the case for alternative tourism offerings and practices11, particularly ecotourism, which combine leisure activities with discovery, promoting responsible tourism, and respect of the environment and its richbiodiversity. Island environments, as fragile as they are coveted, with regards to the maritime shores as well as the forest areas, are at the same time largely both applicants and recipients, as well as the territories sheltering an exceptional but endangered fauna (Koumantiga et al.).

21Ecotourism can appear in this respect as a factor and a condition for the development and enhancement of protected areas, which it is able to promote, via again unambiguous policies (and, above all, not likely to be challenged by dominant speculative financial interests), the media coverage, use and, therefore, growth for the benefit of the preservation of their resources of all kinds (Macias Gomez). It can even constitute the privileged instrument of the design and the realisation of innovating policies, part of an economic framework exceeding a straight conservatism with a risk of artificiality (there is no question that nature, like society, should not be turned into a garden or, much less, ‘museum’!), in favour of a ‘neoliberal’ approach to conservation, involving the renewal of management and governance practices (Tardif and Sarrasin).

Photo 3. Arm of the Danube Delta (Romania)

Photo 3. Arm of the Danube Delta (Romania)

Credits: J-M. Breton, 2016

Photo 4. Swamp in the Danube Delta (Romania)

Photo 4. Swamp in the Danube Delta (Romania)

Credits: J-M. Breton, 2016

22Ultimately, the protection of biodiversity, and through it that of the living, and thus the sustainability of human life on Earth, should be simple, clear as obvious. Even a young child should understand its basic tenets. But this is far from the state of play: unfortunately, because the greed of some allies with the irresponsibility of others, it has been relegated to the rank of wishful wishes, demagogic promises, legalistic texts and forgotten policies…

  • 12 Volcanism, tellurism, cyclones, floods, tsunamis, etc.
  • 13 Cf. the recurring file of the chloredecone scandal in Guadeloupe.
  • 14 The loss of water in the distribution network in Guadeloupe is around 50%, due partly to the decrep (...)
  • 15 Biti a l’éta ! (it is the responsibility of the State).

23In the French West Indies, and more generally in the Caribbean, this is reflected negatively by the accelerated losses of biodiversity; the damages caused by disasters of all kinds, due to a prevention protocol that has certainly improved but is still insufficient and often unsuited to natural hazards12; the disastrous and dramatic consequences of the continued use of harmful and toxic pesticides dangerous to human health, which have, however, long been banned in mainland France13; the perpetuation of monstrous open dumps, yet illegal for almost twenty years; the absence or rudimentary nature of waste collection, recycling and management of any kind; the waste of natural resources, in particular drinking water14 (which we know today is not - it has never been - a renewable and inexhaustible resource, and to which hundreds of millions of individuals lack access today); the casualness of behaviours prone to discard or neglect the State15 and public authorities of the concern for the environment and the care of biodiversity.

  • 16 Genes play the role of a ‘data bank’ intended to reconstitute the components of living beings in th (...)

24So, whether in Morocco or in Guadeloupe, in Togo or in Quebec, in Chile or in Polynesia, in Colombia or in Mexico, indifferently of the place and the moment, the concerns are similar, the requirements comparable, the expectations of the same nature, the steps inspired by the same need, if not the same ideal. Because the conservation of a minimum threshold of biodiversity has unequivocally been shown by all scientific studies16 is essential for the maintenance of the living, the survival of humankind, the safeguarding of the planet.

25There is neither ideological – even less dogmatic – convenient voluntarism, nor an attempt of self-legitimation; but just a simple reality that poses a crucial challenge for our generation, from which we can hope that men and women will not be mad enough to ignore and play with impunity with the fate of their children and grandchildren. But from the desirable to the possible. There is sometimes only one, single and simple step that is most difficult to take.

26Meanwhile, for an illustrative review of the extent, context, scale, and results of praiseworthy initiatives in favour of planetary sustainability, kindly consider the experiences presented in this text.

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Notes

1 The term ‘biological diversity’ is due to R. F. Dasmann (1968), then to T. Lovejoy who uses it in publications in 1980; the expression is then contracted in ‘biodiversity’ by W. G. Rosen, in 1986, during a congress in Washington, DC (The National Forum on BioDiversity). The report of the symposium (E. O. Wilson) was published in 1988 under the title BioDiversity (en.wikipedia.org).

2 Diversity, in space and time, of ecosystems, living species (micro-organisms, plants, animals) and their genetic characteristics, in a specific environment, and of the interactions within and between these levels of organisation. The diversity of the living resides in all the processes, lifestyles or functions that lead to maintain an organism in the state of life.

3 ‘Biodiversity refers to the range of lifestyles (functions) of one or more organisms, specific diversity or floristic diversity when one wants to debate the diversification of plant species, genetic diversity when we discuss intraspecific variability, functional diversity to define the key functions performed by a group of species, etc. ’(futura-sciences.com, accessed 25.08.2018).

4 1st ‘Summit of the Earth’, then reproduced every 10 years, in Johannesburg in 2002, then again in Rio in 2012.

5 Some may think that ‘this term is far too broad to have a real scientific connotation. In reality, it is a term formerly in fashion that is gradually beginning to disappear from the language of life sciences’ (futura-sciences.com, supra).

6 Entered into force on 29 November 1993.

7 lemonde.fr, 24.08.2018.

8 Law n° 2016-1087, August 8th, 2016, for the recovery of biodiversity, nature and landscapes, JO n° 0184, August 9th.

9 Draft Constitutional Law, National Assembly No. 911, May 9, 2018.

10 M. Prieur et al. Environmental Law, 12th ed., Dalloz, Paris, 2016.

11 On the different forms of alternative tourism, as well as ecotourism, and their implications, v. J.-M. Breton, Law and Politics of Tourism, Coll. Campus, JurisEditions-Dalloz, Paris, 2016, No. 2109-2150; also, ‘You said alternative tourism (s)? ’, Juristourism, n° 209, June 2018, pp. 43-46.

12 Volcanism, tellurism, cyclones, floods, tsunamis, etc.

13 Cf. the recurring file of the chloredecone scandal in Guadeloupe.

14 The loss of water in the distribution network in Guadeloupe is around 50%, due partly to the decrepit pipelines and partly to erratic connections, generating shortages that result in repeated water cuts, to the detriment of users.

15 Biti a l’éta ! (it is the responsibility of the State).

16 Genes play the role of a ‘data bank’ intended to reconstitute the components of living beings in the event of destruction. Without a minimum stock of ‘spare parts’, this rebuilding is no longer possible…

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Table des illustrations

Titre Photo 1. Saint-Barthélemy (Lesser Antilles), the difficulty of reconciling human pressures and biodiversity management in small islands
Crédits Credits: O. Dehoorne, 2018
URL http://journals.openedition.org/etudescaribeennes/docannexe/image/12989/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 4,4M
Titre Photo 2. Common iguana or Green iguana (Guadeloupe)
Crédits Credits: J-M. Breton, 2017
URL http://journals.openedition.org/etudescaribeennes/docannexe/image/12989/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 548k
Titre Photo 3. Arm of the Danube Delta (Romania)
Crédits Credits: J-M. Breton, 2016
URL http://journals.openedition.org/etudescaribeennes/docannexe/image/12989/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 608k
Titre Photo 4. Swamp in the Danube Delta (Romania)
Crédits Credits: J-M. Breton, 2016
URL http://journals.openedition.org/etudescaribeennes/docannexe/image/12989/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 461k
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Jean-Marie Breton, « Biodiversity », Études caribéennes [En ligne], 41 | Décembre 2018, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2018, consulté le 15 décembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/etudescaribeennes/12989

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Les contenus d’Études caribéennes sont mis à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale 4.0 International.

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