Environmental projects

How healthy is the planet? Let’s count the bison and beaver and see

A rule of thumb measure we can all be asking our governments to show progress towards. As we ask what planetary initiatives are really being attended to in our name.

Carly Vynne and co-authors have just published an open source research paper this week. It outlines work undertaken in mapping the world’s remaining intact large mammal landscapes (see also Osprey Insights projects here).

So what? You may ask

I see this as a potential measure we can all seek visibility of. Assessing both behaviours and trust in local, national, and international plans. A rule of thumb (heuristic) measure easy to see.

This Ecography published paper focuses on “intact large mammal assemblages“. Putting up a case for the health of an ecosystem being most easily assessed as a conservation success story by the presence of these specifically identified mammals. Relevant because:

Large mammal species are particularly sensitive to human activities through habitat alteration and direction exploitation.

Vynne et al (2022)

The worrying statistic offered is that only 15% of relevant terrestrial earth surface currently contains an intact large mammal assemblage. These tending to be areas of connected preserved status where “protected area networks” are actively retained. The largest examples being in Brazilian Amazon, southern Africa, Australia and the Himalayas. But every piece of land is measured in the 15%. The additional observation offered is evidence of concentric circle effect as one moves out from these large mammal assemblage areas – with an increasing lack of biodiversity as one moves out from these centres.

I am reminded of the 2021 Netflix movie presented by David Attenborough “Breaking Boundaries”. These are system of system level metrics. Ones that we can all see and understand. David Attenborough is presenting the long-term research of Professor Johan Rockström at research institutes in Sweden and Germany. Specifically the nine Planetary Boundaries model. It is presented these 9 key metrics of our planetary health. Of these nine, loss of biosphere integrity, is given the highest rating of uncertainty. Amounting to the highest immediate risk to the stability of our planetary home. The threshold we have past much more severe than that even of climate change.

With this most concerning of the 9 thresholds in mind, this latest paper is therefore presenting another simplification of measurement of our biggest immediate threat. We can all ask the same question. Can we preserve and restore enough habitat to retain our biodiversity? Measured by the presence of a few key mammals.

Here are the named mammals. Most of which we would not want to visit our gardens, but then neither do they necessarily want us visiting theirs. And therein sits the challenge we have to embrace.

…European bison Bison bonasus, Eurasian beaver Castor fiber, reindeer Rangifer tarandus, wolf Canis lupus and lynx Lynx lynx [35 ecoregions]….

wild horse Equus ferus and wolf in the Himalayan ecoregions [10 ecoregions could be improved by 89%].

In Africa, reintroductions of hippopotamus Hippotamus amphibius, cheetah Acinonyx jubatus, common tsessebe Damaliscus lunatus, African wild dog Lycaon pictus and lion Panthera leo [50 ecoregions by 108%]

North American brown bear Ursus arctos, American bison Bison bison, wolverine Gulo gulo and American black bear Ursus americanus … [22 ecoregions, 17% of the continent, 117% increase in area with intact mammal assemblages) after]

Vynne et al (2022)

In the UK we are already beginning these debates. The beaver has been introduced in experimental settings (rewilding Britain). This trial has immediately produced positive results. But also immediately exposed the very real implications to human displacements and limitations it ultimately starts to impose.

Project implications

These are the real issues of today. We have governments and international institutions promoting more environmentally sustainable ways to be. We have CoP26 campaigns and pledges associated with carbon and materials use. These are pressing issues to which we can review targets and cynically sneer from a psychologically safe distance. But perhaps we should instead be asking how every project our governments and corporations embark upon, impacts wider ecological goals.

But that is still abstract. To most people those are just numbers to manipulate, or impacts felt at remote institutional levels we can just bemoan. At this level of abstraction, we can carry on and blame them when it fails. When however the concern is more tangible, it becomes our concern if we want it to be. And we really should.

We each instigate projects. We can therefore each claim ownership and control. Simply by asking better questions of ourselves in every project we each undertake. Everyday projects of improvement to our houses, our families, and ourselves. How do these changes we intend, ultimately require unsustainable change to these bigger habitat level systems? The systems of systems sitting at the other end? Suddenly, we are all able to make a better choice. By asking more of the impacts of our more simple choice. What we wear. What we replace. What we upgrade. And what we eat.

The main drivers of change are the demand for food, water, and natural resources, causing severe biodiversity loss and leading to changes in ecosystem services. These drivers are either steady, showing no evidence of declining over time, or are increasing in intensity. The current high rates of ecosystem damage and extinction can be slowed by efforts to protect the integrity of living systems (the biosphere), enhancing habitat, and improving connectivity between ecosystems while maintaining the high agricultural productivity that humanity needs.

Addressing biodiversity, Stockholm Resilience Centre https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries/the-nine-planetary-boundaries.html

What habitat is changed to enable each choice we make? That’s a question we all know we should ask. With this simple explanation of intact large mammal assemblages, we perhaps already know the answers. We just do not want to know.

The complete paper by Carly Vynne of Osprey Insights et al can be found here. Dated 27th January 2022.

Are we the CoP out?

Conference of Parties #26

A blog linking infinite discussion and lines. Iterations of recurring themes that can get bigger or smaller, but will they always look the same?

Mandelbrot Sets

Netflix managed to have 55 minutes of my time tonight. Rare indeed these days. “The colours of infinity,” a 1995 film hosted by Arthur C Clarke. Explaining the discovery of a particular fractal geometry that surrounds us. Needing the computations of machines to help us observe what we have always blindly seen.

26 years of the same

It is a fantastic documentary from last century. Reflecting upon what is perhaps ever nearing us in this century, or the next. The mathematics that shows us how in nature there need be no straight lines. Not even necessarily any beginnings or ends. But that at whatever level we look, the patterns and basic formulas that can go to infinities all the same.

Filmed 26 years ago. By coincidence COP26, Conference of the Parties #26, is the same age. Perhaps also a coincidence that fractal symmetry seems the agenda mainstay of this event. The Kyoto Protocol was COP3, December 1997 but not ratified until 2005. Is it to be the “Glasgow Protocol” that our grandchildren’s children look upon with global pride – will this be the start of the change? I have dug out the two agendas and placed them side by side below. Fractal symmetry perhaps, but I am just not sure if we travel to infinitely bigger or infinitely smaller upon this path.

Projects | within Projects

Projects | Within Projects sits here as little more than an idea. But what it does reflect is one person’s attempt to redefine problems we all share. On scales that we can all compare. We are in the same project. We are each a project. And each moment another aggregation of projects our planet actor must wear.

To my mind and my perspective on management, this is just a question of scale. There is fractal symmetry in nature. We follow it everywhere. From the truncations of the tiniest capillaries in our brains and the neural networks that make us think we have a say. To the near infinite networks of galaxies beyond the milky-way. There is a pattern within the chaos, or a chaos within the pattern. Either way, we sit as a pin point in our abstract notions of time and space. One species on one world. Perhaps uniquely, perhaps too discretely, we are different. Different because we have some semblance of intent in what we change. In our momentary time frame, we get to direct, to learn, to grow. Choose to play. Choose to give our chance away. In the heat of this day we now choose to help, or we choose to fade away.

v | b | t

A project of change of behaviour. That is what our leaders speak of next week. Compared to the talk a generation before – what has changed in this rhetoric of change? But perhaps that is not just their question to answer. Perhaps it is not their visibility, and behaviour, or trust we need to ponder.

I am cynical. I am a hypocrite. But I am silent no more. The merry-go-round is easy to step off of when all privilege has fallen ones way. I am not gluing myself to a road. Or finding politics, or charitable ends to compensate for my guilt. My squandered inheritance is time. I am not alone. So the time I have left is aimed at asking better questions. Finding the better questions others in our history have asked. And hoping I get lucky in leaving a few better questions for others to help direct their future-generational task.

If we, the human project, are truly made to intend change. Perhaps it is this visibility we awaken. This goal to the future versions of ourselves we turn our behaviour toward. And from this, our present day, we present ourselves better. Turn ourselves to the service of this future. Rebuild this trust owed as future ancestors. Otherwise – what is this all really for?

Here is the CoP26 2021 agenda, alongside that of 1997. Regardless of its outcomes, maybe it is the personal agendas of us all, that are better answers to nature’s call.

COP3 Kyoto 1997

  • The Climate Change Convention seeks to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic [human-induced] interference with the climate system”. There are three requirements: (1) this “ultimate objective” should be achieved early enough to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change; (2) food production should not be threatened; and (3) efforts to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and climate change should be consistent with sustainable economic development.
  • There is no agreed definition of what is meant by “dangerous”. Individuals and cultures differ in their understanding of what is safe and what is dangerous. In addition, some people and countries are more vulnerable to the expected consequences of climate change than are others. While science can provide a useful basis for decision-making, determining how much climate change is “safe” or how much risk is “acceptable” is essentially a political judgment. The judgment of the international community is expressed through the Conference of the Parties to the Convention.
  • The faster the climate changes, the greater the danger is likely to be. While human beings are extremely flexible and can cope with many different climates and conditions, human institutions and natural ecosystems tend to adapt more slowly. This is why the Convention specifically highlights the need to protect food production and ecosystems.
  • Certain ecological thresholds may be important indicators of the risks of rapid climate change. Such thresholds could be used to set policies for limiting the risk of irreversible damage. For example, paleoclimatic records of forest growth suggest that trees have migrated in the past by as much as four to 200 km in 100 years. But with scientists predicting that a global warming of 1–3.5oC over the next 100 years would shift climate zones poleward by 150–550 km, many tree populations may fail to adapt fast enough. Thus even if policymakers cannot agree on what constitutes a dangerous climate change for people, they may be able to identify dangerous thresholds for ecosystems that are vital to human well-being.
  • Food production may suffer in some regions. Changes in crop yields are expected to vary greatly by region and locality. Therefore, while global agricultural production may be maintained at or near the present level, the food security of some countries may worsen as a result of climate change. To the people affected this may well seem to be “dangerous”.
  • The overall implications of climate change for sustainable development are not well understood. While the net effect is expected to be negative, global warming is likely to have both positive and negative impacts on human societies, national economies, and natural ecosystems. A warmer climate could extend growing seasons in one region while increasing the risk of droughts in another. Similarly, new energy taxes and other policy responses may hurt some countries while energy-efficiency innovations may help others by reducing production costs and opening up new markets.
  • The Convention sets out a number of principles that should guide action to achieve the objective. They include equity between countries; concern for both present and future generations; the specific needs and special circumstances of developing countries; and the importance of cost-effectiveness, sustainable development, and a supportive and open international economic system. In addition, the precautionary principle states that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, the lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing action.
  • The Convention requires policymakers to decide on concrete actions. The Parties to the Convention must come to some consensus on the changes that could be considered dangerous. They must choose the level at which they want to stabilize atmospheric concentrations, a schedule for limiting greenhouse gas emissions over time, and appropriate technologies and policies for meeting this schedule.
  • Fortunately, a wealth of knowledge and information is available to decision-makers. The scientific, technical, and socio-economic literature describes possible future scenarios and the likely consequences of various stabilization levels and emissions trends. It explores Ano regrets and other cost-effective measures for cutting emissions and enhancing “sinks”. The literature also describes options for adapting to climate change impacts and indicates promising avenues of scientific and technological research. By choosing amongst these policies and measures, and by carefully weighing costs and benefits, uncertainties and risks, and the various principles that should guide action, the international community can move towards achieving the Convention’s objective.

COP26 Glasgow 2021

The supplementary provisional agenda for COP 26, proposed after consultation with
the President of COP 25, is as follows:

  1. Opening of the session.
  2. Organizational matters:
    (a) Election of the President of the Conference of the Parties at its twenty-sixth session;
    (b) Adoption of the rules of procedure;
    (c) Adoption of the agenda;
    (d) Election of officers other than the President;
    (e) Admission of organizations as observers; (f) Organization of work, including for the sessions of the subsidiary bodies; (g) Dates and venues of future sessions; (h) Adoption of the report on credentials.
  1. Reports of the subsidiary bodies:
    (a) Report of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice;
    (b) Report of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation.
  2. Reporting from and review of Parties included in Annex I to the Convention.
  3. Reporting from Parties not included in Annex I to the Convention.
  4. Report of the Adaptation Committee (for 2019, 2020 and 2021).
  5. Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with
    Climate Change Impacts.2
  6. Matters relating to finance:
    (a) Long-term climate finance;
    (b) Matters relating to the Standing Committee on Finance:
    (i) Report of the Standing Committee on Finance – Convention
    matters;
    (ii) First report on the determination of the needs of developing
    country Parties related to implementing the Convention and the
    Paris Agreement;
    (iii) Fourth (2020) Biennial Assessment and Overview of Climate
    Finance Flows;
    (iv) Review of the functions of the Standing Committee on Finance;
    (c) Report of the Green Climate Fund to the Conference of the Parties and
    guidance to the Green Climate Fund (for 2020 and 2021);
    (d) Report of the Global Environment Facility to the Conference of the
    Parties and guidance to the Global Environment Facility (for 2020 and
    2021);
    (e) Seventh review of the Financial Mechanism;
    (f) Compilation and synthesis of, and summary report on the in-session
    workshop on, biennial communications of information related to
    Article 9, paragraph 5, of the Paris Agreement.
  7. Development and transfer of technologies:
    (a) Joint annual report of the Technology Executive Committee and the
    Climate Technology Centre and Network (for 2020 and 2021);
    (b) Linkages between the Technology Mechanism and the Financial
    Mechanism of the Convention;
    (c) Review of the constitution of the Advisory Board of the Climate
    Technology Centre and Network;
    (d) Second review of the Climate Technology Centre and Network.
  8. Capacity-building under the Convention.
  9. Matters relating to the least developed countries.
  10. Report of the forum on the impact of the implementation of response measures.
  1. Gender and climate change.
  2. Consideration of proposals by Parties for amendments to the Convention under
    Article 15:
    (a) Proposal from the Russian Federation to amend Article 4, paragraph
    2(f), of the Convention;
    (b) Proposal from Papua New Guinea and Mexico to amend Articles 7 and
    18 of the Convention;
    (c) Proposal from Turkey to delete the name of Turkey from the list in
    Annex I to the Convention.
  3. Second review of the adequacy of Article 4, paragraph 2(a–b), of the
    Convention.
  4. Equitable, fair, ambitious and urgent real emission reductions now consistent
    with a trajectory to reduce the temperature below 1.5 °C.
  5. All matters of adaptation.
  6. Achieving equitable geographic representation in the composition of
    constituted bodies under the Convention.
  7. Administrative, financial and institutional matters:
    (a) Audit report and financial statements for 2019 and 2020;
    (b) Budget performance for the bienniums 2018–2019 and 2020–2021;
    (c) Programme budget for the biennium 2022–2023;
    (d) Decision-making in the UNFCCC process.
  8. High-level segment:
    (a) Statements by Parties;
    (b) Statements by observer organizations.
  9. Other matters.
  10. Conclusion of the session:
    (a) Adoption of the draft report of the Conference of the Parties on its
    twenty-sixth session;
    (b) Closure of the session.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here: