Biodiversity is the variety of all life forms: the different plants, animals and microorganisms, their genes and ecosystems where they live. The Convention on Biological Diversity was a key international document and its conference of parties well attended with 7,000 people including several key figures from the Environmental Quality Authority (EQA) of Palestine. The conference had the slogan: Investing in Biodiversity for People and Planet.
It was fascinating to observe how the global community works and does not work to move us towards a more rational planetary structure. Most fascinating is the conundrum of sustainable development and environmental conservation versus the worldwide drive for growth to meet increasing human demands and populations. Just about everyone who attended here knows well
the dire situation of our planet. They know that in a few years there will be more plastics in our oceans than there are fish. For animals larger than a few kilograms, 90% are humans and domestic animals!! Decoupled consumption data means that about half of products are produced in one place and sold in another (damaging the environment remotely). The inadequacy of government response to the climate change catastrophe that is befalling our planet was evident.
At this event, there were official representatives of relevant environmental authorities from most of the countries on earth. There were also representatives of relevant UN bodies, funding agencies, NGOs, and academics. All these people describe their work as important for sustainability and harmony between nature and humans. I will not here make detailed comments on what I learned academically and also regarding which groups do really good work and what they do (and some groups do not do good practical work). Overall it was a very good meeting, and I was kept busy 12-15 hours a day hours a day plus a bit more at night for reading he voluminous literature produced. But we also have many more links and websites and readings and follow up to do (see below).
For our work in Palestine, this meeting was and is a big boost: 1) We made new friends and contacts with over 200 key people from over 40 countries, 2) Had interventions in over 6 side events ranging from species “Barcoding” (DNA methodologies for species identification) to gene drives to biodiversity conservation to modeling future, 3) Shared our success (http://palestinenature.org) and brochure and business card with hundreds, 4) Acquired new ideas and started to work towards 7 new collaborative projects to expand on our museum and Institute of biodiversity and sustainability work.
Here are ten items our team will be following-up on as I am back in Palestine:
1-Dozens of key contacts were developed that need follow-up on partnership and collaborations (for research, education, and conservation projects)
2- Mobilizing data in our work took a big boost forward by workshops and ideas for better utilization of voluminous data available for examples a) Protected Planet digital report www.livereport.protectedplanet.net
b) Sustainable development goals tool developed by Cambridge conservation
c) Global Taxonomy Initiative Forum & subsidiary activities
d) Arabic Information Network http://www.ainportal.org/ar/Pages/default.aspx
e) Global Biodiversity Information Facility https://www.gbif.org/
All this will enhance our nascent national biodiversity database for
3- Build our molecular systematic / species barcoding section (see examples www.ccdb.ca, www.Boldsystems.org, biobus.ca)
4- Human Capacity building: Many institutions are willing to receive some of our students to train in most advanced fields of biodiversity research, education, conservation, and management
5- Engage with Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity http://bch.cbd.int/protocol and the Nagoya Protocol on access to genetic resources
6- Create and join global youth biodiversity network www.gybn.org
7- Received great ideas for our ongoing projects. For example the project (funded by Darwin Initiative and National Geographic for biodiversity conservation and human sustainable local indigenous communities in Al-Makhrour area (A UNESCO World Heritage Site). For example with effective landscape approaches – see Satoyama Initiative and also these very good papers https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/rec.12475
8- At least seven new funding opportunities were identified and will be applied for (we are now applying for an average of 10grants/year and getting 2/3rd funded). Most are for specific actions and do not pay for operating budgets and we are planning a big green building project (email us for details) so we could use your donations: https://www.palestinenature.org/donations/
9-Promote responsible private sector partnership in Palestine but Challenge misuse of Gene drive and other technology guidelines for private sector engagement in biodiversity (e.g. see http://synbiowatch.org/genedrive )
10- Other projects were worked on with colleagues including expanding our medicinal plant and seed project; expanding digitization, microbiome urban restoration for human health
Also, we got some really good references worth reading for example:[This article is trying to be too nice to the occupiers while highlighting some issues *about doing science under occupation*. We at the museum are actually one of the most effective publishing groups in Palestine with 2-3 peer reviewed publications/month now] In the Palestinian territories, science struggles against all odds
Visconti, P., et al. (2016). Projecting global biodiversity indicators
under future development scenarios. Conservation Letters, 9(1), 5-13.?
Stay Human and come visit us in Palestine
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Founder, and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability