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World Wide views on Biodiversity

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Written by Brianne Fagan

Posted on 23 September 2012

Colorado School of Mines hosted a global event called World Wide Views on Sept 15, 2012. Created by the Danish Board of Technology in 2009, it sought to involve citizens in discussions about global policy topics. The first WWViews event discussed Global Warming and had over 50 countries participate. The numbers for WWViews on Biodiversity were smaller, but there was still a significant turnout globally.

The Golden participation in the event was largely coordinated by Sandy Woodson of the LAIS department. She spent many days and months working to make this event possible. She opened the event with some introductions for speakers and by starting up the video welcome from the UN. Without Sandy Woodson and the Hennebach Program in the Humanities, this event would not have included Golden.

Beginning with standards and entrance surveys, participants jumped into the first thematic session. Titled "Introduction to Biodiversity," basic facts discussed were the definition of biodiversity, the statistics about the loss of biodiversity, and what the major threats were. At the end of the session, table discussions headed by a trained moderator helped formulate opinions about the major questions on which attendees were to vote. After votes were cast, a volunteer input the results straight to the WWViews website so that results could be compared in real time.

The second thematic session regarded "Biodiversity on Land" and brought up issues of protected lands vs. economic interests and global food consumption. One issue discussed in regards to land was the issue of feeding livestock – an enterprise that needs ten times the land area of human plant based foods. Globally, only about 32% of people agreed on making a global policy to eat less meat, while over 50% of participants in the Colorado group agreed. This data was from the WWViews website and was even shown in real time to the CSM participants.

After lunch and a Skype call to the WWViews group in Calgary, the third thematic session discussed "Biodiversity in the Sea," an issue many of the Colorado participants found to be more complex than any of the participants realized. Overfishing causes major issues to biodiversity. The destruction of coral reefs, and the high seas remain relatively unregulated currently. Many Coloradans were quick to vote for immediate removal of fisherman subsidies world-wide. In other parts of the globe, citizens would rather see the subsidies phased out slowly. Although Biodiversity is a global topic, aspects of it affect some areas more than others.

The fourth thematic session covered issues of "Burden and Benefit Sharing." Many developing countries contain rich biodiversity that developed countries want to take use. New medicines and other technologies developed from genetic information found in other areas often lead to medical breakthroughs and beneficial remedies. Recent UN guidelines set down a policy that countries of origin receive a portion of profits from information that originated there. The issue stems from samples collected prior to this policy, and whether or not countries should be compensated for those as well. The global majority decided, "Yes."

The Danish Board of Technology tried new a new method to obtain world opinions during this WWViews event, they allowed each country to develop a "National Question" on the topic of biodiversity. In the United States, participants were asked, "If, and what sort of biodiversity policy should the U.S. should adopt?" After deciding yes or no, participants drafted a policy statement that could be read in under one minute. This will be given to US representatives going to the UN Biodiversity Conference, COP 11, in October. The drafted policies were shared aloud with the entire room. A majority of participants believed the U.S. should adopt a biodiversity policy immediately, ratify a global treaty of biodiversity standards, and even go as far as starting up a new department in the government to regulate this.

Consensus conferences have been used in Denmark for over a decade to help policy makers understand the views of ordinary citizens on complex policy topics. The use of short films and literature help educate participants to make informed decisions, and the group discussions help to solidify ideas and viewpoints. This gave ordinary citizens a chance to express their views and to see how other people around the world think about the same global issues.

Look at biodiversity/wwviews.org for all the details from the day's discussions.
Colorado School of Mines

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