Opinion article “50 YEARS OF THE UNESCO PROGRAM “THE MAN AND THE BIOSPHERE”
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the UNESCO Program “The Man and the Biosphere”, read the opinion article by Helena Freitas, Coordinator of the Centre for Functional Ecology – Science for People & the Planet and Chair Holder of the UNESCO Chair on Biodiversity Safeguard for Sustainable Development, by António Abreu, researcher at the Biosphere Reserves Project: Sustainable Territories, Resilient Communities (EEA Grants) and by Maria Fernanda Rollo (principal investigator História. Territórios. Comunidades – CFE) in today’s Público newspaper.
“50 YEARS OF THE UNESCO PROGRAM “THE MAN AND THE BIOSPHERE”
In a recent publication, UNESCO director Audrey Azoulay and primatologist Jane Goodall, subscribed to a public call for the preservation of the planet, against the destruction of our common home. “It is sad to think that nature speaks and humanity does not listen”, a phrase by Victor Hugo that they invoked for the meaning it has today, when we face a pandemic and the consequences of the state of degradation of the planet. An unsustainable trajectory that is visible in the ongoing climate crisis, the collapse of biodiversity, the contamination of the oceans, the general waste of resources, which results from a relationship with nature that was based on dominance and exploitation, leading to the current destruction of 75% of terrestrial ecosystems and 40% of habitats. The rate of species extinction is now ten to one hundred times faster than the average of the last ten million years, and continues to accelerate. Of the nearly ten million species of animals and plants that are estimated to exist on the planet, one million are threatened with extinction.
Our human condition is inseparable from nature; we are part of nature. We rely on nature to ensure food, water and shelter, to regulate climate and disease, to ensure the recycling of nutrients and the production of oxygen, for our spiritual fulfillment, for our health and well-being. In order to continue guaranteeing these goods and services, a profound change in our relationship with nature is necessary, because human health depends on the health of the planet. We must, therefore, have the ambition to guarantee the necessary resources for the protection and restoration of ecosystems – the most complex and decisive environmental and political challenge for the future of Humanity.
As part of the ongoing negotiations associated with the Convention on Biological Diversity, the protection of 30% of the terrestrial and marine surface is expected by 2030. The 252 natural world heritage sites, 714 biosphere reserves and 161 UNESCO world geoparks; 6% of the earth’s surface, where more than 260 million people live, is already protected by this framework that needs to be strengthened. Portugal contributes to this global number with 12 biosphere reserves (Castro Verde, Corvo, Gerês-Xerês, Graciosa, Fajãs de São Jorge, Flores, Meseta Ibérica, Paúl do Boquilobo, Santana, Madeira, Tejo-Tajo Internacional and Porto Santo), 5 geoparks (Azores, Arouca, Estrela, NaturTejo da Meseta Meridional, Terras de Cavaleiros) and 1 natural site of world heritage (Laurisilva da Madeira).
The conservation of natural values in harmony with human activities, with a view to the prosperity and well-being of people and communities, is the purpose that led more than 190 countries to entrust UNESCO with creating and promoting the program “The Man and the Biosphere ”, known as the MaB program, exactly 50 years ago. A historic and visionary decision by UNESCO, affirming a pioneering development strategy in the path of planetary sustainability. The MaB program is at the base of the constitution of the 714 biosphere reserves today classified on a global scale, territories justly considered living laboratories of sustainability. Its safeguarding is part of a universal will for the conservation of natural ecosystems and the services they provide to humanity, integrating communities and economic activity, in a peaceful and dialogical coexistence, aiming at the well-being and sustainable prosperity of the territories in which they live. fit in.
It is not possible to continue to promote development at the expense of the destruction of nature. The 2030 agenda and its objectives for sustainable development, must inspire the way, responding to poverty, inequality, human rights, education, health, but also ecosystems. We must be able to build other paradigms of progress, safeguarding a respectful relationship between human beings and life in general. As primatologist Jane Goodall, ambassador for the 50th anniversary celebration of the MaB Program, says: “We can have a world of peace. We can walk to a world where we live in harmony with nature. Where we live in harmony with others. It doesn’t matter which nation we come from. It doesn’t matter our religion. It doesn’t matter what our culture is. This is the path we are taking. ”
Centre for Functional Ecology – Science for the Planet &for People
Unesco Chair in Biodiversity Safeguard for Sustainable Development
Biosphere Reserve Project: Sustainable Territories, Resilient Communities (EEA Grants)