When scientists and policy makers meet

Feature story - 12 November, 2003
Before any major international meeting there are advance meetings to lay the groundwork. A lot of the decisions finalised at the main meeting are often made at these meetings - months before the big one.Today was the start of one of the more important of these meetings, the ninth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice to the Convention on Biological Diversity. That's SBSTTA-9 and the CBD to you insiders, and it will be going on in Montreal all week.

Greenpeace activists joined by giant trees called Ents, that fans will recognise from the Lord of the Rings, have welcomed government delegates from around the world to the 9th meeting of biodiversity (SBSTTA).

At this meeting the Greenpeace team will be talking a lot about protected areas. Many of the world's ecologically vital areas are still not protected, and many of those that are protected on paper are still in trouble in reality. As Christoph, a Greenpeace forests campaigner, put it, "If protected areas are to really help protect life in the world's forests and oceans they must be adequately funded, well managed and must be expanded into global and comprehensive networks recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples and other concerned communities".

Day one - Highlight Chile

Today, along with some people in giant Ent costumes, we set up video screens on either side of the entrance with a recorded message from an activist in Chile at last weeks protest there. Last Thursday, there were protests in both Toronto and Santiago de Chile against a Canadian company named Noranda.

Noranda is a notorious polluter in Canada - where they've racked up $1.2 million (US) in fines. Now they want to flood a huge area of pristine wilderness in Patagonia, Chile, to build an aluminum smelter that will emit 1.5 million tones of gaseous and solid waste each year. Given Noranda's track record it's hard to imagine that the environmental impact of this project would be less than disastrous. For more on Noranda see our, "A Life of Crime" report.

In Canada, activists erected a giant 'dam' in front of Noranda's headquarters in downtown Toronto. An inspirational and authentic Chilean band strummed and fluted while the activists passed out close to 1000 leaflets detailing the Noranda's plans for Patagonia.

In Chile, the activists arrived at Noranda's offices in green trucks with sirens as though they are "arresting" Noranda. In the street they drew animals and people representing what is at risk, and they "blocked" (not totally) Noranda's main entrance while pasting up "Wanted" posters.

See the video:

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Day three - Highlight Amazon

Today the delegates were confronted with video from the Amazon. The Amazon is the world's largest remaining tropical forest, and is thought to be the most diverse ecosystem on Earth, supporting around 60,000 plant species, 1,000 bird species and more than 300 mammal species. So, it's impossible to talk about preserving biodiversity with out talking about the Amazon.

The Amazon is also home to 20 million people, including 400 different indigenous groups. The people living in the forest make practical and sustainable use of the forest, and live within the constraints of this harsh environment. But as logging companies move in, indigenous people are losing their traditional territory.

Right now Greenpeace has a large team in the Amazon - working with both the indigenous peoples, and Brazil's federal environmental agency.

See the video:

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Updates from the team.

Day four - Highlight Australia

Today it was Stefan's turn to great the delegates from the world's highest tree sit in Tasmania, Australia. An international team of activists have constructed a tree platform, dubbed Global Rescue Station, 65 metres up one of the world's tallest trees. The tree they are in is just one of many slated for logging.

Many of these trees are more than 80 metres tall, larger than a 25-storey building. They are over 400 years old and up to five metres wide at the base. In 1996, only 13% of the original cover of Eucalyptus regnans remained as ancient forest in Tasmania. Less than half of that 13% is protected in national parks and other reserves.

See the video:

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Updates from the team.

Check back here for more tomorrow.