How to escape current development paradigms

A fierce debate concluded the two-day conference "The Great Escape" in the Amsterdam based Artis Royal Zoo. Outgoing Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality Mrs Gerda Verburg, President of IUCN Dr Ashok Khosla and Chair of the IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands Roger van Boxtel discussed opportunities and threats for the future of planet Earth.

From left to right: Prof Dr Louise E.M. Vet, Director at Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Dr Ashok Khosla, Mr Willem Ferwerda, Executive Director IUCN NL Photo: Aukje ter Horst, IUCN NL

At the conference more than 150 policymakers, members of the business community and experts from all over the world convened to find solutions in the areas of biobased economy, payments for ecosystem services, humanitarian emergency aid and the environment for life on Earth. The central theme was the "great escape" from the current development paradigms, knowing that in 2050 the consumption patterns of more than 9 billion people will need to be met.

''If 9 billion people live the like the people in Holland live... Frankly they would have about three years to go'', Dr Ashok Khosla said, ''People need to know that they have to live in balance with nature."

''We have to take responsibility, and look at the system we built'', Mrs Verburg said, as she quoted her colleague from Namibia who once said to her ''If we do what we did, we get what we got.''

''There is a lot more to learn, but we know enough to realize that we must "escape" the development paradigms that are at the root of our current biodiversity and ecosystems crisis", Mr Roger van Boxtel said in his closing speech.

Dr Ashok Khosla emphasized the urgent need for action, by saying, "We are in a very fast moving train, hurdling towards a cliff and we have to jump out before it's to late", he added, "There is an incredible range of opportunities".

IUCN President emphasized also that it is also a question of fairness and social and economic justice. He praised the Netherlands for the international leadership on these issues and called for the country to maintain this role.

Innovation, integrating nature in the economy, but also behavioural change and new regulations are important ingredients for the escape, participants concluded.

During the conference, policy-recommendations were developed through specific expert meetings. These meetings involved experts from north to south, and relevant stakeholders. They discussed issues such as local ownership of mainstreamed payments for ecosystems schemes; ensuring a sustainable and equitable biobased economy; and integrating environmental principles in humanitarian aid operations to ensure a long term sustainable provision of ecosystem services.

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