Frontpage | BBC News | BBC Radio 4 | BBC World Service
Biodiversity Back Next
Tom Lovejoy



Listen to audio

Watch the video

From the moment of our birth we grow up in a world of difference. Very early we learn we share this world not just with our family but with other living things. "Every child has its bug period" as the great Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson says. We discover that not only are there different kinds of plants and animals-- which scientists call species --but also that there can be lots of difference between individuals of any one kind.

This genetic variation we discover first in our parents. And unless we live in an urban setting far from a park, we soon learn that different kinds of animals and plants live together in different places: camels in deserts, whales in the seas, gorillas in tropical forests. The totality of this diversity from the genetic level, through organisms to ecosystems and landscapes is termed collectively biological diversity.

I chose to come to California to give this lecture rather than somewhere else, because of an exciting experiment with biological diversity. I believe it may well help us in the global quest to maintain the biological underpinnings of sustainability, but I will turn to the story of the California Gnatcatcher later in this talk.

It is another fact of life that no organism can exist without affecting its environment. To be alive requires energy so all organisms need to eat: even green plants which use the energy of the sun have to take in nutrients to both live and grow. Similarly all organisms produce wastes. While they are biodegradable -- and it is nothing short of astonishing what some organisms will "feed" upon -- the wastes do alter the environment and potentially affect other organisms.

Consequently the choice confronting humanity is not whether it affects the environment or does not. Rather the choice is about how we affect the environment, that is, in what ways and to what extent. Our planet is very much a living planet and it's incredibly rich web of life is central to how it functions and therefore to sustainability of the human enterprise.

Understanding and attaining sustainability is therefore very complex and does not admit of many simple solutions.

At the moment it is clear that we are far from sustainability. We are in deep trouble biologically and already into a spasm of extinction of our own making unequalled since the one which took the dinosaurs. It is not a peaceable kingdom. The rate at which species disappear is about 1,000 to 10,000 times normal, and a quarter or more of all species could vanish within a couple of decades. There is a major problem with biological diversity. That really is a given. What is far more important is to recognize why it is happening and how we might arrange our lives so our grandchildren can enjoy a sustainable existence on a biologically rich planet.

Biological diversity lies at the heart of sustainable development. The quality of our lives is entwined with it so much more deeply than most of us ever notice, that our fate depends on how well we provide for the future of other forms of life. This goes way beyond the obvious and essentials of food, fiber and shelter, to medicines and complex industrial processes. Biological diversity is essentially an incredibly vast library for the life sciences which is drawn upon to improve critical biologically based enterprises like agriculture and medicine.

Just recently, a sample from a Zambezi riverbank of an obscure group of organisms called slime molds yielded promising new compounds to fight tumors resistant to taxol. Taxol, a key element in the arsenal against breast, ovarian and lung cancer, loses effectiveness in some cases. Taxol itself originally came from the Pacific Yew, considered by foresters just a few years ago to be a trash tree in the forests of the northwest United States. The effective molecules in both cases came from natural defenses of the two wild species in interactions with other species. Sometimes the link is less direct but nonetheless very real as, for example, the development of the ACE inhibitors for treating high blood pressure they arose from the discovery of a unknown system of regulation of blood pressure in the course of a study of the venom of a tropical viper.

The structure of ecosystems is made up of diverse kinds of plants, animals and micro-organisms, and their combined metabolisms constitute ecosystem function.

In this day of quick resort to technological fixes, it is notable that New York City elected to restore the ecosystem function of its degrading watershed rather than construct a water treatment plant. When I grew up in that city it was famous for the quality of its water: when I would return after being away I remember noticing how delicious the water tasted. It even won in blind tastings over fancy European bottled waters. But changes in land use in the watershed led to deteriorating water quality until our Environmental Protection Agency was about to require the city to build a multi billion dollar water treatment facility. Instead a bond issue at a tenth the cost made it possible to restore the watershed, its biological diversity, and therefore its functions. It was a natural and a permanent solution.

What we often call natural disasters are not always natural. They often happen where a little recognized ecosystem service, namely that of disaster prevention has broken down. The horrifying floods and mudslides Hurricane Mitch brought Honduras and the even more ghastly events in December following heavy rains in Venezuela demonstrate this well. Equally heavy rains in Venezuela in 1952 had much lesser consequence because the poor - the ultimate victims -- had not then deforested critical slopes. In Honduras there are anecdotes of adjacent hillsides in which the one with intact forest remained stable and also released less floodwater. Often characterized as "natural disasters" these are only partly so, and the devastating humanitarian and economic blows make a strong argument for maintenance of ecosystems and their services. And, right now we are seeing this happen once again in Madagascar.

About 50 years ago, American freshwater ecologist Ruth Patrick began a line of research subsequently recognized by the U.S. National Medal of Science. Ruth, has been essentially a den mother for a couple of generations of scientists and is in my personal Pantheon. Fifteen years ago when I chose her to speak at a particularly important meeting on the environment, someone asked me "Why did you choose someone so old?". My reply: "When your grandmother tells you have cooties or head lice, you take it more seriously."

Ruth Patrick began a systematic study of rivers and their biological diversity which demonstrates that the numbers and kinds of species in a river -- its biological diversity in our current parlance -- reflect the basic ecology of the river and the environmental stresses to which it is subject. In other words, biological diversity integrates the effects of all environmental problems affecting an ecosystem. This is essentially the fundamental, if often unrecognized, principle on which all environmental science and management is based. It applies everywhere not just in freshwater.

Taken at the level of the entire globe, the Ruth Patrick Principle, means that biological diversity can be considered the single measure of how humanity is affecting the environment. Think of that: instead of contemplating the welter of impacts society is generating, we now can measure the sum in a single number - a real measurable key to achieving and recognizing sustainability.

At the scale of an ecosystem such as South Florida, the coastal sage scrub of California's five southern counties, or even as ambitious a one as the Amazon basin, the key consists of maintaining two elements -- measurable elements -- that are characteristic of the particular ecosystem. One is maintenance of ecosystem functions, such as the sheet flow of water in South Florida, and the other is maintenance of the biological diversity of the ecosystem. The latter can be thought of as managing so that the species list a hundred or five hundred years from now will be pretty much the same as it is today. It certainly does not mean that this has to be true of every spot within the ecosystem although there do need to be areas of strict preservation. There certainly can be locations (cities for example) where there is very intense use and low biological diversity. It does mean enough wild places and enough connections between them so all the species can make it in the long term.

These two measurable goals provide an operational definition for sustainable development within that piece of geography. It is, of course, seriously challenging because it means taking on all environmental problems intrinsic to the area as well as those like acid rain and climate change which are extrinsic. While this might seem to ignore the social and economic elements of sustainability, in the end it certainly does not, because otherwise they will begin to affect the two measurable standards: ecosystem function and biological diversity. Consequently the other aspects of this lecture series, for example good governance and health, are also vital for success. If not applied late in a history of environmental degradation, this ecosystem management approach allows for considerable flexibility and creativity in addressing human aspirations.

South Florida provides an instructive case. A large ecological unit, it extends from the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee about half way up the Florida peninsula down through the Everglades Park and includes Florida Bay, the Florida Keys and the coral reef beyond. It is essentially a single system dependent upon the sheet flow of water from north to south known as the "River of Grass". Over a half century or more individual isolated decisions -- each presumably reasonable in their own context and time -- for flood control, water supply, and agricultural purposes, have drastically altered the flow. Not a drop of water flows naturally without a valve being turned, and only a quarter to a half of the natural flow reaches Florida Bay depending on the year. Subterranean flow through the limestone underpinnings is so reduced the freshwater upwellings in Florida Bay have ceased. The result is a degrading ecosystem, reproductive failure of water birds, endangered species, hypersalinity in Florida Bay, loss of seas grass beds, algal blooms and additional stresses on an already stressed reef system. Ecosystem function and biological diversity are measurably impaired. I had no inkling of this when I first visited the Everglades as a teenager and the problems were not blatantly obvious at that point. In 1993, however, when I served as Science Advisor for the Department of the Interior, the problems were so obvious I could pick out some of them on satellite images of the peninsula.

If the above is the consequence of ad hoc and uncoordinated decision making, then the resolution of such problems, or better yet their avoidance, depends on the converse: on integrated and consultative decision making that integrates society's decisions within the ecosystem framework. When it works best it takes the decision making back to where people live. This is the essence of the multibillion dollar program to restore the natural plumbing of south Florida as much as possible. It will take decades and makes a good case for avoiding such problems to begin with. It also is not easy with so many players with differing vested interests. For example the state recently refused to implement part of the plan, namely to buy out people who had encroached on some sensitive areas. Scientifically the plan needs some significant improvement. Nonetheless, the degradation is beginning to be reversed and the overall trend seems positive.

Southern California where we are tonight presents a different example. Home to Los Angeles, San Diego and some of the worst urban/suburban sprawl in the United States, its native habitat had become reduced to the point, that America's most powerful environmental legislation, the Endangered Species Act was invoked on behalf of a jaunty little bird, the California gnatcatcher -- which just happens to inhabit some of the priciest real estate in the nation. The powers of the Endangered Species Act have tended to be used only once a species is listed (an indication that its habitat and constituent biological diversity was on the verge of being endangered itself). So the exercise was not just about the gnatcatcher but an array of other species like a tiny arboreal salamander, a lizard known as the orange-throated whiptail and the San Diego Thornmint. Southern California , in fact, has a concentration of species found nowhere else: you are all living in this biodiversity "hotspot". If nothing is done until a species reaches the brink of endangerment, inevitably there are economic interests squared off against a species with an obscure name. So even though this really is a signal that the region is beginning to unravel biologically, the situation is easily caricatured as people vs. biological esoterica. A famous example is the Tellico Dam in Tennessee is a little minnow called the snail darter.

So when I was at the Department of the Interior, the situation here was turning into a classic test case for a new approach. I came out to California and thanks to colleagues at the Department of Natural Resources, I had the chance to see the situation firsthand, from the air, on the ground and with the people seeking a resolution. This time the state of California together with the federal agencies and the five county governments undertook to deal with the problem proactively while there was still some flexibility biologically and legally. Industry and civil society, especially the Nature Conservancy, were active participants. The idea was to plan conservation of entire natural communities before it was so late that costs and consequences became impossibly high. Large landowners such as the Irvine Company, were major players, agreeing to land exchanges which worked for both nature and their business interests. At Camp Pendelton in San Diego County the United States Marine Corps worried that the military might have to shoulder a particular heavy burden and were delighted to discover that when all engaged in the plan this was not so. The Commandant even took particular pride in beach management to favor a nesting seabird.

Through the regional program some 400,000 acres have been identified for eventual protection, a network of conservation which is now more than 60% complete. True, endangered species listing of the gnatcatcher in one sense drove the process, but the result was considerably better than otherwise would have been the case using regulatory powers of the Endangered Species Act alone. Just two weeks ago California voters approved a four billion dollar bond issue for securing critical conservation land, with at least $150 million of this dedicated to southern California.

I go to the Amazon with such frequency that I have given up explaining. I just say I am always on my way to the Amazon. In fact, I wrote this lecture on my laptop while I was there. As important as it is from a conservation point of view I confess I also just like to go to this place of perpetual biological surprise and listen to howler monkeys and other jungle noises from my hammock. As complex as South Florida or Southern California are, an even more complex challenge is presented by ecosystem management of the Amazon. Comprising eight nations, for none of whom the Amazon is a major priority, it nonetheless operates ecologically as a single system. In an extraordinary interaction between biological and physical elements, the Amazon literally generates half of its own rainfall. If too much forest is cleared in the wrong places, the hydrology would begin to change and affect the biology of this, the largest of the world's forests, the largest wilderness and the world's single greatest repository of biological diversity. In its vast river system which contains 20% of all the river water in the world reside around 3000 species of fish (more than the entire North Atlantic) some of which migrate from estuary to headwaters and back in the course of their life spans.

Each Amazonian nation finds it hard enough to integrate the various elements of government decision making into a comprehensive policy resembling something like ecosystem management for their piece of the Amazon. Is there any possibility that there could be coordination at the level of the Amazon as a whole? The optimistic answer is that there is certainly a greater chance today with some enlightened national leaders and ministers. The Treaty for Amazon Cooperation provides a possible framework, but it will require leadership especially by Brazil which holds two thirds of the real estate. I believe it could happen and I know that multilateral agencies like the World Bank, the InterAmerican Development Bank , UNDP and UNEP plus civil society would jump at the chance to support such an effort. Sustainable development takes good governance as well as good science.

All three examples must be considered works in progress not final solutions because environmental problems arise continuously like dragons' teeth. One of the most important extrinsic factors for ecosystem management is that of climate change. This is in large degree because when biological diversity is protected by isolated parks and reserves, the ability of species to move and to track required ecological conditions is impeded by an obstacle course of human dominated landscapes.

All will be for naught if society fails to address the greenhouse gas problem. The threat is also much more imminent than most people realize. The world is literally melting: tropical glaciers will be gone in twenty years and new data on the Arctic ice cap indicate that it too is likely to break up in the same time period.

The good news is that there are things we can do about that right now. Some involve energy substitution and conservation. Others involve trees and forests because they play an enormous role in the global carbon cycle. A major effort to stem deforestation, reforest, and to protect natural forests will ward off further greenhouse gas emissions and also make a major contribution to conservation of biological diversity.

The moment is at hand to take the right steps to underpin a sustainable future biologically. Certainly, the challenge is highly complex, and it must work locally everywhere so that it all adds up to sustainable development. Yet it could be summed up by saying we need to live within nature rather than think of it as something which is taken care of, almost in token fashion, with fenced off areas while humanity operates without restraint in the rest of the landscape.

As powerful and imperative as I believe the practical arguments for conservation are, a change in perception and value about our place in nature could achieve vastly more. Classical conservation is not in fact enough. Honoring the Patrick Principle through ecosystem management means we have to live in ways that won't degrade the biology of areas of strict preservation, but also won't degrade that of the landscapes in which we live. That is why sustainable development is so important. It is also why it is so complex to grasp. Fortunately in biological diversity, we not only have wonderful resources we also have a very real measure of sustainability. I am frequently reminded of a long discussion with British naturalist Gerald Durrell when he turned to me with tears in his eyes and said: "There is so little time".

The natural world in which we live is nothing short of entrancing -- wondrous really. Personally, I take great joy in sharing a world with the shimmering variety of life on earth. Nor can I believe any of us really want a planet which is a lonely wasteland.


Gordon Labaedz - leader of the Southern Californian Sierra Club: For your overseas listeners the Sierra Club is the largest volunteer activist environmental organisation in the United States, and what we've found is that sustainable development has become a buzz word for human centred destruction of the wild planet, and if in fact sustainable development is something that's enacted it's for humans, it's to diminish air pollution and to have good drinking water etc - I would question whether or not it maybe more reasonable at least from an environmental activist point of view to look at it from the animals' and the plants' point of view rather than the humans' point of view.

Thomas Lovejoy: Well you know I think in fact that is precisely why I come down to the conclusion that you really need to have a biological measure - as to whether a piece of landscape is being treated in a sustainable fashion, because otherwise there's no real way to know whether you've actually passed certain limits or not, so I think in many senses I subscribe entirely to your point of view.

David Brower - founder of Earth Island Institute: I have the same concern about the word "development" - in my lectures I usually go for a laugh by saying I recommend open season on developers and the audience loves that. I'd like to see what you think of the word sustainable "diversity" - where I have no problem.

Thomas Lovejoy: Given the choice between using the word development or growth, I much prefer to use development because growth just seems to go on consuming forever until it in a sense consumes itself. Sustainable diversity - I mean in fact what I've been talking about in a sense could be called that - it certainly could be called that, because its measure in the end is whether the diversity survives.

Cathleen Cox - director of research at the Los Angeles Zoo: I'm also species co-ordinator for the Drill, which is one of the most endangered primates on the continent of Africa. My observation has been that when people are told they can't continue to pursue their livelihood there's a lot of resistance, for example in the centre of California the Tiger Salamander has just been declared endangered and the farmers there are being told they can't till the same soil as they did before - in Nigeria the Drill is so endangered that the local villagers are being told they can't hunt bush meat. And I think that individuals don't want to give up immediate rewards in trade for some of the potential problems in the future being alleviated and in fact in the future they may not be around - they know they have to bear the cost of the problem so my question really is - how can we make the future more important to today's population?

Tom Lovejoy: Well that question goes to the basic heart of everything about environment and a number of other issues as well - the short term versus the long term. And I think it's easier to do it if you have a larger framework, so if you're looking at a situation in a larger piece of landscape which can provide other opportunities which are not destructive of the biology then it's easier to come to some kind of resolution. In a sense you are telling somebody they can't do something but you're also giving them something else they can do. And all of that is fine and dandy but in the end it also comes down to the total number of people in a piece of landscape and you know what the impact is per individual - and that varies greatly around the world from huge impact of North Americans as opposed to some people from the Third World, so it is a major challenge, no question about it.

Josh Muldavin - Professor in Geography and Environmental Studies, UCLA: I get the sense in terms of your judging of sustainability by this single measure of declining biodiversity that in essence you've taken an approach which places our hopes in the hands of the lead scientist, policy-makers, political leaders, captains of industry, environmental managers - and as such the answers tend to be fairly top-down in practice if not in your vision. In your lecture you talk about we, us, our - and in fact I don't think that 'we' exists and in the reality there's a vast divide between those who gain the benefits of environmental degradation and those who pay the costs which is the vast majority. So I'd like to challenge I guess this notion of biodiversity because it tends to completely obliterate what I think are much more central issues around the environment and that is who's determining what this kind of sustainable development should be? - who's paying for it? - and who's paying the costs of it?

Tom Lovejoy: Well my answer to that is in fact the first two of the three examples I talked about, I think the only reason they're working at all is because there is local participation. I mean otherwise I think it would just have exploded. Part of the reason it works is that when you have local involvement somebody who has a piece of the mosaic and gives up a little bit of his or her God-given right to what they want to do on that piece of the mosaic - in fact gains much more by being in communication with the surrounding pieces of the mosaic and in fact warding off things that might affect their piece. We're really new in this whole game of trying to take this kind of approach to land use through all levels from the Federal Government down to counties and to local people and local environmental groups and local businesses and the rest. And it's messy - it is really messy and the further the biological degradation has progressed the harder it is. But I think in the end that's the only way it's going to work.

Josh Muldavin: I understand that you want local participation but - again this is a rhetoric-versus-reality idea - you're a representative here, you're an advisor to the World Bank - not an organisation that has too much accountability to the public in general or to people in local areas and you know as an advisor to them that most of their projects environmental are about selling environmental technology - helping first world corporations sell environmental technology. It's not about solving structurally environmental problems and why degradation happens So it provides a nice technocratic problem and a technocratic solution and my fear is in that doing biodiversity as the measure you're maintaining in essence a technocratic top-down approach, although I understand that you personally view individual participation and communities as an important attribute to that.

Tom Lovejoy: Well you know I mean there's always a tension between the top-down and the local but you know an awful lot of environmental movement starts locally because of some local problem, so I don't think it's quite so simplistic as that. I didn't come here to defend the World Bank where I'm only spending two years. But there is a lot that goes on at the World Bank - it's a lot better than I thought it was - I mean really you know the bank is largely defined but its mistakes and I'm astonished to find that there's a portfolio, to use the bank word, well in excess of a billion dollars on projects that legitimately can be called biological diversity projects and there's a whole bunch of other stuff that gets labelled other kinds of things which is different from selling environmental technology.

Host, Kate Adie: Thank you - before we take more questions from this audience here in Los Angeles let's here some of the comments from people who've joined in our debate on the Internet. Over the past few weeks the BBC has had a website devoted to these Reith lectures and we've had many e-mails from around the world - such as this from Nicolas Pringle saying " the island of Kiribas, the first place to see the dawn of the new Millennium is expected to be submerged by the sea within 50 years due to global warming. Is this not a message to us all that sustainable development is essential - if a true global nightmare is to be avoided?

Then Jo Turner from the United Kingdom makes this point: "the problem we face is not that there is too little food or too few resources but that we in the West use more than our fair share." He sums it up like this: "we must live more simply so others may simply live."

And finally Paul Dolman read Dr. Lovejoy's summary of his lecture on the BBC website and wasn't very impressed. Once again he writes : "We hear the same stale techno-centric and invalid arguments from Tom Lovejoy. Can we please have some honesty in this debate? One day very soon the corporate and government decision makers are going to see through the rationalist smokescreen - people like Dr. Lovejoy perpetuate as a justification for conservation. And if we have not then begun to fight from the position that life is worthy of veneration irrespective of whether it has some material value to us, then we can kiss it all goodbye."

Tom, the thought there seems to be that nature's important for itself not just for how it can help the human race - are you about to defend your rationalist smokescreen?

Thomas Lovejoy: Well I believe I said something about a change in values is more powerful and that we really need to think of ourselves as living within nature. You can't exist without affecting nature - if we eat dinner tonight we have affected some bit of biological diversity - somehow. And it's also I just think it's incredibly important to have some kind of measure as to whether you are succeeding or not and I think it comes down to what's happening to biology on the ground.

Janet Hering - professor of environmental engineering science, Cal Tech: I applaud the several comments that have been made about the need to reduce the impact of members of developed countries and their proportional impact compared to less developed countries. And I just wonder how possible that's gonna be on the really hard things - the stuff that's close to our heart like cars. There was a study done that indicated the price of gasoline in the United States would have to be 4 or 5 dollars a gallon before people made serious decisions about fuel economy and how much they would drive and whether it was really important to have that sports utility vehicle or not. Gas prices have come close to $2 a gallon - in Southern California and people are ready to march on Washington. There's discussion of lowering the gas tax, the truck drivers are out there in force - and - and basically you see both the Democratic and Republican parties completely caving in on this issue and I think that there's - there are gonna be a lot harder things than passing a bond issue on a California State proposition that for things that sound good like safe water and parks - and we're gonna have to look at some of these hard issues, and I'd like to have your opinion on how we're gonna approach that?

Tom Lovejoy: Well let me say first of all it is important to have some way to deal with energy prices not having stability - just going up and down like this - that's very destructive. But in the long run we shouldn't be using gasoline - we just shouldn't. And I think it's a real sign of hope that the Ford Motor Company a few weeks back pulled out of the so called global climate coalition which was all the fossil fuel industries trying to pooh-pooh the idea of climate change from greenhouse gases, so there may be some things we have to give up - there are also maybe some things which really creative technology can give us much more acceptable solutions for - like hydrogen fuel cells.

Bill White - executive director of the Orang-utan Foundation International: You set a couple of alarms that I'm not sure everyone's quite hearing - one is the global warming effect and the other is losing our rain forests. Quite frankly 250 million dollars going into Indonesia for the situation of the forests would just be a dent in the problem - so we have to find a way to have the World Bank work together with the IMF to work with other countries, to work with corporations and to work at the local level, giving these people jobs - or else you know as well as I do that they're gonna take chain saws and cut down the trees.

Tom Lovejoy: You would be astonished at how hard the President of the World Bank had to work to get the World Bank board to accept this small conservation grant programme - I mean it has taken him four years. And he finally gave 'em each a big book on hot spots and said you don't get it - go home and read this all night. Just to underscore the climate change issue - all the glaciers on top of high mountains in the tropics are melting at a rate that they're gonna be gone in 20 years and our nuclear submarine data on the thickness of the arctic ice sheet is now analysed and it lost 40% since the initial period of measurement and it is on the average only 6 feet thick and it's losing four inches a year so you can do the arithmetic - that's less than 20 years. And that begins to tie into the whole global oceanic climate influence so it's quite spooky.

Bill Christian - Atlantic Richfield Company: Put your place in the stead of a leader of the energy industry - say John Browne. What does sustainability mean to you and how would you comport yourself? - what would you do? - what sort of leadership positions would you take? - what would you have your company do in light of what you've said about sustainability and global climate change?

Tom Lovejoy: Well I mean I think the first thing I would do which I think he's started to do in fact is say we're about energy - we're not about fossil fuels. You know there will be a period when we still use fossil fuels to the extent that it's natural gas rather than coal - that's a factor-of-four improvement. And then looking at hydrogen fuels and other things of that sort. Those are the priorities - and I'd invest heavily in research.

Jeff Lin - school student, San Marino High: I was just wondering what do you see as the role of biotechnology such as genetic engineering in biodiversity?

Tom Lovejoy: So, genetically modified organisms. As a technology it's like any technology, it has pluses and it has minuses - it can be used for good and it can be used for ill. It's come on very fast, driven by sort of competition in big corporations. I think it came on too fast. On the other hand if that becomes a way to produce rice enriched with Vitamin A so that a billion people in the world don't have the threat of blindness early in their life, that is a real positive. At the same time you have to be very careful about the potential environmental affects. I think regulation and labelling is a very sensible way to go. But in the end I guess one has to say there will be biotechnology - the question is how thoughtfully and carefully will we manage it. In a sense my biggest fear about biotechnology is that it will create agricultural plants which can grow in places where you never could grow them before, so there'll be yet that much more pressure on the remaining natural habitats of the world.

Jean Rosenfeld -historian of religions: I'm aware that there's an earth spirituality ...meant that maybe a major new religion in the world in the coming generations - you have put forth a kind of - as a Jeremiah in a bow tie a scenario that is equal that I hear from my son who's an Earth Firster and I wanted to ask you whether you think the salvation so to speak of the world from this apocalyptic scenario which your last statement typified is going to rest in a technological trumping of technologically-induced problems or whether the small is beautiful idealistic utopian notion of the anti-WTO movement that is growing is the wave of the future? Do we educate ourselves to do - to have less and to work with less each of us in a kind of Scandinavian solution so to speak? Or are we going to look for more technological solutions to solve for example putting gasoline additives to mitigate smog and then finding out that that pollutes our water system?

Tom Lovejoy: I never believed that there was a technological fix but I also believe we're going to need a lot of what technology can do for us. Anything that could improve automobile engines so that they're not generating CO2 is a big plus. But in the end I also think you know it's not gonna be a choice of whether we make do with less in the sense that if we don't really think that through the choice will be forced upon us - there won't be a choice cos we'll have run the resource base down to the point where we just have to be that way. So I really think that - it's funny in a way - the diversity of points of view in the environmental movement I think is very important - having that spiritual element, having that spread, having that lead people to make choices about how they life their lives is as important as somebody who can figure out technological ways to get us off our fossil fuel fix.

Daniel Emmett - actor and conservationist: Biodiversity clearly has to be the measure of how we're doing because - when our daisies start disappearing and our birds that's a problem. What's being done in terms of cataloguing what's out there - I think we don't even know quite what's in our forests and in our rivers and in our oceans, and if this is going to the measure as it should be - what's going on up there to really find out what we've got so we can use that to change policies and our behaviour?

Tom Lovejoy: Well thank you - thank you for that set up. It is nothing short of scandalous that we probably only know one out of every ten species on earth, let alone where they are or, various aspects of their biology, and I for one continue to try to launch a new age of exploration in which explore the biology of our earth, a lot of which would just you know blow people's minds. I mean talk about changing attitudes, that could be very valuable indeed. I keep trying to push that in Washington and periodically I get closer to it and then it ebbs away, but I think you're quite right. I mean unless we really know what there is, and where it is, we're gonna make some mistakes without even knowing we've made them.

Bob Gillespie - President of Population Communication: The population of the planet has doubled in the last 38 years and will double again in the next 50 to 60 years from 6 to 12 billion. Given that and the fact that the Untied States with 4.8% of that population produces 26% of our greenhouse gases - you know what hope is there for protecting the environment when everybody on the planet wants to live like we do?

Tom Lovejoy: I'm really glad you brought up both the population and the consumption issues together. We heard it at the beginning actually in some of the introductory remarks but I'll put it in my own way and that is there are now too many people on earth for everybody to live an American lifestyle. And there are also too many people on earth for everybody to live something closer to a hunter gatherer lifestyle, so the answer's somewhere in between and it's really complicated and it's going to be a real transformation in the history of human society.

Terence McNally: If you could stand in the future 20 or 25 years and ask yourself from that position did humanity turn it around? - do you come down on the yes or no? - and if you come down on the yes what are some of the - from that vantage point looking back - what are some of the things that turned us around?

Tom Lovejoy: I think what's going to happen is suddenly people are going to - and maybe - maybe sort of this sense of global community is gonna help us a lot and - that millennium celebration was the first time I ever felt there was something that was truly global and if people start looking at it that way and then they look up there and see the ice cap melting and say it's time to do something - we could have one of these relatively revolutionary moments, particularly with the ballot box that would suddenly change the way things happen.