"Human activities – not even large scale ones, but anyone's everyday life – can bring negative change to the Earth's environment at a global scale," says Conservation International's (CI) Yasushi (Yasu) Hibi.
This realization lies at the heart of Hibi's work as Vice President for Asia Policy and Managing Director of CI-Japan. In particular, understanding the connection between human activities and environmental impact fueled a passion to pursue work in climate change and biodiversity – the two things he feels are the most pressing global issues and "that really need change in people's perception across the planet."
Exploring his passion for environmental conservation, Hibi studied resource economics in graduate school. "As I studied more, my interest expanded to development (poverty alleviation) and environment nexus, environmental policy and biodiversity." He is now in a position to help promote CI's agenda and influence potential policymakers at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
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Biodiversity: Seeking a Resolution at CBD
From October 18-24, Hibi and others will be convening in Nagoya, Japan to develop strategies for the conservation of biological diversity – one of Hibi's most urgent concerns. While the need is urgent, he knows that reaching an agreement with global parties won't come easily. "We don't have much time left before our ecosystem goes over the tipping point, but the negotiations at CBD are likely to be rough."
Despite all the exhaustive preparation and hard work leading up to the event, including a long checklist of responsibilities during the convention itself, Hibi has "hope that CI can support the parties at the convention in realizing what is needed and that we need to act now."
Maximizing the results of the CBD hinges on facilitating the collaboration of various groups, particularly in order to achieve CI's goal of 25/15. To that end, Hibi is working with CI's Center for Conservation and Government (CCG) in supporting Asia field programs to engage their country delegations to promote CI's position on the Conference of the Parties (COP10) agenda. He is also working closely with the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) secretariat to organize its 10th Anniversary Reception as well as their first Donor Council meeting to take place outside of the US.
Spotlight on Japan: Engaging in Conservation
As Managing Director for CI-Japan, Hibi will continue to lead CI's own policy work targeting the government of Japan.
"We have developed a very good relationship with various government agencies," Hibi says, "and we hope to collaborate with them closely during COP10, including supporting launching their SATOYAMA Initiative."
The Satoyama Initiative is a proposal by the government of Japan and the United Nations University that aims to conserve biodiversity through the inclusion of human communities that utilize landscapes to combine conservation with human-influenced areas – like farms or villages – already existing all over the world. This initiative aims to support existing satoyamas and expand good practices so that, in the long term, both nature and people around the world can exist harmoniously.
CI is also working closely with the government of Japan – as well as local conservation groups – to push forward the U.N. Decade of Biodiversity proposal prepared by Japan in an attempt to increase global efforts to stop the current environmental crisis.
The CBD also presents a great opportunity to reach out to the Japanese media to highlight the important achievements and on going efforts of CI-Japan, "We hope that CI's work (as well as CEPF) will be well covered and raise our presence here in Japan."
The real results of the convention, however, will be gauged by how everyone chooses to move forward, Hibi explains. "I think the most difficult and important part of the COP would be for the parties to agree on an aggressive post-2010 CBD Strategy."
Policymaking and Fundraising Go Hand in Hand in Global Conservation
Hibi's achievements in the field of environmental conservation demonstrate that you do not have to be a scientist to make a real difference; policymaking and fundraising play a large role.
Hibi recalls his accomplishments with Toyota, one of the largest automakers in the world, as a great example of how the private sector and fundraising can complement each other in achieving environmental milestones and furthering CI's mission.
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"Toyota Motors Corporation committed to supporting our multimillion-dollar forest conservation project in the Philippines. It was an unprecedented scale for a Japanese corporation, and it took a lot of time to convince the company that it was not only for their benefit in supporting this project, but also was for global conservation."
Linking a forest conservation project in the Philippines to the interests of a Japanese car company takes a deep understanding of global efforts and interconnections – something to which Hibi credits his unique childhood and family.
Seeing the Outside World from Inside Japan: A Unique Perspective
Growing up primarily in Kobe, Japan and spending a few years in Pasadena, California as a young boy, Hibi and his family had an open experience with the outside world, which was different than that of most other Japanese families. He credits his family's unique perspective on the outside world as giving him "a lot of influence over how he sees the world, thinks and acts."
"My parents' families were very open to the outside world. My father and his brothers and sister learned English back in the pre-WWII era, which was quite uncommon in Japan in those days. My mother's family was doing business abroad, again quite uncommon back then. So I grew up in a family where I got constant exposure to what was going on outside of Japan."
His insights into understanding other cultures will be put to good use as representatives from 193 countries convene in Japan for the CBD. A lighter responsibility, but one that he takes very thoughtfully, Hibi and CI-Japan will host the CI delegation coming to Nagoya from all around the world.
"Someone said Japan was the most mysterious and different place than any other place in the world... I don't know if that's true but our team will definitely try to make our colleagues feel relaxed, if not at home."