In the Japanese countryside of Joetsu City, in the foothills of Mt. Myoko, nature puts on a miraculous show. In the spring, it dazzles visitors and residents alike with the abundant blooms of more than 4,000 cherry trees. In the winter, it equally amazes with historic snowfalls. This is the natural wonderland where CI-Japan's Yoji Natori grew up, and the landscape that continues to be an inspiration for his work at CI.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): Setting High Targets for Conservation Success
Yoji will showcase his home country, his esteem for the natural world and his fervor for making headway in biodiversity conservation at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP 10 in Nagoya, Japan.
As Ecosystem Policy Manager, he is leading CI-Japan's activities at CBD, working with NGO partners and the government of Japan to support the Satoyama Initiative and the UN Decade of Biodiversity. He is also playing a key role in helping to push CI's 25/15 goal.
ACT: Sign the petition to protect and effectively manage at least 25 percent of Earth's land and inland waters and 15 percent of marine ecosystems by 2020.
"CBD COP10 in Nagoya is very important for setting overarching goals for the world at this critical time," he says. CI has particular targets we hope to see included in this agenda, including protecting at least 25 percent of terrestrial and inland waters and 15 percent of marine territories; emphasizing the importance of protecting the right areas for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services; ensuring that freshwater protection is more widely recognized as an essential component of biodiversity conservation; and reaching an agreement to encourage economic incentives that fully value the benefits that biodiversity provides for human well-being.
While Yoji admits that these goals will not be easy to reach, he believes that setting high expectations and maintaining optimism are the first steps. "We need to set high targets and have positive attitudes to work toward achieving them, rather than worrying about not achieving them before even trying."
Year of Biodiversity: Finding Common Ground Now
The United Nations has designated 2010 as "The International Year of Biodiversity." While delegations from around the world will gather in Nagoya with varying agendas, one unifying thread is the urgency to protect biodiversity and the importance of taking action to ensure our own survival.
"All countries must face the warning signs of a dark future and seriously consider the actions they can and need to take, and ultimately act," Yoji says. "Surely there will be differences among countries as to how to proceed, but the mandate for action applies to both developed and developing countries alike."
Yoji continues, "I always remember the words by Carl Sagan, to paraphrase: 'If we (humans) perish due to our own behavior, we are inferior to dinosaurs (that went extinct due to natural disaster).' This is true for climate change and true for the biodiversity crisis. I guess I want to demonstrate that humans are a bit wiser than giant lizards."
From Astronomy to Ecology: Yoji's Route to CI
A passion for science led Yoji to the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the intent to major in astronomy. However, as he was introduced to ecology classes, his "mere interest in ecology turned into a solid career objective."
With a B.S. with honors in Astronomy-Physics and Biological Aspects of Conservation, an M.S. in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development, and a Ph.D. in Land Resources, Yoji has been a prodigious student of conservation in his studies.
He has learned a lot on the job, too. Yoji joined CI in 2008 and, as a policymaker, he has realized that "good planning is not good enough" to achieve successful conservation.
"There was one conservation planning project I worked on, which was a success when it was finished, but it was not really implemented afterwards. I learned that there must be a driving mechanism for conservation plans. A conservation plan must be integrated in larger frameworks and implemented with clear measures."
Although there are challenges along the way, Yoji believes that biodiversity conservation is a battle worth fighting for. "With all the problems of anthropogenic biodiversity loss, there seems no room for me to even think about leaving conservation." Here's hoping that Yoji continues to lead this fight, as long as it takes.
IN DEPTH: Learn more about biodiversity.