New UN-led public information campaign to promote biodiversity protection

02 Jun 2010

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A group of 4 rare animals and a very rare flower are expected to ‘come out’ into the streets across Ukraine, calling on fellow-Ukrainians to stop cutting unique and scarce species from their life.

Supported by the United Nations in Ukraine, the new Campaign - which runs from early June till late December - joins a number of worldwide celebrations and events dedicated to the International Year of Biodiversity by focusing people’s attention on what needs to be done to reduce the loss of biodiversity. The Campaign includes a string of 5 social advertising images, a series of special events and discussions.

The new public information campaign titled “We are cutting them from our life” has been organized by the All-Ukrainian non-government organization “Association of Protected Areas of Ukraine” in cooperation with the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Ukraine.

By proclaiming 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB), the United Nations raises public awareness about the crucial importance of biodiversity. As part of the worldwide yearly celebrations the UN encourages countries, organizations, and individuals to take direct action to reduce biodiversity loss, as this incredible variety of life on Earth that sustains us, is in peril. Species are becoming extinct at the fastest rate ever recorded. Most of these extinctions are tied to human activities that are polluting and depleting water resources, changing and degrading habitats and altering the global climate. From frogs to gorillas, from huge plants to tiny insects, thousands of species are in jeopardy. 

With “We are cutting them from our life” campaign, Ukraine will join about 100 countries which planned various public information and media actions this year. Starting from early June the campaign’s images will be displayed in the country’s largest cities – Kyiv, Odesa, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhia and Lviv – as well as alongside the main highways across Ukraine.

The Campaign’s objective is to create excitement around the discovery that people are part of nature and are closely intertwined with biodiversity. It puts a strong emphasis on the danger of extinction which is currently faced by the rare species among Ukraine’s plants and animals.

The Campaign’s organizers hope to catch the attention of Ukrainians to the exceptionality and beauty of their own land and to highlight the huge opportunity we are presented with, to safeguard biodiversity and create better lives for us all. Finally, the Campaign underlines the urgency of the challenge and creates a strong sense of optimism that it’s not too late to act, and that together we can make a huge difference by actively engaging in biodiversity preservation activities.

Natural systems that support economies, lives and livelihoods across the planet are at risk of rapid degradation and collapse, unless there is swift, radical and creative action to conserve and sustainably use the variety of life on Earth. According to international experts, who conducted a major UN-commissioned assessment of the current state of biodiversity, the massive further loss of biodiversity is becoming increasingly likely, while its continued loss has major implications for current and future human well-being.

The third edition of Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3), produced by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) confirms that the world has failed to meet its target to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

Ukraine occupies around 6 per cent of Europe’s territory, but it owns around 35 per cent of Europe’s biodiversity. This results from Ukraine’s favourable geographical location on the crossroads of many ecological zones and migrations paths of many animal species. However, human-driven activities directly driving biodiversity loss (habitat change, overexploitation, and pollution) have led to environmental degradation and massive changes in ecosystems. Consequently, many species which have been assessed for extinction risk are extinct or on average are moving closer to extinction.

In Ukraine, ‘The Red Book’ has become thicker almost by a third over the past 15 years. Animals, plants, mushrooms, fish, and amphibians face the greatest risk and are deteriorating most rapidly. But all this remains largely unknown to Ukrainians. The public remains mainly unaware of what they are losing. Biodiversity also underpins the functioning of the country’s ecosystems which provide a wide range of services to Ukrainian society and economic resources to sustain the country’s further development.

Underlining the urgency of preserving biodiversity and revealing the existing threats to it, the Campaign’s organizers speak of the need to educate people about humans being an integral part of nature; our fate is tightly linked with biodiversity, the huge variety of other animals and plants, the places they live and their surrounding environments, all over the world.

We rely on this diversity of life to provide us with the food, fuel, medicine and other essentials we simply cannot live without.

Yet this rich diversity is being lost at a greatly accelerated rate because of human activities. This impoverishes us all and weakens the ability of the living systems, on which we depend, to resist growing threats such as climate change.

Speaking at a news conference, Ricarda Rieger, UNDP Ukraine’s Country Director, said that we often might take biodiversity so much for granted, and it’s so obviously all around us. “It is sometimes easy to forget that biodiversity is there – that we are a part of it and can’t live apart from it. We have only one planet to live on. We must ensure that the way we live and develop is consistent with keeping its ecosystems in balance,” she said.

“We must collectively find a different, more sustainable, way to grow our economies, and ensure that poor people and nations have the opportunity to create a better life for themselves,” Rieger added.

The new UN-led “We are cutting them from our life” campaign features images of plants and animals from the “Red Book of Ukraine”. These should help the campaign’s organizers make Ukrainians feel that biodiversity is our life, while we can jointly help biodiversity to survive. That’s why the campaign is aimed at engaging active population of our country. Ukrainians should know: it’s possible to achieve a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global and national level, if we behave with more responsibility and show better attitude to the environment.

The set of images used within "We are cutting them from our life" campaign illustrates the glaring emptiness that remains after an animal or plant disappears from our life. To illustrate biodiversity loss in Ukraine we have selected these rare species: a brown bear, bison, golden eagle, sea horse, and primula farinosa. All of these exist in tiny quantities or are almost extinct in Ukraine.

Rieger expressed a hope that "We are cutting them from our life" campaign could attract the public attention to the beauty and wealth of the native land, advocating for better preservation policies.  She called on the Ukrainian media representatives to become true leaders in the process of increasing biodiversity loss awareness and educate on its severe implications for human well-being and global climate change.

Another organization that supported "We are cutting them from our life"campaign is the All-Ukrainian non-government organization the Association of Protected Areas of Ukraine. The Association unites the country’s largest nationally protected areas and specialises in conserving, restoring and promoting ecologically-balanced use of the nature resources on Ukrainian protected territories.

“The biological diversity is the economical and financial issue first of all. The natural clothes, medicines, food, and our homes – all these constitute biodiversity. The richer biodiversity is, the more prosperous the country. Protected areas underpin the future of our country and our children. And the country’s nature reserved fund creates the basis for rare species’ conservation,” said Mykola Stetsenko, the First Deputy of the Head of the State Agency for Protected Areas of Ukraine, and the President of the All-Ukrainian Association of Protected Areas of Ukraine.

“Protected areas today are the island of safety where rare animals and plants in Ukraine can survive. Over the past 15 years, the world’s protected territories have doubled, reaching a total of 12% of overall land. Ukraine managed to expand the network of natural and biospheric reserves and national parks by 2.5 times to 5.5% of the country’s overall territory. But this is not enough. Europe has about 2,200 sq. m. of protected areas per person, while Ukraine – only 570 sq. m. per person,” he added.

Five leading advertising agencies joined an open competition to create the images for "We are cutting them from our life" campaign. The Social Advertising Birzha (http://socialadvertising.com.ua, a project implemented by the All-Ukrainian Advertising Coalition) helped in announcing and conducting the bids competition. Out of five bids the proposal by Euro RSCG New Europe creative agency received the winning number of votes.

“By means of our images we decided to attract the public attention to a rather important, and, yet a horrible fact: we do cut unique plants and animals from our life. We do it self-confidently, without any particular anger or disgust, but we just don’t notice and don’t think much about it. Many of us are not even bothered or just don’t care. But imagine when a dead emptiness replaces animals for ever. Just think a minute about this – is it fine with you?” saidLarisa Vasylchenko, the Director of Euro RSCG New Europe in Ukraine.

It’s planned "We are cutting them from our life" campaign will last till 1 January 2011. The organizers are very grateful to the Big-Board Group of Companies for supporting the campaign in providing free placements for the campaign’s images on big-boards and city-lights.

"We very much appreciate UN-led ecological initiatives in Ukraine and we are always pleased to be able to provide our every possible support. All of our staff members were deeply touched by the social campaigns we’ve implemented jointly with the UN House in the past. Our own analysis shows quite a considerable effectiveness of these campaigns. Outdoor advertising is very effective in delivering important messages to the public,” said Yuriy Charukha, Director General of Big-Board Company. “The summer looks as a very good timing for the new ecological awareness raising campaign, as people are spending more time outdoors and are urged to think more of the environment and its problems,” he added.

The organizers remain hopeful that the campaign’s animals and plants will make themselves heard on the country’s streets and urge Ukrainians to safeguard their country’s biodiversity.