The UN summit in Montreal should save the earth, but things are already going wrong around the corner

Mike Diabo

NOS News

  • Lucas Wagmeister

    US correspondent

  • Lucas Wagmeister

    US correspondent

Nature is in deep trouble over Montreal. The Canadian city is the perfect setting for the UN summit on the future of biodiversity on our planet. 196 countries try to reach the Paris Agreement on biodiversity the next day: what needs to be done to stop the wave of animal and plant extinctions we are in now?

Less than a three-hour drive away, you can see why the Accords are so important: The population of moose, Canada’s national animal, is rapidly declining. Precisely the causes are the mix of problems the UN summit is trying to find an answer to: deforestation, fragmented habitats, pollution, hunting of wild animals, and climate change. In short: the way humans interact with nature.

If that doesn’t change, not only will the moose disappear, but soon there will be absolutely no nature left north of Montreal. The endless taiga forests are slowly turning into a barren and dead plain.

Cut tree trunks

“When you were a kid, you’d see elk walking around the area. Rarely now,” says Shannon Schiff. Her last name is also her nickname: Shannon is a chief in the country of Algonquin, an Aboriginal community in the Canadian province of Quebec.

Algonquin moose have long lived here. Meat for food and skins for warmth. But this is no longer possible. “When I was little, my dad would shoot moose in the winter, and that took our whole family in the spring,” says Shannon. “Now we have to feed six families with one moose. There is not enough left.”


Mike Diabo and Shannon Schiff

We’re driving through the snowy woods with Shannon in Mike Diabo’s pickup. He is also an Algonquin and science educator. Every few minutes, a single car drives by on the empty forest road: a truck full of stripped logs.

“They cut 24 hours a day, 363 days a year,” says Mike. “There is no work except at Christmas and New Year.”

The moose population here has fallen by a third since 2008. “Logging creates dead zones in these forests,” says Mike. “Nothing is alive anymore, from soil microorganisms to moose, everything is gone.”

wild nature

The Algonquin alarm is ringing at the United Nations. “We treat nature like a toilet,” Secretary-General Guterres said at the opening of the Montreal Summit. “It’s suicide.” The main objective of this summit is to set the “30 by 30” goal: in the year 2030, thirty percent of the globe should be a nature reserve. Otherwise, scientists say, nature on Earth could not survive.

But this is a huge task. Now about 15 percent of the land area is protected, and that percentage is even less in the sea. Thus, the question is where these regions should be located, which countries will have to adjust or reduce their economic activity, and who will then have to pay the price for that.

In addition, there is disagreement about the meaning of “30×30”. For example, are rich countries with limited area allowed to “buy” the target from poor countries with large area? Should protected nature be left completely alone, and can people live on it, as long as nature can also recover?

This is where originals like Shannon Schiff and Mike Diabo come into the story. In the remaining wild nature around the world, it is often these groups that suffer the most from the decline in biodiversity. They are raising this UN summit. Indigenous groups are pressing for money and a greater role in managing nature.

drastically different

“We haven’t done anything else we could do,” says Shannon. Her group conducts its own research on moose. They want to use this to strike stricter agreements with the government about deforestation and hunting in the area.

“We have a deep understanding of how and how much we take, and where we leave nature alone,” she says. It is not our people who destroyed this country.”

Because, according to Mike, that’s what’s going on in the taiga above Montreal right now. “We’re on the way to the end of a lot of biota in this region. This should be the time when we start to think radically about our interactions with Earth. Otherwise, things are going to go really wrong here.”

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