The International Year of Biodiversity is a wake up call for humanity. On 22
September Heads of State will assemble at the United Nations to discuss the biodiversity crisis.
Simultaneously, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will encourage the
ringing of bells all over the world as an urgent ‘memo’ to rouse the world to action. The bells will also be
rung each year on 22 May during celebration of the International Day for Biological Diversity.
This initiative is inspired by the UK based MEMO Project. MEMO is a collaboration of scientists and
sculptors and stonemasons dedicated to communicating the reality of the extinction crisis by creating an
ongoing memorial recording the carved images of all the species being lost. MEMO stands for Mass
Extinction Memorial Observatory and the project enjoys high profile scientific support including the
rarely bestowed endorsement of the Royal Society.
MEMO will be built on the cliffs of the Isle of Portland overlooking the sailing events of the London
Olympics. This is part of the ‘Jurassic Coast’ World Heritage Site whose 95 miles of fossil rich cliffs
already record 185 million continuous years of the history of life, including two of the ‘big five’ mass
extinctions of the geological past. In the middle of the monument will be a great bell to be tolled
whenever a species is assessed as extinct from now on.
In preparation, a bell was cast in 2009 directly from a mould of Portland limestone, the fossiliferous
ground of the island, and so quite literally, from the fossils of ancient extinct species. The United Nations
building in New York is faced with the same Portland stone. On 22 September the bell will be rung in
New York echoed by others around the world.
Meanwhile, at Royal Manor School on Portland, on Saturday 22 May, the International Day for
Biological Diversity, stonemasons are making a start on shaping the mould for the big bell nearly 10 feet
in diameter. The aim is to cast it this year. At the same time in Nairobi, Kenya, a second MEMO bell will
form part of the global celebrations taking place with participation of the government and people of
Kenya, the international community and United Nations. Students from Kianjagi High School – the twin
of Royal Manor – will take part in the event.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de
Janeiro in 1992, and entering into force in December 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity is an
international treaty for the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of the components of
biodiversity and the equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. With 193
Parties, the Convention has near universal participation among countries. The Convention seeks to address
all threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including threats from climate change, through scientific
assessments, the development of tools, incentives and processes, the transfer of technologies and good
practices and the full and active involvement of relevant stakeholders including indigenous and local
communities, youth, NGOs, women and the business community. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a
supplementary treaty to the Convention, seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed
by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology. To date, 156 countries and the
European Union are party to the Protocol. The Secretariat of the Convention and its Cartagena Protocol is
located in Montreal. For more information visit http://www.cbd.int