In October 2010, government officials from almost every country in the world will meet in Nagoya for the 10th Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP10). The aim of the Convention, which came into effect in 1993, is simple but momentous: To maintain the richness of life on earth.

In Japan, contrary to what may seem logical, much of the richness of its biodiversity flourishes where humans have followed traditional rural lifestyles for thousands of years.

Worldwide, however, biodiversity is anything but flourishing. Though exact extinction rates (and even the total number of species on Earth) are unknown, many scientists suspect that we are now entering a mass-extinction episode. Five such plunges in diversity have occurred in the history of the Earth — but this time it looks like the culprit is us.