Since 1970, wildlife populations have seen a shocking 60% decline according to the 2018 Living Planet Report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a number that the world’s foremost experts warn could actually threaten civilization itself.
The report involved a group of 59 scientists across the globe, whose research all points to more or less the same conclusion — the massive and growing consumption of food and resources by the world’s population is rapidly threatening the web of life which humanity depends on for literally everything. Clean air, water, and healthy soils are among three of the most important things that are all at risk.
Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF describes the situation:
“We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff. If there was a 60% decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.”
Although, if this trend continues it’s not just the animals that are at risk.
“This is far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sad though that is,” said Barret. “This is actually now jeopardizing the future of people. Nature is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is our life-support system.”
And yes, the massive decline is unfortunately probably our fault, according to Professor Bob Watson, one of the world’s most eminent environmental scientists and currently chair of an intergovernmental panel on biodiversity.
“The Living Planet report clearly demonstrates that human activities are destroying nature at an unacceptable rate, threatening the wellbeing of current and future generations.” says Watson.
One of the biggest factors of the animal population losses is the destruction of natural habitats, much of it to create new farmland. Over three-quarters of the Earth’s land mass is currently affected by human activities. Also significant is the massive over fishing of the world’s oceans, with more than half now being fished industrially.
The situation is bleak, but luckily it’s not all bad news. The Living Planet Report shows us that if we act now, we still have a good chance at turning things around.
One of the most important things that we need to do is to continue building the case that our planet’s natural systems are fundamental to our society, and reminding people that yes, this is happening.
Sadly, the fact that millions of species futures depend on us still hasn’t yet captured the attention of the world’s leaders enough to encourage the change necessary. If we really want to make a difference, we need to radically escalate the political relevance of nature again, and form a cohesive movement together with all countries united.
The Living Planet Report ends with a serious yet inspiring message:
We are the first generation that has a clear picture of the value of nature and the enormous impact we have on it. We may also be the last that can act to reverse this trend. From now until 2020 will be a decisive moment in history.
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