Time to save nature or we die, say climate experts
Global animal, bird and fish populations have plummeted more than two-thirds in less than 50 years due to rampant over-consumption, experts said yesterday in a stark warning to save nature in order to save ourselves.
Human activity has severely degraded three quarters of all land and 40 percent of oceans, and our quickening destruction of nature is likely to have untold consequences on our health and livelihoods.
The Living Planet Index, which tracks more than 4,000 species of vertebrates, warned that increasing deforestation and agricultural expansion were the key drivers behind a 68 percent average decline in populations between 1970 and 2016.
It warned that continued natural habitat loss increased the risk of future pandemics as humans expand their presence into ever-closer contact with wild animals.
2020’s Living Planet Report, a collaboration between World Wildlife Fund International and the Zoological Society of London, is the 13th edition of the biennial publication tracking wildlife populations around the world.
WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini said the staggering loss of Earth’s biodiversity since 1970.
“It’s an accelerating decrease that we’ve been monitoring for 30 years and it continues to go in the wrong direction,” he said.
“In 2016 we documented a 60 percent decline, now we have a 70 percent decline.
“All this is in a blink of an eye compared to the millions of years that many species have been living on the planet,” Lambertini added.
The last half-decade has seen unprecedented economic growth underpinned by an explosion in global consumption of natural resources.
Whereas until 1970, humanity’s ecological footprint was smaller than the Earth’s capacity to regenerate resources, the WWF now calculates we are over using the planet’s capacity by more than half.
While aided by factors such as invasive species and pollution, the biggest single driver of species lost is land-use changes: normally, industry converting forests or grasslands into farms. This takes an immense toll on wild species, who lose their homes.
But it also requires unsustainable levels of resources to uphold. One third of all land mass and three quarters of all freshwater are now dedicated to producing food. The picture is equally dire in the ocean, where 75 percent of fish stocks are over exploited.