Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

7 May 2019

The disappearing world

Posted by Michael Keating

The latest bad news is that about 1 million of 8 million known species on Earth face extinction because of what we are doing to the planet. The report from the UN-backed Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is the most comprehensive yet on the health of plant and animal life on Earth. Humans are now the dominant force of change on the planet. We have altered three-quarters of the land, and 85 per cent of wetlands are gone. Coral reefs are dying. One-third of marine stocks are over fished and 60 per cent are fished to the maximum sustainable level. The changes are driven by an ever-growing population and increasing per capita consumption. The big change agents are agriculture, fishing, logging, urban sprawl, pollution, over-hunting and invasive species. The losses are not just about other species. “Nature plays a critical role in providing food and feed, energy, medicines and genetic resources and a variety of materials fundamental for people’s physical well-being and for maintaining culture,” says the report. This just the latest report to warn we are destroying our own life support system. Back in 1987 Our Common Future the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development said we have a responsibility to leave a habitable world for future generations.

Sea turtle with fish
Sea turtle

The species report, Nature’s Dangerous Decline, says stopping the destruction “…may only be achieved through transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors.” What all such reports lack is specific instructions that would make it clear just what needs to be done and by who. The reality is that the United Nations is not able to support documents that say we need to rapidly move away from gas-powered cars, leave fossil fuels in the ground, catch fewer fish, reduce forest clearing, reduce urban sprawl and generally consume less meat, energy and materials. That will take an independently-funded organization that can put together a respected team of world experts to design a roadmap toward sustainable production and lifestyles.

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