The human race has less than two years to save the planet, says the world’s leading scientists. Since 1970, approximately 60% of all mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been wiped out in what many scientist are calling the sixth mass extinction event of planet earth. And the world’s leading scientists warn that the annihilation of wildlife has become a threat to human civilisation.
The culprit? Homo sapiens.
This new estimate of wildlife loss was made in a report produced by WWF in collaboration with 59 scientist from around the world who found that the growing consumption of food and resources by the human population is destroying the intricate ecosystem of the planet, thus also destroying the only home we have – possibly past the point of no return.
“We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF. “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.”
“This is far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sad though that is,” he said. “This is actually now jeopardising the future of people. Nature is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is our life-support system.”
The Living Planet Index, produced for WWF by the Zoological Society of London, uses data on 16,704 populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, representing more than 4,000 species, to track the decline of wildlife. Between 1970 and 2014, the latest data available, populations fell by an average of 60%. Four years ago, the decline was 52%. The “shocking truth”, said Barrett, is that the wildlife crash is continuing unabated.
To drive home just how devastating this is, Professor Bob Watson who is a chair of an intergovernmental panel on biodiversity said that the destruction of nature is as dangerous a climate change, stressing that wildlife and the ecosystems are essential to human life.
“Nature contributes to human wellbeing culturally and spiritually, as well as through the critical production of food, clean water, and energy, and through regulating the Earth’s climate, pollution, pollination and floods,” he said. “The Living Planet report clearly demonstrates that human activities are destroying nature at an unacceptable rate, threatening the wellbeing of current and future generations.”
How are we killing the planet? The biggest cause of wildlife extinction is the destruction of natural habitats. There’s also the issue of animals being killed for food, with at least 300 species of mammals on the brink of extinction due to being harvested for food. And let’s not forget the overfishing of seas – it’s estimated that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. Adding to that, we’re losing wildlife due to massive chemical pollution and the spread of invasive species and disease thanks to global trade.
Things do not look good at all because while conservation efforts have shown some positive changes with the number of tigers and giant pandas on the rise, the director general of WWF International Marco Lambertini stresses that this is not enough to mitigate the massive damage that excessive consumption is doing to the planet. “We can no longer ignore the impact of current unsustainable production models and wasteful lifestyles,” he said.
It is estimated that even if the destruction were to half right now, mother earth would need 5-7 million years to truly recover.
Mike Barrett stresses the urgent need for a new global deal for nature and the people at the upcoming UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020. “This really is the last chance. We have to get it right this time”, he added.
Now, this may seem alarmist but I tend to agree with credible, experienced scientists and ecological experts when they tell me that we’re suffocating the planet and it will most definitely die if we don’t do something about it fast.
Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF, said: “We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it.”
We have the tools and the knowledge. What we need now is a strong, unwavering commitment from all the nations of the world to work together in this singular goal of saving the earth. After that, we can go back to bickering with each other.