Life on Earth Is Under Assault—But There’s Still Hope
Posted in 26/03/2018
PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANS LANTING/ National Geographic
A major international report on biodiversity warns of serious threats to all living things, but many solutions are available
By Stephen Leahy
MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA- The Earth’s life support system is failing. Nearly everywhere, the various forms of non-human life are in decline, according to a series of landmark international reports released Thursday in Medellin, Colombia. This ongoing decline endangers economies, livelihoods, food security, and the quality of life of people everywhere. But at the same time, there is considerable room for hope, based on many solutions with proven track records, the reports say.
The tremendous variety of living species—collectively known as biodiversity—forms the bedrock of our food, clean water, air and energy. “Biodiversity is at the heart not only of our survival, but of our cultures, identities, and enjoyment of life,” said Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
IPBES is the intergovermental group working to safeguard the world’s biodiversity. For the past three years, more than 550 leading experts from more than 100 countries have reviewed more than 10,000 studies and completed four regional scientific assessments of biodiversity—covering the entire planet except the poles and open oceans. These assessments also looked at the causes of biodiversity declines and how government policies could help slow them down and even reverse them. The reports were approved in a final plenary meeting Thurday by the 129 countries that are members to IPBES.
“There is no question the continued loss of biodiversity undermines human well-being. Everyone will suffer, but especially the poor,” Watson said in an interview.
These losses are driven mainly by unsustainable consumption of resources, including deforestation and expansion of agriculture, along with pollution, climate change, and impacts of invasive alien species.
One of the studies in the assessment, published in the journal Science, found that 58 percent of Earth’s land surface—where 71 percent of all humans live—has already lost enough biodiversity “to question the ability of ecosystems to support human societies.”