Nature is in severe decline. Together we can save it
The slogan for this year’s Biodiversity Day is “We are part of the solution”. That’s a fitting slogan because the kind of transformative change needed to secure the natural life support systems we depend on will change all of our lives. The scale and scope of the biodiversity crisis and its sister’s climate crisis are so immense that addressing it requires more than minor adjustments to the functioning of our societies and economies. As part of the solution, we must accept the need for these changes and demand seismic structural changes from those in power. To do otherwise is to stay on a path that threatens a million species with extinction, many of them in a few decades, and encloses the suffering of millions of people. Unless you are a monster, the choice is clear.
Summary of the biodiversity crisis
Nature is in decline. As described by Robert Watson, former chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, “The health of the ecosystems on which we depend, as well as all other species, is deteriorating faster than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, our livelihoods, our food security, our health and our quality of life around the world. “ The data is alarming. Seventy-five percent of the world’s land mass has been seriously altered by human activity. Over 85 percent of wetlands have disappeared over the past 300 years and wetland loss is currently three times faster, in percentage terms, than forest loss. The global extinction rate of species is tens to hundreds of times higher than the average of the past 10 million years and is accelerating. More than 500,000 terrestrial species have insufficient habitat for their long-term survival. More than 40% of amphibians, such as frogs and salamander, are threatened with extinction as the water and humid environments that most of them need to survive disappear. One third of marine fish stocks are overexploited and 60 percent are harvested at the limit of sustainability. And nearly all warm-water coral reefs – the ocean’s nurseries – face significant losses and local extinctions, with all coral reefs set to be threatened with extinction by 2050.
Humans are suffering. We depend on functioning, thriving, wildlife-rich ecosystems to produce the essential foundations of human life and society, such as clean air, clean water, food security, crop pollination, and flood control. . Land degradation has reduced crop productivity and we are risking more than half a trillion dollars in global annual crops from the loss of pollinators. More than five hundred million people face food insecurity and hundreds of millions of people are at increased risk of floods and hurricanes due to loss of coastal habitats and protections. Forty percent of the world’s population lacks access to clean, safe drinking water, while industrial facilities annually dump 300-400 million tonnes of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes into the city. the waters of the world. In total, one in five countries is at risk of seeing its ecosystems collapse as a result of declining biodiversity and other natural services.
We are part of the solution
Mankind has had over 40 years to build an understanding and shared vocabulary on climate change. As our knowledge and failures grew throughout this period, we came to understand that we are now facing a climate crisis that requires profound structural changes in the way energy is produced. and consumed around the world. With the biodiversity crisis, we don’t have the relative luxury of spending 40 years educating ourselves on the decline of our natural world or the option of making small adjustments to business as usual. Instead, as the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services concluded in its 2019 Global Assessment Report, we will only protect and restore nature with transformative change – a fundamental reorganization to system-wide across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms. , goals and values.
No matter what we do, transformative change is happening, but collectively we have a choice to make as to the direction of that change. Humanity can stay on its current course – allowing a handful of wealthy corporations and elites to convert natural lands and freshwater areas to other uses, irresponsibly harvesting fish and wildlife , cut down forests and pollute the natural world. If this is the path we take, we will have to adapt and adapt to the mass extinction of species and human suffering and accept to hand down a world to future generations where ecosystems are collapsing and hundreds of millions. people are struggling to survive.
Or, humanity can forge a new relationship with nature – forcing governments to ensure that they devote more land, freshwater and ocean to conservation and restoration, dramatically reducing the volume of wild animals and plants harvested and traded protect intact forests and stop pollution at its source. If we follow this path, we will still have to adapt and adjust our way of life, but we will pass on a world to future generations filled with abundant wildlife and people living in greater security.
People are rarely asked to rise to the challenge of their time, but the biodiversity crisis puts us all in that position. Forging a new relationship with nature will not be an easy task because in order to do this we must change the way we live and we must learn to demand seismic changes from those who have the power in organizing our lives. societies and our economies. For example, we need to protect at least 30 percent of land and inland waters and 30 percent of ocean areas by 2030 to significantly disrupt habitat loss that drives nature’s decline. And we need to ban most trade in wild plants and animals.
There are no easy steps to take to save biodiversity. Instead, we must open up to changing the way we live our lives and accept the need to collectively destroy the existing systems and structures that continue to drive the annihilation of the natural world. We are all part of the solution.