The Green Party have called the latest United Nations report on the state of nature yet another wakeup call to governments and to us all.
The International Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services has been meeting in Paris over this last week to finalise the report that has been 3 years in the making that maps change over the last 50 years. It represents the most comprehensive statement on the condition of the natural global environment to date.
Its message is stark: globally, wildlife has plummeted by 60% since 1970 and that one million species face extinction, some within a very few years. If this does happen, as it will if we continue with business as usual, our livelihoods, economy, food supply, health and wellbeing will all be adversely affected..
Introducing the report IPBES chair, Sir Robert Watson of the UK Tyndall Centre, University of East Anglia said that it presented an ominous picture, “The health of natural stems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever.”
Dipping into the numbers, the report shows that the abundance of land based species globally has fallen by 20% over the last 100 years. 40% of amphibia, a third of corals and marine mammals are threatened. In the last 500 years we have exterminated at least 680 vertebrate species. Three quarters of the Earth’s land area has been significantly altered by human activity, one third of land is already used to produce human food so pushing out nature. And still we plan to expand.
We can not keep this up and hope to survive. This network of plant and animal life represents our life support system. We as the human species are deeply integrated into the web of life no matter what our inflated egos may try to tell us.
The most chilling statistics come from a review of the domesticated species that we rely on for food. 9% of species that we have used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016. 1000 more breeds and varieties are threatened.
Our obsession with economic growth has led us to destroy the foundations of our food supply. Clearing forests to raise cash crops to increase corporate wealth is threatening global freshwater supply. Turning agriculture in to an intensive factory system of production for profit is destroying the soil essential for the growth of plants, be they traditional crops or the very latest offering from the private GM labs.
There are solutions, as there are solutions to climate change and pollution. Solution will require change, what the report calls ‘transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors.’ In other words a root and branch change in the way we do things. Change in our economy, our politics, our attitude to the Earth and in our technology. But Sir Robert Watson recognises that these changes will meet with opposition. ‘…by its very nature, transformative change can expect opposition from those with interests vested in the status quo.’ An understatement at the very least.
Such radical change needs political change. Protests by young people at their schools across the world, by Extinction Rebellion and many others globally are raising the pressure on governments.
Speaking to the BBC about the need to bring about change Ecologist Dr Rinku Roy Chowdhury, from Clark University, Massachusetts said: “So how do you that? Through individual behaviour, through the polling booth.”
Greens across the world offer a political route to change that allows everyone to build a sustainable and fulfilling life that also allows nature to recover and flourish. It means confronting some powerful vested interests who profit from the status quo. Unless we successfully do this, the majority of us now and in the future will lead impoverished lives on an impoverished planet whose natural capital has been squandered.
7 May 2019