Facts

The GREAT DECLINE

“The disappearance of wildlife species is perhaps the most pressing and serious of all environmental problems, threatening the loss of valuable natural services and, as a result, undermining human well-being. The already accelerating rate of species loss is set to become faster still, as existing pressures arising from human population growth, expansion of farming, and economic development become more intense.

Key causes of threats to species, in the highest impact order:

  1. Agriculture 2. Forestry 3. Urbanization 4. Invasive species 5. Over-exploitation (e.g. hunting, fishing etc) 6. Infrastructure

The diversity of wildlife species on Earth is not evenly spread. Some places have a far richer diversity of animals and plants. But many such areas are under threat. These areas are known as biodiversity hot-spots.

WHAT CAN WE DO? Retaining natural habitats in the hot-spots will require the legal protection of at least the best-quality areas, with all rules adopted to protect habitats and wildlife fully enforced. It will also be necessary to find ways for farmers to make a living without encroaching into natural areas.

WHAT CAN I DO? Make regular visits to areas that are protected for nature, both near to home and when you are traveling. The more the protected areas are used, whether they are diversity hot-spots or not, the bigger the incentive for governments and individuals to work keep them intact.”

Tony Juniper, “What’s really happening to our planet?”, 2016 edition, Amazon hyperlink

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World on track to lose two-thirds of wild animals by 2020, major report warns

The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends.

The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame.

The creatures being lost range from mountains to forests to rivers and the seas and include well-known endangered species such as elephants and gorillas and lesser known creatures such as vultures and salamanders.

The collapse of wildlife is, with climate change, the most striking sign of the Anthropocene, a proposed new geological era in which humans dominate the planet. “We are no longer a small world on a big planet. We are now a big world on a small planet, where we have reached a saturation point,” said Prof Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Center, in a foreword for the report.

Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF, said, “The richness and diversity of life on Earth is fundamental to the complex life systems that underpin it. Life supports life itself and we are part of the same equation. Lose biodiversity and the natural world and the life support systems, as we know them today, will collapse.”

He said humanity was completely dependent on nature for clean air and water, food and materials, as well as inspiration and happiness.

The report analyzed the changing abundance of more than 14,000 monitored populations of the 3,700 vertebrate species for which good data is available. This produced a measure akin to a stock market index that indicates the state of the world’s 64,000 animal species and is used by scientists to measure the progress of conservation efforts.

The biggest cause of tumbling animal numbers is the destruction of wild areas for farming and logging: the majority of the Earth’s land area has now been impacted by humans, with just 15% protected for nature. Poaching and exploitation for food is another major factor, due to unsustainable fishing and hunting: more than 300 mammal species are being eaten into extinction, according to recent research.

Pollution is also a significant problem with, for example, killer whales and dolphins in European seas being seriously harmed by long-lived industrial pollutants. Vultures in south-east Asia have been decimated over the last 20 years, dying after eating the carcasses of cattle dosed with an anti-inflammatory drug. Amphibians have suffered one of the greatest declines of all animals due to a fungal disease thought to be spread around the world by the trade in frogs and newts.

Rivers and lakes are the hardest hit habitats, with animals populations down by 81% since 1970, due to excessive water extraction, pollution and dams. All the pressures are magnified by global warming, which shifts the ranges in which animals are able to live, said WWF’s director of science, Mike Barrett.

Some researchers have reservations about the report’s approach, which summarises many different studies into a headline number. “It is broadly right, but the whole is less than the sum of the parts,” said Professor Stuart Pimm, at Duke University in the US, adding that looking at particular groups, such as birds, is more precise.

The report warns that losses of wildlife will impact on people and could even provoke conflicts: “Increased human pressure threatens the natural resources that humanity depends upon, increasing the risk of water and food insecurity and competition over natural resources.”

However, some species are starting to recover, suggesting swift action could tackle the crisis. Tiger numbers are thought to be increasing and the giant panda has recently been removed from the list of endangered species.

In Europe, protection of the habitat of the Eurasian lynx and controls on hunting have seen its population rise five-fold since the 1960s. A recent global wildlife summit also introduced new protection for pangolins, the world’s most trafficked mammals, and rosewoods, the most trafficked wild product of all.

But stemming the overall losses of animals and habitats requires systemic change in how society consumes resources, said Barrett. People can choose to eat less meat, which is often fed on grain grown on deforested land, and businesses should ensure their supply chains, such as for timber, are sustainable, he said.

“You’d like to think that was a no-brainer in that if a business is consuming the raw materials for its products in a way that is not sustainable, then inevitably it will eventually put itself out of business,” Barrett said. Politicians must also ensure all their policies – not just environmental ones – are sustainable, he added.

“The report is certainly a pretty shocking snapshot of where we are,” said Barrett. “My hope though is that we don’t throw our hands up in despair – there is no time for despair, we have to crack on and act. I do remain convinced we can find our sustainable course through the Anthropocene, but the will has to be there to do it.”

Euractivearticle source hyperlink, published in 2016

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COUNTDOWN

The author takes a journey into 21 countries, among them Israel, Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam, China, the UK, Niger, the Vatican and interviews local community leaders and NGOs experts on one of the most pressing questions: “How many people can fit on Planet Earth, in a sustainable way?” and what is the reality and the concerns in each of these countries and how future may look like for them. Along the way, he talks to ecologists and touches the topic of wildlife as well, and how human, wildlife and environment are inter-connected!

I will quote one paragraph where an Iranian ecologist explains just that to a group of school children in California, in the presence of a tamed wild cheetah, and making an analogy with an Iranian silk rug on which he is sitting in front of his audience, when asked by one of the kids: ” What will happen if Asiatic cheetah would disappear from the Earth? Would it be a disaster? Would we be in trouble? Will there still be gasoline for our parents’ cars? Will be have electricity and water? Should we be concerned?“:

Answer: “This beautiful Persian carpet belongs to an Iranian who lives in San Diego. It’s made with more than one-and-a-half million knots. It took women years to do that. Now, suppose some boy with a pair of scissors cuts few knots from its edge. What will happen? Nothing. You will not even notice it.

Now, suppose that he returns and makes two hundred knots disappear. Probably you still wouldn’t notice it among the one-and-a-half million. But what if he keeps doing that? Soon you will have a small hole. Then it will get bigger and bigger. Eventually, nothing will be left from the carpet.

Then, largely extending his arms in the air, he says: All this is the carpet of life. You are sitting on it. Each of those knots represent one plant or animal. They, and the air we breathe, the water we drink, and our groceries are not manufactured. They are produced by what we call nature.This rug represents the nature. If something happens in Asia or Africa, and the cheetah for example disappears, that is one knot from the carpet. If you understand that, you’ll realize that we are living on a limited number of species and resources, on which our life depends.”

Alan Weisman, “Countdown – our last, best hope for a future on Earth?”, 2013 edition, Amazon hyperlink

countdown

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10 BILLION – the documentary

A comprehensive documentary on what to expect in coming years, as governments fail one by one to acknowledge and tackle the most urgent issue the planet is facing – human population growth, expected to reach 10 billion, far out-stripping the planet’s resources!

Watch the trailer here: 10 BILLION !

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SAPIENS – A Brief History of Humankind

“The Animal that Became a God”

“Seventy thousands years ago, Homo Sapiens was still an insignificant animal minding its own business in a corner of Africa. In the following millennia it transformed itself into the master of the entire planet and the terror of the ecosystem. Today it stands on the verge of becoming a god, poised to acquire not only eternal youth (reference here to the progress to come in science), but also the divine abilities of creation and destruction.

Unfortunately, the Sapiens regime on Earth has so far produced little that we can be proud of. We have mastered our surroundings, increased food production, built cities, established empires and created far-flung trade networks. But did we decrease the amount of suffering in the world? Time and again, massive increases in human power did not necessarily increase the well being of individual Sapiens, and usually caused immense suffering to other animals”.

In the last few decades we have at last made some real progress as far as human condition is concerned, with the reduction of famine, plague and war. Yet the situation of other animals is deteriorating more rapidly than ever before, and the improvement in the lot of humanity is to recent and too fragile to be certain of.

Moreover, despite the astonishing things that humans are capable of doing, we remain unsure of our goals and we seem to be as discontent as ever. We have advanced from canoes to galleys to steamships to space shuttles – but nobody knows where we are going. We are more powerful than ever before, but we have little idea what to do with all that power. Worse still, humans seem to be more irresponsible than ever. Self-made gods with only the laws of physics to keep us company, we are accountable to no one. We are consequently wreaking havoc on our fellow animals and on the surrounding ecosystem, seeking little more than our own comfort and amusement, yet never finding satisfaction.

Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?”

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens – A Brief History of HumankindAmazon hyperlink

sapiens

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