The London Zoological Society produced a sensational report called the Living Planet Report. As one pundit said, “It really should have been called the Dying Planet Report.” It’s claims are actually a bit tricky, but anyway you look at it, deeply disturbing.
Ed Yong of The Atlantic clarified the findings of this new Living Planet Report that have been widely mischaracterized but they are still very important and unsettling and grim. Yong put it this way: “they found that from 1970 to 2014, the size of vertebrate populations has declined by 60 percent on average. That is absolutely not the same as saying that humans have culled 60 percent of animals” as some commentators have alleged. The word populations here really means “pockets of individuals from a given species that live in distinct geographical areas.” I won’t go into the distinction further but suffice it to say humans have caused a lot of death. It would be kind to call it death on a massive scale. To call us “the aids virus of the earth” as Professor John Moriarty did is not really an exaggeration.
Professor Johan Rockström, a global sustainability expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany put it this way:
“We are rapidly running out of time… Only by addressing both ecosystems and climate do we stand a chance of safeguarding a stable planet for humanity’s future on Earth.”
Damian Carrington of The Guardian reported as follows:
Many scientists believe the world has begun a sixth mass extinction, the first to be caused by a species – Homo sapiens. Other recent analyses have revealed that humankind has destroyed 83% of all mammals and half of plants since the dawn of civilisation and that, even if the destruction were to end now, it would take 5-7 million years for the natural world to recover.
I believe he should have said “populations” which is not as drastic, but it is certainly drastic.
The Living Planet Report produced by the London Zoological Society for the World Wildlife Fund using data from 16,704 populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians and found that
“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 [of the WWF] is that the wildlife crash is continuing unabated.”
In other words, previous reports of huge deaths has not turned around human attitudes to nature enough to have a profound effect for the better. The deaths are “continuing unabated.”
Professor Bob Watson one of the world’s most respected environmental scientists and at the time the chair of an intergovernmental panel on biodiversity said this, “Wildlife and the ecosystems are vital to human life …the destruction of nature is as dangerous as climate change.”
We all know that nature contributes to human well being, physically, culturally, and spiritually. The food it contributes to us and facilitates as well as the clean water, fertile soil, and energy it provides is of vital significance to everyone on the planet. As Watson 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.”
Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF said this as a result of the continued assault on life on the planet by humans:
“We need a new global deal for nature and people and we have this narrow window of less than two years to get it…This really is the last chance. We have to get it right this time.”
Tanya Steele, the CEO of the WWF summed it up very well: “We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it.”
It is abundantly clear: We need a new attitude to nature. No tricky statistics alter that.