One million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, we’ve lost half the world’s coral and are losing forested areas the size of 27 football pitches every minute, WWF report finds. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS
  • by Baher Kamal (Madrid)
  • Interpress service

Even so, a million species of plants and animals are already facing extinction due to the voraciously profit-driven, over-exploitative, illegal trade and the relentless depletion of the diversity of life on planet Earth.

In fact, billions of people, both in developed and developing countries, benefit daily from the use of wild species for food, energy, materials, medicine, recreation and many other important contributions to human well-being, as duly reported by the United Nations in 2023 World Wildlife Day (March 3).

So much so that 50,000 wild species meet the needs of billions worldwide. And 1 in 5 people around the world depend on wild species for income and food, while 2.4 billion people depend on wood fuel for cooking.

The world’s major multilateral body reminds us of the “urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime and human-induced species decline, which has far-reaching economic, environmental and social consequences.”

Variety of lives, lost at an ‘alarming pace’

A world organization that is a leader in nature conservation and the protection of endangered species: World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warns that we are sadly losing biodiversity – the rich variety of life on Earth – at an “alarming rate”.

“We have seen an average decline of 69% in the number of birds, amphibians, mammals, fish and reptiles since 1970, according to 2022 Living Planet Report.

“One million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, we have lost half of the world’s coral and are losing forest areas the size of 27 football pitches every minute.”

WWF highlights the following findings, among several others:

  • 69% average decline in wildlife populations since 1970,
  • Wildlife populations in Latin America and the Caribbean are plummeting at a staggering rate of 94%,
  • Stocks of freshwater species have declined by 83%.

Important reasons

The 2022 Living Planet Report points to some of the main causes of the shocking loss of the world’s biodiversity.

“The biggest driver of biodiversity loss is the way humans use land and oceans. How we grow food, harvest materials like wood or minerals from the seabed, and build our cities all have an impact on the natural environment and the biodiversity that lives where.”

Food systems: the biggest cause of nature loss: according to results from WWF, food production has caused 70% of the loss of biodiversity on land and 50% in freshwater. It also accounts for around 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

As a global population, what we eat and how we produce it right now is not good for us or the planet. While over 800 million people are starving, over two billion of those who have enough to eat are obese or overweight.

WWF’s results also indicate that meat tend to have the greatest environmental impact, in part because livestock produce methane emissions through their digestive process – something called enteric fermentation – but also because most meat comes from crop-fed livestock.

And that around 850 million people around the world are believed to rely on coral reefs for their food and livelihoods.

WWF’s report also refers to invasive alien species: Invasive alien species are those that arrive in places where they historically did not live and out-compete the local biodiversity for resources such as sunlight and water. This causes the native species to die out, causing a change in the composition of the natural ecosystem.

The future depends on reversing the loss of nature

“The world is waking up to the fact that our future depends on reversing the loss of nature as much as it depends on addressing climate change. And you can’t solve one without solving the other.” said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF-US.

“These declines in wildlife populations can have dire consequences for our health and economies,” says Rebecca Shaw, Global Chief Scientist for WWF.

“When wildlife populations decline to this degree, it means dramatic changes are affecting their habitats and the food and water they depend on. We should care deeply about the breakdown of natural systems because the same resources sustain human life.”

Considering all the above, the reasons for the rapid destruction of the diversity of life have been scientifically identified as well as the dangerous consequences. However, the dominant private sector continues to see more profits in destroying than saving.

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service