Saturday, 3 November 2018

Living Planet Report 2018: Aiming higher

Source: WWF

The Living Planet Report 2018 has been published this week, the twelfth edition of the report. Every two years, the WWF (one of the world’s largest independent conservation organizations with a global network active in 100 countries) publishes the report so as to give an indication of the current health and state of our planet (including biodiversity, ecosystems, and demand on natural resources and what it means for humans and wildlife), the trends in global biodiversity and wildlife abundance, and the impact of human activity. It is a science-based analysis, assisted by multiple indicators including the Living Planet Index (LPI), the Species Habitat Index (SHI), the IUCN Red List Index (RLI), the Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII), the Planetary Boundaries, and the Ecological Footprint. The report comprises of a variety of research in order to provide a comprehensive view of the health of the Earth. The state of global biodiversity is done by measuring the population abundance of thousands of vertebrate species around the world. The Living Planet Report tracked more than 16,704 populations of 4,005 vertebrate species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. It uses the Ecological Footprint and additional complementary measures to explore the changing state of global biodiversity and human consumption.

Disturbing results and statistics
The results and the scientific evidence are shocking. Nature has continually warned us: unsustainable human activity is pushing the planet’s natural systems that support life on Earth to the edge. The report warns us seriously too: “Earth is losing biodiversity at a rate seen only during mass extinctions.” Over recent decades, human activity has also severely impacted the habitats and natural resources wildlife and humanity depend on, such as oceans, forests, coral reefs, wetlands, and mangroves.

According to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2018:
·         Human activities are primarily responsible for the main threats to species identified in the report, including habitat loss, degradation, and over-exploitation of wildlife, such as overfishing and overhunting.
·         On average, we’ve seen an astonishing 60% decline in the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in just over 40 years (between 1970 and 2014). Over-exploitation of ecological resources by humanity is thus worrisome.
Source: WWF
·         Current rates of species extinction are now up to 1,000 times higher than before human involvement in animal ecosystems became a factor.
·         Species population declines are especially pronounced in the tropics, with South and Central America suffering the most dramatic decline, an 89% loss compared to 1970.
·         Freshwater species numbers have also declined dramatically, with the Freshwater Index showing an 83% decline since 1970, due mainly as a result of overfishing, pollution, and climate change.
·         The Earth is estimated to have lost about 50% of its shallow water corals in the past 30 years.
·         90% of seabirds have plastics in their stomachs, compared with 5% in 1960.
·         A fifth (20%) of the Amazon has disappeared in just 50 years.
Source: Wikipedia
·         African elephants have declined in number in Tanzania by 60% in just five years between 2009 and 2014, primarily due to ivory poaching.
·         Deforestation in Borneo, designed to make way for timber and palm oil plantations, led to the loss of 100,000 orangutans between 1999 and 2015.
·         The number of polar bears is expected to decline by 30% by 2050 as global warming causes Arctic ice to melt, making their habitats increasingly dangerous.
Source: Science Daily
·         Only a quarter of the world's land is untouched by humans, who are increasing food production and use of natural resources.
·         America is among the countries using the most natural resources. North America and Canada consume more than seven global hectares per person.
·         The report also focuses on the value of nature to people's health and that of our societies and economies: Globally, nature provides services worth around $125 trillion a year, while also helping ensure the supply of fresh air, clean water, food, energy, medicines, and more.

Thus, from the abovementioned statistics, it is clear that the impact human activity (how we feed, fuel, and finance our lives) has on the world’s wildlife, forests, oceans, rivers, and climate is troublesome. It is taking an unprecedented toll on wildlife, wild places, and the natural resources we need to survive. According to Global Footprint Network, humanity is currently using the resources of 1.7 planets to provide the goods and services we demand when we only have one Earth.

Is it too late?
Current efforts to protect the natural world are not keeping up with the speed of this destruction. We’re facing a rapidly closing window for action and the urgent need for everyone to cooperatively rethink and redefine how we value, protect, and restore nature. This generation may be last to save nature, the report warns. But, we still have time to act; there is still hope. In order to ensure a sustainable future for all living things, we need to urgently curtail the loss of nature. In essence, the Living Planet Report 2018 highlights the opportunity the global community has to protect and restore nature leading up to 2020, an imperative year when leaders are expected to review the progress made on landmark multilateral pacts to solve global challenges including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Marco Lambertini, Director General WWF International, is of the belief that “the nature conservation agenda is not only about securing the future of tigers, pandas, whales and all the amazing diversity of life we love and cherish on Earth. It’s bigger than that. There cannot be a healthy, happy and prosperous future for people on a planet with a destabilized climate, depleted oceans and rivers, degraded land and empty forests, all stripped of biodiversity, the web of life that sustains us all. In the next years, we need to urgently transition to a net carbon-neutral society and halt and reverse nature loss – through green finance, clean energy and environmentally friendly food production. We must also preserve and restore enough land and ocean in a natural state. Few people have the chance to be a part of truly historic transformations. This is ours”.

WWF. 2018. Living Planet Report - 2018: Aiming Higher. Grooten, M. and Almond, R.E.A.(Eds). WWF, Gland, Switzerland.