WWF’s Living Planet Report reveals humans have wiped out 58% of wildlife
WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016
Devastating research and predictions have been released by the World Wildlife Fund in their 2016 annual report.
They state that between 1970 and 2012, international populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have declined by 58 percent.
Most shockingly, the report claims that, if we continue on a similar trajectory, global wildlife could plunge to a 67 percent level of decline in just the fifty-year period ending this decade. The report does not mince its words, stating the main source of these dwindling animal populations is human activities.
For the first time in Earth’s history, we humans are overpowering the planet. In order for us to continue to coexist with our wildlife brothers and sisters, we must make drastic changes to our society, starting with the way we fuel and feed ourselves.
In 2020, the Paris Agreement on climate change will kick in. If its assumptions prove accurate and its plans implemented, the measures could help achieve the food and energy system reforms needed to protect wildlife across the globe.
“Wildlife is disappearing within our lifetimes at an unprecedented rate,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. “This is not just about the wonderful species we all love; biodiversity forms the foundation of healthy forests, rivers and oceans. Take away species, and these ecosystems will collapse along with the clean air, water, food and climate services that they provide us. We have the tools to fix this problem and we need to start using them now if we are serious about preserving a living planet for our own survival and prosperity.”
The WWF report uses the Living Planet Index, provided by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), to monitor Earth’s life trends and report how wildlife’s size fluctuates.
“Human behavior continues to drive the decline of wildlife populations globally, with particular impact in freshwater habitats. Importantly however, these are declines, they are not yet extinctions – and this should be a wake-up call to marshal efforts to promote the recovery of these populations,” said Professor Ken Norris, Director of Science at ZSL.
The top threats to wildlife are directly linked to human activity in the WWF’s Living Planet Report and include habitat loss, degradation and overexploitation of wildlife.
Worryingly, the report states that we are entering a previously unchartered scenario on Earth, where humans are shaping large-scale changes rather than living in harmony with our environment. Scientists are concerned we may cause a sixth mass extinction. Researchers have named this geologic period the Anthropocene. In understanding why we are moving into this new era, we will be able to diagnose solutions to restore the ecosystems that all living creatures need to survive.
The expanding agricultural industry is one of the main offenders in the destruction of habitats and overexploitation of wildlife. At present, farming uses over ⅓ of Earth’s total land and accounts for 70% of water use. Although this business is created to feed our expanding population, our current model is wasteful and unsustainable. By reverting to more sustainable ways to feed and fuel our communities, we will be able to reverse some of the damage we have done. Farm-to-table dining, eco-houses, public transportation systems, wind farms and solar energy production are all steps in the right direction.
The report reviewed leading research regarding human activity and the impact it has on our planet. A framework developed by the Stockholm Resilience Centre demonstrated that humanity has surpassed four out of nine Planetary Boundaries – which are the safe thresholds for critical Earth processes that maintain life on our planet.
Planetary Boundaries lead researcher Dr. Johan Rockström added a foreword to the report, stressing the need for an urgent transition to a world that works safely within the Earth’s operating space.
Damningly, the report also includes data from the Global Footprint Network stating that we are currently 60% over the usage capacity of Earth. If we continue at this rate, our deficit will continue to grow.
“No matter how you add it up, the math does not look good. The more we continue to exceed Earth’s limits, the more damage we do to our own future,” said Lambertini. “We are at a decisive moment in time when we can seize the solutions to steer our food, energy and finance systems in a more sustainable direction.”
This report strongly demonstrates the need for humanity to rethink how we produce, consume, measure success, and value the natural environment. It concludes that we need to make urgent changes to our systems, and that every person should think about how their actions affect the Earth. Businesses, governments and organizations should all lead the charge towards a more sustainable future.
The report draws on real-life examples and case studies for how sustainable fuel and food production is possible, and how communities can work together to clean up damage in their local environment.
The report also highlights recent global climate change agreements and sustainable development trends, recognizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an essential guide to positive decision-making that considers environmental interests.
“A strong natural environment is the key to defeating poverty, improving health and developing a just and prosperous future. We have proven that we know what it takes to build a resilient planet for future generations – we just need to act on that knowledge,” Lambertini added.
If you want to read the WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016, you can download it here: Living Planet Report 2016: Risk and resilience in a new era.