The Guardian had a piece last week on extinctions. Its headline was:
World on track to lose two-thirds of wild animals by 2020, major report warns
This reports on the publication of the Living Planet Index which "shows that vertebrate populations are set to decline by 67% (from 1970 levels) unless urgent action is taken to reduce our planetary impact". Here's the report summary.
The report starts:
"Global biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate, putting the survival of other species and our own future at risk. The latest edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report brings home the enormity of the situation – and how we can start to put it right. The Living Planet Index reveals that global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012. We could witness a two-thirds decline in the half-century from 1970 to 2020 – unless we act now to reform our food and energy systems and meet global commitments on addressing climate change, protecting biodiversity and supporting sustainable development."
Note that whilst the report carefully says: "We could witness a two-thirds decline ...", the Guardian writes: "populations are set to decline by 67%" "set to" is not the same as "could". Is this just poor language skills, or was it deliberate do you suppose?
Overall, I'd say that although there is much gloom, there's not as much as the Guardian would have us believe. The summary report ends:
"The facts and figures in the Living Planet Report tend to paint a challenging picture, yet there is still plenty of room for optimism. If we manage to undergo the critical transitions necessary, the reward will be immense. Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch. There are several countries that have managed to raise the standards of living for their populations while using resources at much less intensity than industrial countries. Furthermore, the world is reaching a solid consensus regarding the direction we must take. In 2015, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals were adopted. And at the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015, 195 countries adopted a global agreement to combat climate change, and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future. Finally, we have never before had such an understanding of the scale of our impact on the planet, the way the key environmental systems interact or the way in which we can manage them.
Ultimately, addressing social inequality and environmental degradation will require a global paradigm shift toward living within Planetary Boundaries. We must create a new economic system that enhances and supports the natural capital upon which it relies.
The speed at which we transition to a sustainable society is a key factor for determining our future. Allowing and fostering important innovations and enabling them to undergo rapid adoption in a wider arena is critical. Sustainability and resilience will be achieved much faster if the majority of the Earth’s population understand the value and needs of our increasingly fragile Earth. A shared understanding of the link between humanity and nature could induce a profound change that will allow all life to thrive in the Anthropocene.
The last paragraph is good news for environmental educators. We are still needed! Mind you, we said that in the 1960s, ...