Deforestation, farming, construction, and tourism have reduced global wildlife populations by more than two-thirds in just 50 years, putting nature in a condition of “free fall” that is impossible to restore.
Mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish population sizes have all declined by an average of 68% since 1970, according to the WWF’s Living Planet Index (LPI). Deforestation, unsustainable agricultural growth and human-caused illegal wildlife trade are also major contributing factors. Not only does the destruction of wildlife cause ecological imbalance, but it also brings humans closer to wildlife, triggering worldwide pandemics like Covid-19.
Nature Is Responding To Human Actions With All That They Have Caused
From the Amazon to the North Pole, forests across the world are being crippled by humanity’s greedy behavior. In 2019 alone, over 74,000 disastrous man-made fires burned throughout the Amazon forest, also known as the world’s green lung where one-fifth of the planet’s oxygen is produced as well as an important carbon sink. It is home to 3 million types of flora and animals, as well as a large number of Indigenous peoples.
In Indonesia, forest fires on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo lasted for weeks, affecting the health of the people of the country and across Southeast Asia. According to UNICEF, about ten million Indonesian children were at risk at that time from wildfire smoke inhalation and pollution. Due to the severe air pollution produced by wildfires, several schools in Malaysia were forced to close. Australia on the other hand has had to deal with widespread and prolonged bushfires since 2020, which have significantly become more severe with each passing year.
Sustainable Growth Requires Harmony Between Humans And Nature
Humanity’s rising devastation of nature, according to WWF director general Marco Lambertini, is having “catastrophic impacts” on wildlife populations and human health. Wildlife reduction and biodiversity loss will have a direct impact on the nutrition, food security, and livelihoods of billions of people around the world. Lambertini stated that taking comprehensive global action to halt and reverse the erosion of biodiversity and wildlife populations within the next decade is critical.
Experts are urging countries to take action to disrupt food and other product supply chains in order to decrease deforestation and wildlife habitat devastation, as well as encouraging people to convert from meat and dairy-heavy diets to one that is more “plant-based”. We must also address a large amount of food waste in supply chains, retailers, and consumers. Efforts to reverse the decline in species numbers will not be easy, but action must be taken urgently to stop the “free fall” of the Earth by 2030.
A report by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) also relates the extinction of numerous animals or habitat loss to the possibility of more dangerous viruses emerging. These reasons are all linked to human activity, such as the conversion of forests into farms and houses, the increase in wild animal trafficking, overfishing, threats from invasive species and disease, pollution, and climate change.
According to Dr. Andrew Terry, Director of Conservation and Policy at ZSL, natural populations will continue to drop if humans do nothing to change, resulting in the extinction of wildlife and threatening the ecosystems in which we all live.
Actions Start Now
For this year’s upcoming World Environment Day on June 5, the UN Environment Programme has chosen the theme “Only One Earth” with the goal of creating dramatic changes – through policies and our choices – towards cleaner, greener lifestyles.
2022 is a critical year for countries to commit to conserving the environment and biodiversity, recovering degraded ecosystems, and responding to climate change during the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration (2021- 2030). This is the moment for each country to join hands and take concrete and practical steps in support of nature and the Earth so that people can once again live in harmony with our environment.