The Earth’s landscapes are changing in the direction of extinction. But they’re not just changing slowly – they’re doing so at an incredibly quick pace that is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Here’s the kicker: it’s all the fault of humans.
According to an assessment by the United Nations, humans are entirely to blame for the alteration of the natural landscapes all across the planet. The report shows how this has put countless species at risk, as well as the livelihoods of many people.
Worse still, humans are entirely reliant on natural resources from the Earth in order to survive – yet we are the ones causing biodiversity decline, global warming, and countless other environmental hazards. Essentially, if we continue down this same path, we are dooming all of humanity.
This assessment has raised many different concerns and provides bleak and upsetting conclusions. Here’s everything you need to know about that report, which is set to be released later this year, on how researchers reveal humans are driving the world toward extinction faster than ever.
Researchers Reveal Humans are Driving The World Toward Extinction Faster Than Ever
1. The Assessment
The assessment was conducted by the chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Robert Watson, and compiled in a report that spans 1,500 pages. Its findings were released in a summary in Paris, and it was approved by worldwide reps from 132 countries, including the United States, through the United Nations.
The full report has yet to be published – scheduled for later in the year – but the summary is rather disheartening. It indicates that nature, and Earth, is on its way to imminent change that doesn’t bode in any remotely positive way for us.
All around the world, habitats and expanses of land are being harmed by human activities, such as:
These activities are seriously hurting the world we live in. If no serious changes or efforts are made on a large scale, by 2050, loss of biodiversity will dramatically speed up.
2. Humans Are In Danger
Many have been under the belief that biodiversity focuses only on nature excluding humans, meaning that efforts to save the environment are for the environment alone. Today, with modern knowledge and proof, we know that this isn’t the case – people are just as deeply affected by the Earth’s dying ecosystems.
This is something that this report shows us in great detail, according to assessment author Robert Watson – making it one of the first of its kind to very clearly show the way that humans and biodiversity are linked. In fact, all the benefits that nature gives to humans can be valued at US $24 trillion! Here’s how:
a) Carbon dioxide
Rainforests in the Amazon – and trees all around the world – take in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. You might not think it’s a lot, but the fact is that they absorb a huge amount that plays a big part in slowing down the process of global warming.
Wetlands and marshes are being destroyed and harmed daily – but they’re largely to thank for the purification of drinking water. Clean water is extremely crucial to all countries, but especially for poorer nations, where it’s even harder to come by. The fact that 85% of our wetlands have disappeared since the 1700s solidifies this fact.
There’s always been variety in the animals and plants used for food production – but, today, there’s much less of it. 6,190 domesticated breeds of mammals have been used throughout history in agriculture; since then, over a thousand have their species on the line, and nearly 560 have become extinct.
This might not seem significant, but it does cause less resistant food strains that are not as tough against diseases and pests. With climate change in full force, solving this problem in a positive way by breeding new livestock and crops may not even be possible.
Most medicine comes from a natural source, and lots of tropical plants supply us with modern medication ingredients. With these plants dying out and going extinct, some of the cures we know may be lost.
It goes without saying that humans rely on agriculture to produce food. Unfortunately, the degradation of land has caused agricultural productivity to plummet across 23% of land, potentially leading to a shocking $577 billion’s worth of crop production in jeopardy every year.
Coral reefs have been struggling to survive against climate change, but the addition of huge amounts of plastic waste is also causing them to die out. This severely hurts fisheries and tourism, especially in the Caribbean, where many small communities rely on tourism to survive.
Coral reefs and mangrove forests take up a lot of water as survival material. As they slowly die and become less common, more and more people become at risk of dealing with flooding – 300 million more people, to be exact.
Distressingly, a lot of these things are non-replaceable, according to this assessment. The lack of biodiversity and its destruction can prevent us from accessing any options in the future.
3. Extinction of Animals
There are too many living creatures on Earth to catalog accurately, but scientists have certainly tried! So far, 1.3 million of them have been recorded, though there are likely around 8 million living species in total among all flora and fauna (most of them are some form of insect).
Unfortunately, we’re losing a good number of these animals. In the year 1500, we had at least 680 more of these species, but they have since vanished for good. This doesn’t seem like a very big number, but most experts believe it’s going to accelerate from here and that we are on the brink of a crisis in extinction.
This theory is based on the fact that our current rates of extinction count in at up to hundreds of times more severe than they have ever been throughout the past 10 million years. In fact, right now, around one million different living species will have to face a possible extinction threat in the very near future – especially if things do not change. This will include:
- 500,000 land-dwelling species, whose habitats are not sufficient for their survival in the long run
- 1/3 of all mammals of a marine variety
- 40% of all amphibians
- 1/3 of corals in reefs
4. Deforestation and Landscape Alteration
Humans have altered landscapes with higher and higher levels of intensity over just the last five decades alone, clearing out hundreds and thousands of acres of forests for:
This is also being done through:
- Hunting and poaching
- Water pollution
- Invasive species introduction
Some examples of this occurring are:
Rainforest in this nation has been felled at large portions in order to make way for palm oil plantations. This has caused the further endangerment of already at-risk species, like Sumatran tigers and orangutans, both of which are worryingly close to blinking out of existence.
b) Argentina and Chile
In the 1940s, a widely invasive species of mammal was introduced to the country: the North American beaver. Not only did it completely change the ecosystem, but it also caused many native trees to die out. Though this has had mildly positive effects for some species, the overall ecosystem was damaged.
Poachers looking for ivory ended the lives of a horrifying 7,000 elephants within the span of just three years – between 2009 and 2011.
5. Global Warming and Climate Change
5% of the world’s living species are all threatened by global warming. Climate change is threatening to render many types of plants and animals extinct, and this is likely to occur if global averages hit 2°C over what are considered pre-industrial levels – and we’re already at 1°C.
These species may have been saved if climate change was the only issue on the horizon, says ecologist Richard Pearson, who works at the University College of London. Unfortunately, the fact that populations are currently dwindling in number, lacking diversity in genetics, and losing landscapes and habitats, connects all these factors into one huge problem that dooms many animals.
Global warming has also led to a lot of species nearing extinction already. This is because changing climates are not suitable for many types of local wildlife, which have to either adapt or be wiped out. The Bengal tiger is only one such species that is affected by this problem.
6. Mild Efforts Are No Longer Effective
Many countries are making small efforts towards a greener future – but this is likely no longer enough, according to this assessment. It’s no longer possible to provide piecemeal solutions and smile with positive thinking. We need to make transformative changes, including:
a) Condemning Wastefulness
This will involve governments around the world putting in laws that abolish single-used materials. We also need to reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture. Finally, governments must truly crack down on illegal hunting, fishing, and logging. This would also require that wealthy countries manage their food waste and use resources more efficiently.
b) Using Less Land
It may be necessary for farmers and those who serve as the first source for food products to find ways to use less land in order to grow the same or more amounts of food.
c) Protected Area Expansions
More and more places need to be put under environmental protection. This might include increasing reserve space and confining certain unwanted activities to small, controlled areas.
d) Reducing Emissions
Biofuel is currently being developed in order to limit the bad outcomes of global warming that we are facing. Unfortunately, there is a risk involved with biofuel, too; it could also continue to destroy forests even more and cause worse risks for biodiversity as a whole. As such, we may need to find other methods to provide sustainable energy.
e) Reducing Poverty
Many poorer countries continue to participate in environmentally harmful practices in order to keep their citizens afloat. It may be impossible to expect them to simply stop these practices, as it could mean the ends of the livelihoods, incomes, and survival abilities of many people living in poverty.
Final Thoughts On How Humans Are Driving The World Toward Extinction Faster Than Ever
The future for the world’s biodiversity does not look very promising, but there is some hope remaining, so don’t give up on positive thinking. Researchers hope that we can find a balance between sustainability for environmental conservation and continued economic growth.