U.N. Report: A Million Species–and Human Society–Face Dire Risk

by Lorraine McCarty

A United Nations biodiversity report in early May warned that 1 million of the planet’s 8 million plant and animal species face the threat of extinction, many of them within decades. This is happening tens to hundreds of times faster than the rate over the past 10 million years.

The 7 billion people on earth are all exploiting natural resources, causing pollution and driving climate change–an unnatural history. Urban areas have just about doubled since 1992, and crop production has tripled since 1970.┬áPlastic pollution has risen tenfold since 1980. Human activity has “severely altered” 66% of marine and 75% of land environments, and native species have fallen by a fifth. More than 33% of marine mammals, almost a third of reef-forming corals and 40% of amphibians are threatened with extinction, and 10% of insects also are at risk.

The United Nations is calling for the world to see the situation as a climate emergency because human life is inextricably linked with 

natural ecosystems. Authors of the report note that three quarters of the world’s crops depend on animal pollination and that $577 billion worth of crops could be lost each year is pollinators were to become extinct. Twenty-three percent of land already is degraded and less productive, and coastal habitat destruction has heightened flood and hurricane risk for 100 million to 300 million people. Robert Watson, one of the report’s authors, said, “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

Source: Time, May 20, 2019.

On a related note, KEC member Karl Liske recommends the book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? by Bill McGibbon. Amazon.com says this about McGibbon’s book:
“Bill McKibben’s groundbreaking book The End of Nature . . .  was the first book to alert us to global warming. But the danger is broader than that: even as climate change shrinks the space where our civilization can exist, new technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics threaten to bleach away the variety of human experience.
Falter tells the story of these converging trends and of the ideological fervor that keeps us from bringing them under control. And then, drawing on McKibben’s experience in building 350.org, the first truly global citizens movement to combat climate change, it offers some possible ways out of the trap. We’re at a bleak moment in human history–and we’ll either confront that bleakness or watch the civilization our forebears built slip away.

Falter is a powerful and sobering call to arms, to save not only our planet but also our humanity.”

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