At age 8, my parents shipped me off to a Canadian summer camp. (And I don’t know why, because I was a really well-behaved kid!) From my very first canoe trip, I was taught:
“Always leave the campsite better than it
was when you got there. The campsite
might never be used by anyone else. And
if it is, they might not recognize or appreci-
ate the improvements you made. And if they
do, they still may not know it was you who
did it. It doesn’t matter; you do it anyway.”
In developing our Garden Atrium Net Zero sustainable community, we used all sorts of sustainably-related technology … photovoltaic power, rainwater harvesting, permaculture farming, oxygenating and toxin-absorbing plants, etc. But beneath it all is my canoe-tripping mantra. Here’s a research report that expands the mantra, defining our “campsite” as Planet Earth.
It’s difficult truly believing we could make our campsite uninhabitable. But we’re there … now. And there are positive remedial actions we can take.
• • • • • • • •
Humans exploiting and destroying nature on unprecedented scale – report
Animal populations have plunged an average of 68% since 1970, as humanity pushes the planet’s life support systems to the edge.
9 Sep 2020
Wildlife populations are in freefall around the world, driven by human overconsumption, population growth and intensive agriculture, according to a major new assessment of the abundance of life on Earth.
On average, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles plunged by 68% between 1970 and 2016, according to the WWF and Zoological Society of London (ZSL)’s biennial Living Planet Report 2020.
Two years ago, the figure stood at 60%.
The research is one of the most comprehensive assessments of global biodiversity available and was complied by 134 experts from around the world. It found that from the rainforests of central America to the Pacific Ocean, nature is being exploited and destroyed by humans on a scale never previously recorded.
The analysis tracked global data on 20,811 populations of 4,392 vertebrate species. Those monitored include high-profile threatened animals such as pandas and polar bears as well as lesser known amphibians and fish. The figures, the latest available, showed that in all regions of the world, vertebrate wildlife populations are collapsing, falling on average by more than two-thirds since 1970. Robin Freeman, who led the research at ZSL, said:
“It seems that we’ve spent 10 to 20 years
talking about these declines and not
really managed to do anything about it.
It frustrates me and upsets me. We sit at
our desks and compile these statistics
but they have real-life implications.
it’s really hard to communicate how
dramatic some of these declines are.”
Latin America and the Caribbean recorded the most alarming drop, with an average fall of 94% in vertebrate wildlife populations. Reptiles, fish and amphibians in the region were most negatively affected, driven by the overexploitation of ecosystems, habitat fragmentation and disease.
Africa and the Asia Pacific region have also experienced large falls in the abundance of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles, dropping 65% and 45% respectively. Europe and central Asia recorded a fall of 24%, while populations dropped 33% on average in North America. To form the Living Planet Index (LPI), akin to a stock market index of wildlife, more biodiverse parts of the world, such as tropical regions, are given more weighting.
Experts said the LPI was further evidence of the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, with one million species at risk because of human activity, according to the UN’s global assessment report in 2019. Deforestation and the conversion of wild spaces for human food production have largely been blamed for the destruction of Earth’s web of life.
The report highlights that 75% of the Earth’s ice-free land has been significantly altered by human activity, and almost 90% of global wetlands have been lost since 1700.
Mike Barrett, executive director of conservation and science at WWF, said:
“Urgent and immediate action is necessary
in the food and agriculture sector. All the
indicators of biodiversity loss are heading
the wrong way rapidly. As a start, there
has got to be regulation to get deforest-
ation out of our supply chain straight
away. That’s absolutely vital.”
Freshwater areas are among the habitats suffering the greatest damage, according to the report, with one in three species in those areas threatened by extinction and an average population drop of 84%. The species affected include the critically endangered Chinese sturgeon in the Yangtze River, which is down by 97%.
Using satellite analysis, the report also finds that wilderness areas – defined as having no human imprint – only account for 25% of the Earth’s terrestrial area and are largely restricted to Russia, Canada, Brazil and Australia.
Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF, said:
“We are wiping wildlife from the face of
the planet, burning our forests, polluting
and over-fishing our seas and destroying
wild areas. We are wrecking our world –
the one place we call home – risking our
health, security and survival here on Earth.”
Sir David Attenborough said that humanity has entered a new geological age – the anthropocene – where humans dominate the Earth, but said it could be the moment we learn to become stewards of our planet.
“Doing so will require systemic shifts
in how we produce food, create energy,
manage our oceans and use materials.
But above all it will require a change
… he wrote in a collection of essays accompanying the report.
“The time for pure national interests
has passed, internationalism has to
be our approach and in doing so bring
about a greater equality between what
nations take from the world and what
they give back. The wealthier nations
have taken a lot and the time has now
come to give.”
While the data is dominated by the decline of wildlife populations around the world, the index showed that some species can recover with conservation efforts. The blacktail reef shark in Australia and Nepalese tiger populations have both shown signs of recovery. ZSL research associate Louise McRae, who has helped compile the LPI for the last 14 years, said:
“Whilst we are giving a very depressing
statistic, all hope is not lost. We can
actually help populations recover. I
feel frustrated by having to give a stark
and desperate message but I think
there’s a positive side to it as well.”
A separate study released today by Newcastle University and BirdLife International says that at least 28 bird and mammal extinctions have been prevented by conservation efforts since the UN Convention on Biological Diversity came into force in 1993.
• • • • • • • •
Our little Garden Atrium community is built on what was a small, dead farm that was devoid of any animal life or birdlife. By simply not using toxic chemicals, adding plants that are native to the region, and creating a small pond that enables particulates in rainwater to settle, before discharging the water into neighboring waterways, we now have the vitality of healthy plant, animal and bird life. We enjoy greater beauty without grass-cutting drudgery.
And, as the report suggests, the speed with which the transformation has happened is truly amazing.
Finally, comments from D, the entity by wife channels …
“It is the responsibility of each inhabitant of Planet Earth to do something to help other creatures inhabiting the planet.
“It can be as small as something on a balcony of an apartment or as large as a city park. Participate by planting trees and shrubs in your yard if you have one or helping in public spaces. Plant flowers for the pollinators. Plant trees and bushes for all animals, including humans. Become more aware of the support you can give specifically in public trusts, such as nature conservancies.
“The waterways need protecting, too. Water is life. Restoring wetlands or just picking up garbage at a beach can all help. The other thing you can do is to donate money to the larger organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund or local land trusts; most are struggling.
“The issue can sometimes feel very large. But even the smallest amount of attention can make a big difference for the creatures that inhabit the earth with humans.”
I often wonder what “little old me” can possibly do to have a positive impact on something the size of our planet. But the amazing thing about nature is that it will rejuvenate – and with great speed – if simply given the opportunity. The question I ask you to ask yourself is: “What is it I can do to leave our campsite better?” Then do it; it’s time for each of us to walk the talk.