Humanity is rapidly destroying the natural world upon which our prosperity — and ultimately our survival — depends, according to a landmark UN assessment of the state of Nature released Monday.
Changes wrought by decades of pillaging and poisoning forests, oceans, soil and air threaten society “at least as much as climate change,” said Robert Watson, who chaired the 132-nation meeting that validated a Summary for Policymakers forged by 450 experts.
One million animal and plant species face extinction, many within decades, they reported.
Alarmingly, the accelerating pace at which unique life-forms are disappearing — already tens to hundreds of times faster than during the last ten million years — could tip Earth into the first mass extinction since non-avian dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago.
In the short term, humans are not at risk, said Josef Settele, a professor at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany and co-chair of the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
“In the longer term, it is hard to say,” he told AFP. “If humans do go extinct, Nature will find its way, it always does.”
Halting and reversing these dire trends will require “transformative change” — a sweeping overhaul of the way we produce and consume almost everything, especially food, the report concluded.
“We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality-of-life worldwide,” said Watson.
“By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganisation.”
The pushback from “vested interests,” he added, is likely to be fierce.
Drawing from 15,000 sources and an underlying 1,800-page report, theexecutive summary details how our species’ growing footprint and appetites have compromised the natural renewal of resources that sustain civilisation, starting with fresh water, breathable air, and productive soil.