Our forest, rivers and oceans are paying for our consumption driven society and with those environments the species that make them their homes suffer too. As our human family continues to grow and our consumption rates increase we find ourselves placing an unsustainable strain on our planet. Experts calculate we are losing anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 species to extinction a year. We are cutting down our forests faster than we can regrow them and stripping our oceans of fish so quickly they have no chance to repopulate. Scientists estimate that we will have fished out most edible fish species inside the next 40 years. In 2009 we used 40% more resources than the planet could regenerate annually, meaning that we required 1.4 planets to sustain those consumption demands. If we do not make changes it is clear that all tropical rainforests outside of protected areas will be eliminated due to deforestation by 2100. In Madagascar less than 10% of original rainforests remain and still they are being cut down and burned.
A mere 3% of the land on our planet has been set aside as Nature Reserves or Protected Areas.
“Ultimately our ability to survive on this planet depends on a series of ecological processes which provide us with food, with water, with air. Everything you can name as a life necessity comes out of ecosystems and ecosystems are based on biodiversity.”
Dr. Robert Scholes
C.S.I.R. Natural Resources and Environment
Worldwide studies have suggested that from 1970 to 2008 vertebrate numbers have declined by one third on average. Northern Bluefin Tuna numbers have experienced an almost complete collapse since 1971 and are now in danger of extinction due primarily to commercial fishing. Since 1972 the Wandering Albatross population has been steadily declining this is thought to be caused by incidental mortality from entanglement with long line fishing equipment.
Overall studies show that from 1970 to 2008 tropical biodiversity has declined by over 60%, for the same period global terrestrial biodiversity has declined by 25%, marine biodiversity declined by 20%, and freshwater biodiversity declined by 37%.
We can be certain that global biodiversity is in serious decline.
Human Demand is Creating the Decline
Biocapacity quantifies nature’s capacity to produce renewable resources, provide land for built up areas and provide waste absorption areas. The ecological footprint represents human activities use of biologically productive land and fishing grounds. Both biocapacity and the ecological footprint are measured in global hectares; this represents a biologically productive hectare with global average productivity.
In 2008 the Earth’s biocapacity was equivalent to 1.8 global hectares per person, while the ecological footprint of humanity was equivalent to 2.7 global hectares per person. This ecological overshoot means that the renewable resources consumed by our species in one year require 1.5 years for the Earth to regenerate. Our annual human demand on the planet has exceeded the biocapacity since the 1970′s. This has been driven in part by high consumption rates that are increasing more rapidly than improvements in efficiency.
“Till we wake up to the fact that we have to live in biodiversity based economies, we will not be able to maintain a liveable planet for the human species.”
Dr. Vandana Shiva
Biodiversity is crucial to the continued health and well being of our population as a whole, understanding the interconnectedness of biodiversity, ecosystems and people is fundamental to reversing the trends of decline we are currently experiencing.