According to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Living Planet Report for 2020, nearly 21,000 monitored populations of mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds – which make up around 4,400 species – have declined an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016. Even more staggering, species living in Latin America and the Caribbean have been disproportionately impacted and have declined, on average, by up to 94%.
The WWF releases this same report every two years to show us how severe climate change is actually impacting the planet and its billions of inhabitants. The report also reveals how these species specific ecosystems have dwindled within past decades, and shows a clear increase in damage that keeps getting progressively worse every year.
WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts recently made a statement condemning humanity for destroying species populations out of greed and economic gain. He also claims that the US’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic goes to show how irresponsible our world leaders can actually be when it comes to major issues impacting the entire planet.
“We cannot shield humanity from the impacts of environmental destruction. It’s time to restore our broken relationship with nature for the benefit of species and people alike.”
The report directly blames humans as the sole reason for this massive decline and “dire state” the planet is now in. Generally speaking, it claims that the exponential growth of “human consumption, population, global trade and urbanization over the last 50 years” it’s what’s led to the unprecedented and monumental decline of natural resources and habitats.
The destruction of rainforest habitats for farming has been a key factor in the loss of biodiversity and overall population growth for certain species. The amount of land that’s been stripped from natural habitats in Europe, Central Asia, North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean accounts for 80% of total global deforestation. Land loss in those areas has also led to a 70% decrease in terrestrial biodiversity and 50% decrease in freshwater species biodiversity. The systems now implemented in these cleared out plots of land emit 29% of global greenhouse gases as well.
“Climate change creates an ongoing destructive feedback loop in which the worsening climate leads to the decline in genetic variability, species richness and populations, and that loss of biodiversity adversely affects the climate.”
The report states that every single part of the ocean is affected by overfishing pollution and littering. Humans depend on certain marine ecosystems for food and other resources, however, the process of acquiring these resources is doing more damage than good. The emphasis on human health and the planet’s health has also never been more connected.
The Covid-19 pandemic and multiple wildfires, and other natural disasters that seem to be occurring constantly at this point, prove that humans and nature are greatly connected and need one another to survive. Within the past 50 years, the child mortality and poverty rate has decreased while life expectancy has increased, however, the irreversible damage being done to the planet could completely undo that due to a lack of resources and healthy living environments.
Within the past 80 years, the rate of infectious diseases emerging has increased “dramatically,” and nearly half of the diseases that have surfaced did so as a direct result of land destruction/change brought on by the food industry. One study reported that diseases originating in animals are responsible for 3 million deaths every year; the Covid-19 pandemic being the most severe example of this.
So what’s the solution? For those of us at home, we can continue to practice being green everyday, however, the real change needs to come from our world leaders and the multiple industries that exist and actively destroy the environment for financial gain. It’s up to us at home to stay educated and informed, and to vote in all elections for candidates who support improving the planet.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.