Today is World Environment Day, and what is supposed to be a day for all of us to celebrate biodiversity. With one million species on the brink of extinction, there is, however, little to celebrate.
We are destroying the natural support systems on which we depend and putting enormous pressure on the planet that ecosystems are literally collapsing before our eyes. The world needs to act before it’s too late. Already clues that doomsday is near have been dropped. Think of the bushfires that ravaged Australia, the locust infestations that swarmed East Africa, and now the coronavirus global pandemic – all cries from Mother Earth that she is in serious danger.
“Nature is a finely tuned system where each species plays a role in the overall puzzle,” said Inger Andersen, environment chief of the United Nations. “And that’s why we’re calling for active engagement in conservation. If you will put nature under pressure it will not be as intact and it will send us a message.”
Today that message rang clear with news from across the globe of several biodiversity catastrophes – caused directly by mankind.
The world has hit another record high for heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Human activity has pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide to higher levels today than they have been at any other point in the last 23-million-years, potentially posing unprecedented disruptions in ecosystems across the planet. Carbon dioxide can stay in the air for centuries, which means we have committed the Earth to an enormous amount of warming for a very large time. “The rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels is relentless, and this means the costs of climate change to humans and the planet continue to rise relentlessly as well,” said Jonathan Overpeck, environment dean at the University of Michigan in the USA.
Shocking videos hit social media today as the Arctic rivers turned red after 20,000 tonnes of fuel leaked from a Russian power station. The videos revealed the horror unfolding in the Ambarnaya River near Norilsk in the Russian Arctic. There are fears the pollution could spread to the Great Arctic State Nature Reserve, the largest nature reserve in both Russia and the Eurasian continent, and damage fish stocks for generations to come. The scale of the spill has been compared to the Exxon Valdez accident near Alaska in 1989, in which an oil tanker spilled 10.8 million US gallons of crude oil into the ocean.
Today it was reported that a staggering 50 percent of coral reefs have died. Coral reefs – a biodiversity home to 25 percent of marine life and a vital source of food for millions of people – are fading quicker than scientists can report. The Reef is a barometer for the well-being of the whole planet and a true indicator of the current state of the world. Dying coral reefs equate to a dying planet.
A report released today detailed how nearly twelve million hectares of tree cover was been demolished, with Brazil, Congo, and Indonesia accounting for the largest shares. The report published by Global Forest Watch exposed the alarming rates at which our trees are being destroyed. According to the report, approximately 3.8 million hectares of tropical primary forest was last year destroyed – the equivalent of losing a football field’s worth every six seconds.
In more breaking news, some of the world’s most iconic animals including jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, sloths, river dolphins, macaws, parrots, and anacondas have died as fires continue to blaze across the Amazon. 1000 square kilometers of rainforest has been wiped out. The wildfires have been made worse by illegal logging, mining, and farming on protected lands. Once again, a manmade tragedy.
Loss of life continues to rise as newspapers today reported that over 6,42 million people have been infected with Covid-19 and close to 400 000 people have died. Loss of biodiversity increases the spread of infectious diseases. The epidemics of avian influenza with Ebola virus, malaria, and yes, COVID-19, have all been attributed to human impacts on biodiversity.
The EU’s flagship Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) was also in the news after it failed to reverse the long-standing decline in biodiversity caused by intensive farming.
The CAP has so far been insufficient to counteract declining biodiversity on farmlands caused by the use of chemicals and machinery, which is a major threat to the environment.
“Just today’s headlines from around the world are powerful reminders of just how serious the issue is. Biodiversity loss which is now happening up to ten thousand times faster than for millions of years before,” said David Barritt, executive director of NFA. “It’s estimated that we have lost 60% of all vertebrate wildlife populations since 1970. That’s more than half of all birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish gone in just 50 years. The opportunity to discuss matters has passed. The chance to crunch numbers has passed, too. Simply put. We don’t have time. We have to act now, or it will be too late.”