Wildlife is indeed far much more than a safari or an ‘exotic’ ornament: as many as four billion people –or an entire half the whole world’s population– rely on wild species for income, food, medicines and wood fuel for cooking.
A million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, we have lost half of the world’s corals and lose forest areas the size of 27 football fields every minute, finds WWF report. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS
In spite of that, one million species of plants and animals are already facing extinction due to the voracious profit-making, over-exploitative, illegal trade and the relentless depletion of the variety of life on Planet Earth.
In fact, billions of people, both in developed and developing nations, benefit daily from the use of wild species for food, energy, materials, medicine, recreation, and many other vital contributions to human well-being, as duly reports the UN on the occasion of the 2023 World Wildlife Day (3 March).
Much so that 50,000 wild species meet the needs of billions worldwide. And 1 in 5 people around the world rely on wild species for income and food, while 2.4 billion people depend on wood fuel for cooking.
The world’s major multilateral body reminds us of the “urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime and human-induced reduction of species, which have wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.”
Variety of life, lost at an “alarming rate”
A world organisation leading in wildlife conservation and protection of endangered species: the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warns that unfortunately, we’re losing biodiversity — the rich variety of life on Earth — at an “alarming rate.”
“We’ve seen a 69% average decline in the number of birds, amphibians, mammals, fish, and reptiles since 1970, according to the 2022 Living Planet Report.
“A million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, we have lost half of the world’s corals and lose forest areas the size of 27 football fields every minute.”
WWF highlights the following findings, among several others:
- 69% average decline in wildlife populations since 1970,
- Wildlife populations in Latin America and the Caribbean plummeting at a staggering rate of 94%,
- Freshwater species populations have suffered an 83% fall.
The 2022 Living Planet Report points out some of the major causes leading to the shocking loss of the world’s biodiversity.
“The biggest driver of biodiversity loss is the way in which people use the land and sea. How we grow food, harvest materials such as wood or minerals from the ocean floor, and build our towns and cities all have an impact on the natural environment and the biodiversity that lives there.”
Food systems: the biggest cause of Nature loss: according to findings provided by WWF, food production has caused 70% of biodiversity loss on land and 50% in freshwater. It is also responsible for around 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
As a global population, what we’re eating and how we’re producing it right now is good for neither us nor the planet. While over 800 million people are going hungry, over two billion of those who do have enough food are obese or overweight.
The WWF provided findings also indicate that meat tends to have the highest environmental impact, partially because livestock produce methane emissions through their digestive process – something called enteric fermentation – but also because most meat comes from livestock fed with crops.
And that around 850 million people around the world are thought to rely on coral reefs for their food and livelihoods.
WWF’ report also refers to the invasive non-native species: Invasive non-native species are those that arrive in places where they historically didn’t live and out-compete local biodiversity for resources such as sunlight and water. This causes the native species to die out, causing a shift in the makeup of the natural ecosystem.
Future depends on reversing the loss of Nature
“The world is waking up to the fact that our future depends on reversing the loss of nature just as much as it depends on addressing climate change. And you can’t solve one without solving the other,” said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF-US.
“These plunges in wildlife populations can have dire consequences for our health and economies,”says Rebecca Shaw, global chief scientist of WWF.
“When wildlife populations decline to this degree, it means dramatic changes are impacting their habitats and the food and water they rely on. We should care deeply about the unravelling of natural systems because these same resources sustain human life.”
In view of all the above, the causes of the fast destruction of the variety of life have been scientifically identified as well as the dangerous consequences. However, the dominant private business continues to see more profits in destroying than in saving.
Baher Kamal, a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, is an Egyptian-born, Spanish national, secular journalist, with over 45 years of professional experience — from reporter to special envoy to chief editor of national dailies and an international news agency. Baher is former Senior Advisor to the Director General of the international news agency IPS (Inter Press Service) and he also contributed to prestigious magazines such as TRANSCEND Media Service, GEO, Muy Interesante, and Natura, Spain. He is also publisher and editor of Human Wrongs Watch.