Edge of the Great Dying: Extinction crisis

At least a million forms of life hover at the edge of extinction as humans take over the world. Lead author Sandra Diaz on the shocking new 2019 UN report.

How did we get into the position of trying to persuade city-dwelling humans we still need nature? How can we describe the speed at which life is disappearing? All that is in a stunning new report from the United Nations. Dr. Sandra Diaz, lead author of this report taking the world by storm: IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. On-going human damage to other living things is as great a threat as climate change.

Sandra Diaz's scientific work is decorated with many awards. She's one of the most cited environmental scientists in the world, with over 300 peer-reviewed papers. She works from the University of Cordoba in Argentina.

Show by Radio Ecoshock, reposted under CC License. Episode details at https://www.ecoshock.org/2019/05/at-the-edge-of-the-great-dying.html

Stop Fossil Fuels researches and disseminates effective strategies and tactics to halt fossil fuel combustion as fast as possible. Learn more at https://stopfossilfuels.org

SHOW DETAILS
We should be shocked by this massive new report coming from The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the IPBES. Humans are driving out “unnecessary” life forms. But we can't know which species are “disposable” as we take over everything; don’t know what species critical to our survival might disappear. We barely even know what species are here. Consider the chain of bacteria necessary in our soil for food, and in our gut, to process food. We are not independent of the great chain of life.

“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people are our common heritage and humanity’s most important life-supporting ‘safety net’. But our safety net is stretched almost to breaking point,” said Díaz.

CRITICAL ROLE OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
“At least 25% of global land area is traditionally owned, managed, used or occupied by Indigenous Peoples. These areas include approximately 35% of the area that is formally protected, and approximately 35% of all remaining terrestrial areas with very low human intervention.

Nature managed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities is under increasing pressure but is generally declining less rapidly than in other lands—although 72% of local indicators developed and used by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities show the deterioration of nature that underpins local livelihoods.”

Even if we did not have greenhouse gas emissions, nature would still be severely threatened.

KEY STATISTICS
75%: terrestrial environment “severely altered” by human actions (marine environments 66%)

47%: reduction in global indicators of ecosystem extent and condition against their estimated natural baselines, with many continuing to decline by at least 4% per decade

28%: global land area held and/or managed by Indigenous Peoples, including 40+% of formally protected areas and 37% of all remaining terrestrial areas with very low human intervention

+/-60 billion: tons of renewable and non-renewable resources extracted globally each year, up nearly 100% since 1980

15%: increase in global per capita consumption since 1980

85+% of wetlands present in 1700 had been lost by 2000—loss of wetlands is currently three times faster in percentage terms than forest loss.

8 million: total estimated number of animal and plant species on Earth (including 5.5 million insect species)

Tens to hundreds of times: the extent to which the current rate of global species extinction is higher compared to average over the last 10 million years. The rate is accelerating.

Up to 1 million: species threatened with extinction, many within decades

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the political will to fight climate change has faded at the same time as it is getting worse for those feeling its effects. The same can be said about all the wonderful living species on this planet.

We may desire a planet entirely designed for us, every available space tailored to produce food for us, give us pleasure, or keep our mountains of waste out of sight. Nothing to annoy us like mosquitoes or poisonous snakes. That is a suicidal dream.

This is a summary for policy-makers. But in America, Brazil, and many other countries, there are no environmental policy-makers, but rather policy breakers. We are sliding backward rather than going forward.

I am worried the very frightening message in this big report may be lost in three things:

1. sheer size of the view and masses of numbers
2. bureaucratic and scientific language of delivery
3. seemingly obligatory optimism. Sandra Diaz says the battle is not lost. But we must say we are losing at this point.

Algae in a pond can expand until it runs out of oxygen and then crashes. Is there a crash point for humans and are we nearing it?

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