The Rapid Decline Of The Natural World Is A Crisis Even Bigger Than Climate Change

| March 17, 2019 | Leave a Comment

Young mangrove saplings growing in Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. by Sigit Deni Sasmito/CIFOR

Item Link: Access the Resource

Media Type: Article - Recent

Date of Publication: March 15, 2019

Author(s): John Vidal

Newspaper: Huffington Post

Categories: , , ,

A three-year UN-backed study from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has grim implications for the future of humanity.


Nature is in free fall and the planet’s support systems are so stretched that we face widespread species extinctions and mass human migration unless urgent action is taken. That’s the warning hundreds of scientists are preparing to give, and it’s stark.

The last year has seen a slew of brutal and terrifying warnings about the threat climate change poses to life. Far less talked about but just as dangerous, if not more so, is the rapid decline of the natural world. The felling of forests, the over-exploitation of seas and soils, and the pollution of air and water are together driving the living world to the brink, according to a huge three-year, U.N.-backed landmark study to be published in May.

The study from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), expected to run to over 8,000 pages, is being compiled by more than 500 experts in 50 countries. It is the greatest attempt yet to assess the state of life on Earth and will show how tens of thousands of species are at high risk of extinction, how countries are using nature at a rate that far exceeds its ability to renew itself, and how nature’s ability to contribute food and fresh water to a growing human population is being compromised in every region on earth.

Read the full story here.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedIn
The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • MAHB_SC

    Hi Ronnie,
    The MAHB has received your recent comments and has approved them all. We appreciate the perspectives you bring to the MAHB community. If you are experiencing issues with your comments, please reach out me at brittany@mahbonline.org

  • Ronnie Hawkins

    Interesting how this article, like most of the stuff that ultimately comes out of the UN’s intergovernmental panels, dire as its predictions are, is still soft-balling the real situation. It mentions the study by Yinon Bar-On, Rob Phillips, and Ron Milo, who attempted an estimate of “the overall biomass composition of the biosphere” based on an analysis of hundreds of studies (2018), but it shows a most misleading graphic that conveys how small the human biomass is compared to the TOTAL biomass of the Earth (of course there’s a huge amount in plants!). According to some of their OTHER calculations, the total biomass of ALL living WILD MAMMALS (terrestrial and marine) today is, in round numbers, about 0.007 gigatons of carbon (GtC), while that of ALL HUMANS on the planet is .06 GtC, and that of ALL LIVESTOCK (dominated by cattle and pigs) is 0.10 GtC; this means that the total biomass of all the wild mammals on Earth ONLY ABOUT 4% of the total biomass of humans plus their livestock. Moreover, the biomass of WILD LAND MAMMALS is calculated to be about 0.003 GtC today, already an amount that is 85% lower than the estimate of terrestrial mammalian biomass prior to the Quarternary Megafauna Extinction that occurred in the Pleistocene and is thought to be largely the result of human hunting. Using this figure of 0.003 GtC, the biomass of ALL WILD LAND MAMMALS taken together is equal to about 5% of the total biomass of humans, and can be seen to make up LESS THAN 2% of the biomass of us plus our livestock. The article also downplays the astounding loss of INSECT BIOMASS around the world, which has been found to be down by 80% or more in at least two recent studies.

    This situation is appalling, in several ways. It is appalling that our one species has been responsible for so much destruction of biospherical Life–shame, shame on us!!! And, it is appalling how little notice anyone seems to be taking. We have become so wrapped up in our own representations–our beliefs and expectations and socially constructed symbol-games like the current economic system–that collectively we pay virtually no attention to the systems of the planet that actually keep us alive. Exploring just how this phenomenon has come about and continues to be reinforced is a task for social psychology. But it shows a pitiful lack of reality-testing in what has become the dominant worldview of our species.

    And then the article cheerily announces that Africa’s population will add another 2.5 billion by 2050. How are all those additional people going to be fed, plus an additional billion or two from elsewhere if even smaller growth rates than the 3% or so of SubSaharan Africa (how could we as a species have let this happen?) are still on the positive side–how indeed, with all the damage we’ve already done to natural systems and so many nonhuman forms of life just to get to 2019? Shame, shame on all the academics in all the nations who have shied away from honest discussions about population growth over all the decades that have passed since Paul Ehrlich talked about it with Johnny Carson! I thought responsible adults would deal with the obviously unsustainable trajectory–let’s see, was that 60 years ago now? We need to get birth control education and the means for accomplishing it out to every woman on the planet, and fast–so much time has been wasted in denial! Every woman needs to know, quite honestly, that in view of the collapsing biosphere, each new human life brought into the world is going to face a very uncertain future. Pretending that every person on the planet, including all these added ones, will be brought into the brave new world fantasized by the committees that came up with the “sustainable development goals” is to perpetuate a cruel hoax while the Earth defaunates and burns. Do we really think we can eliminate poverty and hunger by 2050 while continuing on along this planet-crashing trajectory?

    I have been glad to hear the call from some brave folks who are talking about getting us off of meat, and yes, I think we are going to have to abolish the livestock industry around the world (sorry boys–go get yourself another line of work–and preferably one that doesn’t abuse animals while you’re at it, we’d ALL be happier), since it makes absolutely no sense for us human primates to be eating at the top trophic level when there isn’t going to be enough plant food to go around in a few more years. Moreover, we humans–all of us together–are somehow going to have to wean the rising generation of Africans off of “bushmeat” and onto the products of some kind of more efficient agriculture before every last animal on the continent is consumed–or sold to the highest bidder among urban fat-cats who think it gives them “prestige.” And please, we need to grow up and rein in what we call “DEMAND”–what the heck IS that, anyway? What kind of brainwashing have we subjected ourselves to, that we can read “Soaring demand for durians in China is being blamed for a new wave of deforestation in Malaysia” and accept it as something that educated and supposedly ethical adults of our species will tolerate? If the current economic game promotes it, we need to change the game. And we need to call it out for being a game–it’s made up of “nothing” at the base but concepts and symbols, and has no anchoring in the ontologically real world at all–except sucking it dry of everything that gets lumped under that Life-erasing term “resources.” People who care about Life on Earth are going to have to start saying NO to the expected escalation of destruction that the great mass of humanity is sleepwalking toward on all of these fronts. Let’s hear it for the Extinction Rebellion!