“We have forgotten how to be a good guest, how to walk lightly on the earth as it’s other creatures do” Barbara Ward
There is no denying that humans have been destroying the environment of their own home planet. But the staggering data of the rate at which we have done the impairment to our wildlife; revealed by WWF and ZLS have put everyone in trepidation. In the last 50 years, the wildlife population have plunged to approximately 70%.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
World Wildlife Fund is an organisation that takes report for falling wildlife population every two years. The report shows the percentage of fall in comparison to 1970, revealing the health condition of the earth’s ecosystem.
The research for this report is done by 134 experts all around the world. This is one of the most “Comprehensive Assessment of Global Biodiversity“. The Living Planet Reports taken by WWF and Zoological Society of London (ZLS); disclosed that in 2020 when compared to 1970 wildlife population have fallen by 68%. Just 2 years back, the percentage was 60%.
Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International said, “The Living Planet Report 2020 underlines how humanity’s increasing destruction of nature is having catastrophic impacts not only on wildlife but also on human health and all aspects of our lives.”
Latin America & Caribbean’s 94% plunge shows the most alarming decline of wildlife population; mainly affecting reptiles, fishes, amphibians and vertebrates in the area.
- Africa’s wildlife population dropped by 65%
- Asia’s wildlife population fell by 45%
- Europe and central Asia witnessed a fall of 24%
- North America with a decline of 35% in the wildlife population.
What does the plunge in wildlife population mean?
The report recorded that population of 21,000 birds, amphibians, mammals, reptiles and fishes have fallen by 68%.
Humans have already altered 75% of the Earth’s ice-free land, only 25% remaining is considered to be in wilderness. Both, the altered and unaltered land is home to various types of animals, reptiles, insects, amphibians, birds, and vertebrates which is a very crucial part of the earth’s ecosystem.
According to WWF, till now, 1.9 million square kilometres of land have been lost since 2000, 1 million wildlife species are on a brink of extinction, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year, $1 trillion economic loss has been caused due to habitat changes.
How badly is the fall affecting the Earth
The data are fretting and shows that for very long we have talked about the decreasing wild population but necessary actions are yet not taken. Since 1700, 90% of the planet’s wetland have lost.
The left 25% of land having no human imprints is mostly constricted to Russia, Canada, Brazil and Australia, where the decline in population is agonizing. The report shows that no part of the ocean is completely unaffected by the pollution and overfishing did by us.
California’s Wildfire, droughts in Australia are clear sign that nature is giving, saying it cannot bear any more damage. Human activities are already threatening 1 million species with extinction. The unprecedented rate at which we are destroying the planet can actually lead us to Holocene extinction, i.e. 6th mass extinction.
“We are wiping wildlife from the face of the planet, burning our forests, polluting and over-fishing our seas and destroying wild areas. We are wrecking our world – the one place we call home – risking our health, security and survival here on Earth” says Tanya Steele, Chief executive, WWF.
The global pandemic
The coronavirus triggered global pandemic is exhibiting how wildlife and humans are intertwined. In the past 80 years, almost half of the diseases have originated from animals, and have caused 3 million deaths globally.
Carter Roberts, WWF CEO says that as humans are imprinting more and more into the wilderness we are devasting the wildlife population. By doing this we are opening gates for catastrophic results like aggravated climate changes and risk of more zoonotic diseases like the SARS-CoV-2.
The main culprit behind the falling wildlife population is too much human intervention in the wilderness. Overconsumption, overpopulation, urbanization and ever-increasing demands with limited resources. About 56% of these limited natural resources that we use have a devastating effect on the ecosystem and biodiversity.
Due to the global pandemic, there is a 10% reduction in the demands. But experts believe that this change would not last long, soon after life comes back on track in the post-pandemic time, demand will again increase. A major structural change is needed to maintain this change.
Our own greed and narcissistic approach towards earth have brought us on this brink; just a few steps forwards and there will be no return.
The silver lining for a better earth
Even though the data is painting an agonizing picture of the future, there is also a silver lining. The report shows that earth can still recover from the damage we have done to it; the population of reef sharks in Australia and Nepalese tigers are recovering.
A study by Newcastle University and Birdlife International shows that after 1993’s the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, 28 species of mammals and birds have been saved from the brink of extinction.
Thomas Pienkowski and Sarah Whitmee University of Oxford says; “How humanity chooses to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it addresses the looming threats from global environmental change, will influence the health of generations to come.”