Modern day life, aviation and other forms of industrial pollution have resulted in the destruction of 60% of the global animal populations over the last 50 years, according to scientists.

The huge loss of the planet’s wildlife is a tragedy in itself but also threatens the survival of civilization, say the world’s leading scientists. “We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff” 

The emergency that now threatens our civilization has ran out of control, with corporate profit system as the main culprit. The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by WWF and involving 59 scientists from across the globe.

It finds that the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else.

If there was a 60% decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.

This is far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sad though that is,” he said. “This is actually now jeopardizing the future of people. Nature is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is our life-support system.

“We are rapidly running out of time,” said Prof Johan Rockström, a global sustainability expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

“Only by addressing both ecosystems and climate do we stand a chance of safeguarding a stable planet for humanity’s future on Earth.”

The Living Planet Index, produced for WWF by the Zoological Society of London, uses data on 16,704 populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, representing more than 4,000 species, to track the decline of wildlife.

Between 1970 and 2014, the latest data available, populations fell by an average of 60%. Four years ago, the decline was 52%. The “shocking truth”, is that the wildlife crash is continuing unabated.

Wildlife and the ecosystems are vital to human life. Nature contributes to human wellbeing culturally and spiritually, as well as through the critical production of food, clean water, and energy, and through regulating the Earth’s climate, pollution, pollination and floods.

The biggest cause of wildlife losses is the destruction of natural habitats, much of it to create farmland and so-called  tourist development. Almost 75% of all land on Earth is now significantly affected by human activities.

Chemical pollution is also significant: half the world’s killer whale populations are now doomed to die from PCB contamination. Global trade introduces invasive species and disease, with amphibians decimated by a fungal disease thought to be spread by the pet trade.

The worst affected region is South and Central America, which has seen an 89% drop in vertebrate populations, largely driven by the felling of vast areas of wildlife-rich forest. In the tropical rain forest, an area the size of Greater London is cleared every two months.

The habitats suffering the greatest damage are rivers and lakes, where wildlife populations have fallen 83%, due to the enormous thirst of agriculture and the large number of dams.

The world’s nations are working towards a crunch meeting of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020.

We can no longer ignore the impact of current unsustainable production models and wasteful lifestyles.

The Guardian / Crickey Conservation Society 2018.

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