World Wildlife Fund (WWF) published a report in 2006 that documented the plunder of natural resources by human activity and warned that the globe itself could be outstripped in its capacity to support life, rendering the earth extinct in under 50 years.
Based on scientific data collected from across the globe, it revealed that more than a third of the natural world has been destroyed by human activity in just over the past three decades, because of, among others, increased emissions of green house gases into the ecosystem.
Unless consumption of natural resources was cut and the destruction of vital ecosystems was stopped, human life and that of thousands of other animals and plants would not be sustainable hence the suggestion that the earth itself could be extinct by 2050. In short, the demise of biodiversity will be the death of life on earth, as we know it.
Two years after the report, it is increasingly evident that that the world is already facing crunch time, with massive global food shortages, a biting fuel crisis, depleted plant species and increased threats of extinction to lower animal species.
But relieving pressure on the environment would mean painful concessions in energy consumption, addressing climate change and global warming issues more honestly, involvement in sustainable practices to ensure global nature balance and taking proactive action on protection of the earth’s resources.
This week, two news items may have passed unnoticed save for the gravity of their content. A report in LiveScience detailed top 10 new species out of the thousands that were discovered in 2007 to be existing on earth. Another report by Reuters gave a damning overview of white rhinos that could suffer extinction from the face of the earth.
In 2006, the number of threatened animal and plant species had far exceeded 16,000 for the first time in history. Yet during last year, the UN Global Environmental Output report warned that humanity’s very survival was at risk due to the speed of depletion of earth’s resources.
Found to be under a REAL threat of extinction were 30% of amphibians, 23% of mammals and 12% of birds, while one in ten of the world’s major rivers was found to run dry every year before it reached the sea, the report said.
In 2002 when the WWF report was written, USA’s consumption ‘footprint’ was 12.2 ha (hectares) per head of population compared to the UK’s 6.29 ha, while Western Europe’s as a whole stood at 6.28 ha. In contrast, Africa, arguably the Dark Continent, was found to be the most sustainable continental land mass with Burundi, a tiny east African nation, consuming the least resources in the world at just half an acre.
It was also found that an average US resident consumed almost double the resources as that of a UK citizen and more than 24 times that of some Africans. The United States placed the greatest pressure on the environment, with its carbon dioxide emissions and over-consumption of all products and services.
The UN audit found that world’s population had grown by 34% to 6.7 billion in 20 years while 73,000km2 of forest is lost across the world each year. But more intriguing was the fact that 60% of the world’s major rivers have so far been dammed or diverted factoring in the 50% decline in freshwater fish populations.
Image Courtesy: Akuppa at Flickr under a Creative Commons license