Fast is not always good. Species are becoming extinct at the fastest rate known in geological history, and most of these extinctions are tied to human activity. This year is the UN Year of Biodiversity and it seems as if in the blink of an eye, we are already half-way through it. This was a year that many of us had long looked forward to, perhaps with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.
This was the year we had set a collective alarm clock as the deadline to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of loss of biodiversity. Now it is ringing rather loudly. All assessments of progress indicate that we are far from reaching the goals we set in 2002.
UNEP’s most recent report assessing biodiversity on Earth warns that a massive further loss of biodiversity is increasingly likely, and with it, a severe reduction of many essential services to society as “tipping points” are approached. That could mean terrifying scenarios – such as the dieback of large areas of the Amazon forest with consequences for the global climate, regional rainfall and widespread species extinctions. It may mean multiple collapses of coral reef ecosystems, due to a combination of ocean acidification, warmer waters and overfishing.
Rising global populations, a demand for more resources, finite oil supplies, increasing globalisation and massive species extinctions, all define an era that could be described as both a crisis and a wake-up call.