2018 Living Planet Report – The End of Civilisation

The recently published World Wildlife Fund 2018 Living Planet Report reveals that we have killed 60% of all wildlife in the last 40 years. I would remind readers that as recently as 200,000 years ago we would have considered our ancestors wildlife by any of today’s definitions. We have come to be by the same evolutionary process as all other species. Had another species done to our ancestors, 200,000 years ago, what we are doing to other species today, modern humans would not even be history – we simply would never have been at all.

Image of the very last male northern white rhino dying - 2018 living planet reportFinal moments of world’s last male northern white rhino called Sudan. Wildlife ranger Joseph Wachira comforts Sudan in his last moments alive (Picture: Ami Vitale/National Geographic Creative)

We are trashing the Earth’s web of life and killing the only other life forms we know of in the universe. The consequence of this is the eventual end of civilisation as we know it. Nature will have the last say and my guess is that humans will not be part of it.

A separate study published in the journal of the US National Academy of Science in July 2017 calls the massive loss of wildlife a “biological annihilation” that represents a “frightening assault on the foundations of human civilisation”. Prof Gerardo Ceballos, of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, who led the work, said: “The situation has become so bad it would not be ethical not to use strong language.”

The WWF 2018 Living Planet Report states that this is not a doom and gloom story, but reality. On a positive note it points out that we also possess the knowledge to redefine our relationship with the planet. We are at the crossroads with only a decade left to take drastic and immediate action.

It is extremely important to understand that we not only need to protect the other amazing species that call earth their home. Our wellbeing depends on a healthy planet. “There cannot be a healthy, happy and prosperous future for people on a planet with a destabilised climate, depleted oceans and rivers, degraded land and empty forests, all stripped of biodiversity”.

Image of forest fires, parched land and hurricanes - 2018 living planet reportThe potential future effects of global climate change include more frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought in some regions and an increase in the number, duration and intensity of tropical storms. Credit: Left – Mellimage/Shutterstock.com, center – Montree Hanlue/Shutterstock.com

The transition to a net carbon neutral society, where we are putting in more than we are taking out, needs to start happening right now. We need to shift to green energy and environmentally friendly food production. In parallel we must urgently restore wild lands and oceans to the natural state that will sustain life on Earth. There is no negotiation to be had with Nature. Nature does not need people – it is people who need nature. If ever humanity was facing a do or die choice, this is it.

We cannot rely on political and business elites or man-run religion to get us out of this almighty mess. For millennia humanity has followed their lead and where has it got us. It is the very attitudes and values that these vested interest groups and organisations foster and promote that have deliberately brought the planet to the edge. We need to come of age – no more spin, lies, half-truths and fairy tales please.

The WWF 2018 Living Planet Report values the services that Earth provides humans at USD125 trillion a year – I was very disappointed at this approach – it seems that WWF, one of the world’s foremost eNGOs, has been contaminated by business lobbies. Giving a monetary value to the life that sustains you is similar to business giving a monetary value to your parents for birthing services in the context of providing employees or followers of religion giving a Euro value to God for creation services. This is so wrong. It is the economy that is at the service of life and not the other way around.

The 2018 Living Planet Report rightly points out that the main drivers of habitat and biodiversity decline are global warming, killing of other species, agriculture and destruction of wild habitats. Only around one quarter of land on Earth is free of human activity and this will become one tenth by 2050. The ongoing degradation of nature has multiple impacts on species and ecosystems. Two recently published studies have focussed on the collapse of insect populations and the loss of soil biodiversity because of monoculture crops such as oil palm, soybeans, corn, wheat and rice. A huge percentage of these crops go to feed the 70 billion farm animals reared annually to satisfy our insatiable and destructive addiction to meat. Whilst the increasing human population is a problem, I think it is a manageable one. If we respect life, we need to respect that of our own species and we will find a way. The far bigger issues are human greed, the lack of any moral or ethical compass and our runaway production, consumption and wasteful habits.

Image of a dying polar bear in an iceless landscape - 2018 living planet reportA dying polar bear in an iceless landscape

WWF 2018 Living Planet Report is calling for “a new global deal for nature and people. Decision makers at every level need to make the right political, financial, and consumer, choices to achieve the vision that humanity and nature thrive in harmony on our only planet. This vison is possible with strong leadership from us all. The 2018 Living Planet Report also issues this stark warning “We are the first generation that has a clear picture of the importance of nature and the grave situation we are facing. We may be the last that can take action to reverse this trend. We all have a role to play to reversing the loss of nature – but time is running out. Between now and 2020 we have a unique opportunity to influence the shape of global agreements and targets on biodiversity, climate and sustainable development – for a positive future for nature and people.”

This is simple enough to understand. The 2018 Living Planet Report is screaming the obvious from the rooftops. Now, do you really trust politicians to do the right thing? Do you see any religious leader taking a stand to save God’s creation? Hypocrisy, greed and power mongering reign supreme although the solutions to this tragic situation are quite obvious. The economy of any country can be changed from one that viciously attacks nature to one that supports it by financing the transition with green quantitative easing (creation of new money by central banks). Let’s set the green goals and get on with it urgently, ensuring we support all who need our help. This is totally doable.

The reason why this is not happening is out in the open. It is the lack of political will. Unbelievable. Our elected representatives are the problem.

The words of Greta Thunberg, a fifteen year old girl from Sweden who addressed the politicians at the UN Climate Change conference at Katowice, Poland last December, speak volumes.

“We have not come here to beg the world leaders to care about our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.” and “You are not mature enough to tell it like is. Even that burden you leave to us children. You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”

Image of tornado, pollution and melting ice - 2018 living planet report

What is global warming?

Global warming refers to the long-term warming of the planet since the pre-Industrial Revolution levels, the average surface temperature has gone up by about 1 °C (about 2 °F) at around 0.15 °C per decade. This compared to 0.01°C per decade between 1750 and 1880.

What is climate change?

Climate change refers to a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere. These phenomena include the increased temperature trends described by global warming, but also encompass changes such as sea level rise; ice mass loss in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers worldwide; shifts in flower/plant blooming; and extreme weather events.

Article published in the Sunday Times of Malta, 17th February 2019