More Than Half of the World's Wildlife Populations Depleted Since 1970: Report
Wed, April 21, 2021

More Than Half of the World's Wildlife Populations Depleted Since 1970: Report

Our natural resources are at constant risk of depletion, particularly the wildlife. Over the years, we have seen news on how millions of species are dying / Photo by: byrdyak via 123RF

 

Our natural resources are at constant risk of depletion, particularly the wildlife. Over the years, we have seen news on how millions of species are dying. The depletion of wildlife populations is mostly caused by human activities, including intensive harvesting of timber and wood, expansion of agricultural land, and overgrazing leading to forest loss and degradation. 

The Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) reported that the world's forest area decreased from 31.6 percent of the global land area to 30.6 percent between 1990 and 2015. The report also showed that between 2000 and 2010, there are around 13 million hectares of forests that were converted for other uses or lost through natural causes annually. As a result, natural habitats have been diminished, which means no more shelter for many species. 

In areas where humans have exploited natural resources or undergone encroaching development all met the same outcome: a deteriorating natural environment. Our planet has seen many species reduced drastically. Even the existing animals are in danger of becoming extinct. Reports showed that the biggest declines in wildlife numbers are happening in low-income, developing nations.

Experts have been sounding the alarm that we are already approaching a new mass extinction. Peter Ward, an American paleontologist and professor at the University of Washington, Seattle, stated that what we are experiencing today is strikingly similar to the dinosaur-killing event of 60 million years ago when Earth was also extremely distressed by the sudden changes in the climate. 

Humanity Has Wiped Out 60 Percent of Animal Populations

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) reported that since 1500 A.D., there have been 849 species that have disappeared in the wild. Unfortunately, this figure greatly underestimated the thousands of species that disappeared before scientists were able to identify them. This means that there were more species that were for good without first being discovered. Worse, around 20 percent and 33 percent of mammals and amphibians are in danger of becoming extinct in the next several decades, respectively.

Recently, an alarming report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), an international non-governmental organization that aims to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth, showed that 60 percent of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles have drastically decreased within four decades. The Living Planet Index tracked the decline of wildlife by analyzing the data of 16,704 populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians, representing more than 4,000 species. 

According to Time, an American weekly news magazine and website, the report showed that current rates of species extinction are now 100 to 1,000 times higher than before drastic human activities became a factor. The reductions in the numbers are believed to be directly linked not only to human activity but also to pollution, the climate crisis, and overexploitation of wildlife. The report also emphasized the fact that the massacre of wildlife across the world is destroying the web of life that had been billions of years in the making. If the current trends continue, this could impact not only the world’s ecosystems but also the human populations that depend on these resources for their livelihoods. 

Bob Watson, one of the world’s most eminent environmental scientists and currently chair of the intergovernmental panel on biodiversity, stated that the destruction of nature is as dangerous as the climate crisis / Photo by: fazon via 123RF

 

Coral reefs, mangroves, and wetlands are being depleted at a faster rate. Reports showed that our planet has lost about half of its shallow-water corals in the last 30 years. Meanwhile, 20 percent of the Amazon—the lungs of the planet—has disappeared in the last five decades. According to The Guardian, an online British site, the second largest cause of wildlife losses next to the destruction of natural habitats is killing for food. About 300 mammal species are being eaten into extinction while more than half of the marine species are being industrially fished. 

Bob Watson, one of the world’s most eminent environmental scientists and currently chair of the intergovernmental panel on biodiversity, stated that the destruction of nature is as dangerous as the climate crisis. “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,” he said. “The Living Planet report clearly demonstrates that human activities are destroying nature at an unacceptable rate, threatening the wellbeing of current and future generations.” 

Capitalism, particularly in its neoliberal form, has played a crucial role in exploding human consumption, leading to the declining wildlife population / Photo by: estherpoon via 123RF

 

Capitalism Not Humanity

While the WWF emphasized the dwindling wildlife population and the key problems such as culture, economics, and unsustainable production, it fails to recognize an important factor: capitalism. Capitalism, particularly in its neoliberal form, has played a crucial role in exploding human consumption, leading to the declining wildlife population. This ideology was founded on a principle of endless economic growth driven by consumption. 

According to Phys.org, an internet news portal that provides the latest news on science, the largest single contributor to wildlife loss is industrial agriculture, a sector-shaped by capitalism. This is where great losses of forests come from. As our world gets more demanding due to capitalism, our planet is suffering the most.

Reports showed that capitalism not only affects the wildlife population but also our entire ecosystem. A 2010 UN study revealed that the world’s 3,000 largest companies cause around $2.2 trillion of environmental damage every year. The problem with not recognizing that capitalism is the reason behind the dwindling wildlife population is that the blame is shifted onto individual lifestyle choices. Meanwhile, the larger and more powerful systems and institutions are let off the hook.

Thus, addressing the most damaging environmental issues means that we have to look at the root cause, which is capitalism. We should hold these corporations accountable.