The Theft of Biodiversity

Picture: Independent Graphics

Species are dying out at a rate not seen since the demise of the dinosaurs, according to a report published today – and human behaviour is to blame. The Independent

Yes, the human footprint is to blame according to the Living Planet Index.  The report, produced by WWF, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network said that . . . while nature continues to decline, WWF research from 2006 concluded that we are now globally consuming about 25% more natural resources than the planet can replace in each year.

According to the report, wildlife and natural ecosystems are under pressure in every region of the world and the researchers identified five main threats. 

The five main threats are:

  1. Exploitation
  2. Pollution
  3. Habitat loss
  4. The spread of invasive species
  5. Climate change

And the perpetrator is:

  1. Humans.

Yes, the ultimate drivers of these threats are . . . you and me and our human demands on the biosphere. 

The huge loss of biodiversity, as explained in the report, holds implications on many levels and James Leape, WWF’s director general, sums it up perfectly.  The message is clear for all to see:

“No one can escape the impact of biodiversity loss because reduced global diversity translates quite clearly into fewer new medicines, greater vulnerability to natural disasters and greater effects from global warming.

I guess there’s nothing really new in this information . . . nothing that we aren’t already aware of to some level or other . . . but having it expertly acknowledged and explained will surely help us to face the challenge and reach beyond our superficial needs.

It would be to the benefit of all life on this bountiful planet if humans were to conserve the world’s biodiversity, not devour it. 

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About Earthie

This is just a place to store all my head thoughts in the unfortunate event that my mind may, one day, choose to erase the lot. Hopefully m
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19 Responses to The Theft of Biodiversity

  1. matt says:

    Loss of natural habitat, the pollution of it, the destruction of species populations is more worrying than anything else on earth happening right now in my opinion. The recent Chinese earthquake a mere blip compared … and god, I feel for those people, I really do.

  2. the Grit says:

    Hi matt,

    I find it interesting that all the things you mention are only large problems because of our over population of people. If we can solve that, then the rest will be much easier to handle.

    the Grit

  3. Pete Smith says:

    Grit, you’ve put your finger right on it. Think how much more pleasant life would be for us at lower population densities, and how much more freedom we could have.

  4. matt says:

    Yes, the graphic I saw showed the human population shooting up by 60% over the period that other groups of species have dramatically declined. The relationship, as EP points out, is very clear. Don’t see governments bringing in China-style population policies any time soon though. They’re too worried about funding pension policies! Shrinking working numbers don’t help that apparently.

  5. Pete Smith says:

    Governments lack the imagination and courage to break out of the cycle we’re locked in. Policies are based on stability and steady compound growth. Our economies have so many bits that rely on other bits staying within acceptable limits. If you make any big change too quickly, things will either grind to a halt or explode.

  6. matt says:

    Yes, economies are less resilient than ecologies.

    Thinking about some other points made above in the comments, I’m reminded of South Africa’s recent announcement to cull some elephants ‘as a last resort’ because their population is doing so well and threatening the needs / safety of the human one. So that’s alright then.

    Of course those within Europe can’t point the finger at others, for their ancestors did a thorough job of wiping out or marginalizing most large mammal species within their borders through hunting and habitat loss.

  7. Pete Smith says:

    Well, there are wider conservation issues in the SA game parks apart from human livelihoods. They have to consider the impact the growing elephant population has on other species as well. However hard they work, they can’t get round the fact that the game reserves are bounded, finite territories. Without intervention, the elephants would dominate and the other species would go under. Sounds familiar.

  8. earthpal says:

    Culling overlooks the process of natural selection. If nature chooses to make a species extinct, who are we to argue. It’s humans that have made the boundaries and limited the vast space that elephants need to migrate and move around in. And it’s humans that have created the need to make those boundaries.

    Re. the population issue, again, don’t you guys think it’s as much about human greed as it is about human over-population? As a general rule, all non-human species only take what they need to survive. Humans try to take it all.

    Maybe over-population wouldn’t be such a problem if we only took what we needed to survive. I know that could never happen now because we’d really have to get back to the most primitive basics and we can’t undo the advances we’ve made.

    No answers.

  9. Pete Smith says:

    Natural selection? You could argue there’s no such thing any more, given there’s no part of the earth’s surface that we haven’t shaped or influenced in some way. Or you could take the opposite view, that, like it or not, the human race is just as much part of the natural world as elephants or cockroaches. It’s all very difficult.

    “As a general rule, all non-human species only take what they need to survive.”

    It’s difficult for humans to be objective about other species’ feeding strategies because we only tend to notice them when they compete with us. Why for example do slugs and snails take a bite out of every lettuce in the row, when they could just eat a couple and leave me the rest? Why is it OK for top level carnivores like the big cats to gorge themselves so much they can’t move for days, when human gluttony is condemned?

    Perhaps what the human race needs is a big bully predator to keep us on our toes, a bit of competition. Although a large proportion of the human race is having enough trouble surviving at the moment as it is.

  10. matt says:

    Viruses keep us on our toes. MRSA for example, although this morning a company says they hope to have a vaccine on the market for this within 3 yrs. Also the odd earthquake or tsunami tries to pull human numbers back, but not for long. The ‘big bully predator’ is normally our fellow human beings, armed to the teeth and with ethnic hatred in their eyes.

    EP, less per capita is good, very good. But as you say, once opportunity for more is put in front of people who have the wealth to take it they do exactly that and consume beyond what’s necessary. Certainly the general population would think it nuts not to do so. How many electronic toys do your kids enjoy for example, all for pure entertainment value …

    India, China and Brazil are classic examples at the moment of societies going through the effects of massive wealth creation and the corresponding transformation of their environments. You can see these discussions at the Delhi Greens blog for example.

  11. Pete Smith says:

    “The ‘big bully predator’ is normally our fellow human beings”
    Yes, but not what I meant. That’s just intra-species aggression, all that alpha-male posturing you see on the wildlife programs on TV. We’ve been top dog, or ape, for so long we need to be put in our place, and not just by some random natural event like an earthquake or tsunami. That’s why I love that Arnie movie ‘Predator’, it says so much about us and our casual tourist violence towards ‘inferior’ species.

  12. earthpal says:

    Sorry I haven’t kept up with this thread. I will try to catch up.

    Pete, I’m laughing out loud at your slugs and lettuce comments.

    I think we are a part of the natural world along with other species but having no natural predator has made us arrogant.

    Matt you’re right. We might not have a natural predator but we are our own worst enemy.

    I know what you’re saying about the wealth and technology available to us. I’m not living a puritanical eco-lifestyle myself, that’s for sure. So it’s going to be very hard for anyone to adapt to a more basic lifestyle, but we might well have to one day. Pete’s latest two posts are very interesting.

  13. matt says:

    > Pete’s latest two posts are very interesting.

    What, the survivalists lot? Doom, gloom & boom. Hmmm, funny how God, anti govt attitudes and suspicion of big business mixes together to produce a survivalist mentality isn’t it. Think if I lived in the Mid-west I’d go potty too!

    I prefer to watch the programme tonight about the food that was eaten during WWII, incorporating rations and local delicacies. Yuk! I mean. really scary. 🙂

  14. Pete Smith says:

    I prefer ‘preparedness’ to ‘survivalism’, which has all the negative connotations you mention. Nothing wrong with having a few staple food items squirrled away in the larder against a rainy day, as anyone who experienced wartime rationing will tell you.
    Funny how people who advocate things like “Reduce, Reuse, recycle”, local food, reducing energy use, going off-grid, etc, etc, put ‘survivalists’ down, when their agendas have so much in common.
    Didn’t watch the WW2 programme last night, I’ll catch it on iPlayer, but I expect they said we’ve never had such a healthy diet.

  15. matt says:

    The programme last night was a bit light hearted to be honest. You might find you have steam coming out of your ears whilst watching it. 🙂

    I prefer to msg into the mainstream, that way we get more people understanding the issues and hopefully adapting their habits for the better. Survivalist rhetoric would put most people off I think.

  16. the Grit says:

    Hi y’all,

    Dang, I get tied up for a day or four and I miss participating in this marvelous discussion! That’ll teach me.

    Allow me to try to catch up.

    As to population, I’m pleased to point out that the US, if one ignores immigration, has a negative population growth rate. Unfortunately, we’re still having problems with controlling our borders.

    As to evolution, culling, and such, I would point out that humans are part of nature, no matter how much we protest over that point, so it follows logically that any species we exterminate are just more causalities of natural selection. On the other hand, since we’re the only known species that has the capability to make a conscious decision in this area, it’s not at all out of bounds to think we should exercise that option.

    As to greed, earthpal, if you think humans are the only animal to exhibit that trait, then you obviously don’t cohabit with dogs 🙂 Your point, really, should be aimed at the fact that we’re the only species that has the potential to deny our immediate self gratifying urges in order to work toward a long term plan. What that plan should be, is a subject for another conversation 🙂

    the Grit

  17. Pete Smith says:

    Apart from that one, apparently, perhaps something’s shifted so I’ll try again:

    “a bit light hearted”
    I got that impression from reading the previews. There was an excellent BBC programme some years back called ‘The Wartime Kitchen and Garden’ which covered similar ground using the skills and experience of the people who’d actually ‘been there, done that’. If you can get hold of the book of the series (by Jennifer Davies) it’s a fascinating and informative read.
    “Survivalist rhetoric would put most people off”
    It’s a pity people can’t get past the redneck gun-nut public image to all the useful practical stuff. The Church of The Latter Day Saints web site is a mine of info on food preservation and storage, but reading it doesn’t make me a Mormon 🙂
    The Yanks have a head start on us. People in the UK are in the process of developing their own brand of preparedness which is relevant to them, e.g. the Transition Town movement.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/may/02/communities.fossilfuels

  18. Pete Smith says:

    Grit,
    “As to greed, earthpal, if you think humans are the only animal to exhibit that trait, then you obviously don’t cohabit with dogs”
    I think the original point may have been about wild species, rather than domesticates, but anyway… Dogs, who’ve been joined to the human race at the hip for millenia, have the old hunter’s instinct to eat whatever’s on offer because there’s no way of telling where the next meal’s coming from (although you’d think they’d have learnt by now it’s coming from that tin in the cupboard). Even grazing animals will chew through an entire field of rich grass, just because it’s there, ending up with bloat and a knife between the ribs to let the gas out.
    Perhaps our own modern over-consumption has its roots in our hunter-gatherer past.

  19. matt says:

    > Perhaps our own modern over-consumption has its roots in our hunter-gatherer past.

    Oh dear, good point and I fear therefore there’s no hope for us and our excessive consumption habits. Must have 10 ipods to survive … of course!

    Transition communities: Yes, been following this a bit and recently heard interview on radio 4 with someone representing them. I haven’t found the ideas behind it particularly new (e.g. better public transport) but do find the enthusiasm and rapid growth in an interest to take up the concept by different communities across the UK heartening.

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