Scientists provide the most persuasive evidence yet on the rapid deterioration of nature; Singaporeans react.
Shockwaves were sent around the world as people reacted to the latest report that 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction.
400 experts across 50 countries in the world came together and, in an extensive 1,800-page report by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), painted an alarming picture about the state of the natural world.
Singaporeans immediately reacted to this shocking news by turning to a higher power.
The Thanos snap.
Makings of a Movie
Apparently the only way we can even begin to understand this report is to turn to Hollywood. Unsurprising, given that the reality playing out around us almost feels like an apocalyptic movie.
Here’s what the statistics tell us: our natural landscapes have been significantly changed by the impact of human activities. 75% of our land, 66% of our seas and 50% of inland waterways affected.
As a result, around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction within decades – more than ever before in human history.
We are seeing the highest rate of species extinctions ever recorded, surpassing the extinction of dinosaurs in the Ice Age.
This reads like a movie screenplay. The only difference is that when it plays out in real-life, we are the bad guys.
Nature is facing its own Thanos: us.
The Age of Humans
There is a term for this armageddon-like event that humans have inflicted on the natural world, and scientists call it the Anthropocene.
This signifies a new geological epoch where, for the first time in Earth’s history a single species – Homo sapiens – has had such a powerful impact on the planet.
Since the 1900s we have been exploiting our natural resources and abusing the use of our lands and seas. A third of all land on Earth has converted to agriculture, and 90% of our oceans have been fished to or above their limits.
We have almost single-handedly created climate change and to this very day, continue to pollute nature with mismanaged waste, plastics and toxins.
Let’s be honest though. These activities have made us rich.
Since the Industrial Revolution, the global economy has grown 30-fold. The lives of billions of people have improved. We’ve eradicated small pox. Poverty is at an all-time low.
But here’s a plot twist: Nature has been footing the bill for us all along.
The Northern white rhino went functionally extinct last year with the death of its last male. Last month, the last female Yangtze giant softshell turtle died.
These species are an integral part of a life support system that feeds our economies and protects human health.
Our wetlands filter water that we drink, our forests soak up carbon dioxide, and our coral reefs provide fish as a food source.
In total, nature provides services worth around US$125 trillion a year, over five times the size of the world’s largest economy.
We stand to lose all of this – along with a million plant and animal species – in our lifetime if this continues.
A New Deal That’s Actually A Big Deal
Along with these findings, 600 renowned scientists, wildlife experts and public figures across the globe have issued an open letter to world leaders.
Their letter makes clear two things: Firstly, there is an action plan and it comes in the form of a few global decisions due to be made on biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development. Secondly, leaders have a deadline to do this in 2020 – that’s less than a year to go.
This action plan is better known as the “New Deal for Nature and People”.
Don’t just take it from me though. Leo himself has said it:
How Will We Respond?
Some prominent voices have spoken up, including French President Emmanuel Macron, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, and a personal favourite, New York congresswoman AOC.
And even though this New Deal – one that protects nature and their people – depends entirely on governments, the silence from most world leaders has been deafening.
We Need to Reverse Thanos’ Snap, ASAP
Knowing the problem puts us on the path to making a difference. There is no overnight solution, but we certainly can reverse the loss of nature.
The same scientists that delivered the bad news have also provided us with a really clear plan for what needs to be done: We need to completely transform the way we produce and consume our food and energy.
In plain words, this means ensuring that our food systems are sustainable and regulated; our water sources managed and protected; our forests left standing and restored, and our oceans well-governed.
At the moment, none of the above is happening.
Not without some real action from our government leaders.
Like reading this? Read more about why our planet needs Marie Kondo, it might be too late if we leave it our kids to fix the planet, and the hidden message behind Our Planet’s desperate plea to save forests.