Quantcast

Humanity 'Sleepwalking Towards the Edge of a Cliff': 60% of Earth's Wildlife Wiped Out Since 1970

Animals
A hippo in Okavango Delta National Park, Botswana. Buena Vista Images / Stone / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

Scientists from around the world issued a stark warning to humanity Tuesday in a semi-annual report on the Earth's declining biodiversity, which shows that about 60 percent of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been wiped out by human activity since 1970.


The World Wildlife Fund's Living Planet Index details how human's uncontrolled overconsumption of land, food and natural resources has eliminated a majority of the wildlife on the planet—threatening human civilization as well as the world's animals.

"We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff," Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF, told the Guardian. "If there was a 60 percent decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done."

Killer whales were named as one species that is in grave danger of extinction due to exposure to chemicals used by humans, and the Living Index Report highlighted freshwater species and animal populations in Central and South America as being especially affected by human activity in the past five decades.

"Species population declines are especially pronounced in the tropics, with South and Central America suffering the most dramatic decline, an 89 percent loss compared to 1970," reads the report. "Freshwater species numbers have also declined dramatically, with the Freshwater Index showing an 83% decline since 1970."

Destruction of wildlife habitats is the leading human-related cause of extinction, as people around the world are now using about three-quarters of all land on the planet for agriculture, industry and other purposes, according to the report.

Mass killing of animals for food is the second-largest cause of extinction, according to the report, with 300 mammal species being "eaten into extinction."

"It is a classic example of where the disappearance is the result of our own consumption," Barrett told the Guardian.

The report stresses a need to that shift away from the notion that wildlife must be protected simply for the sake of ensuring that future generations can see species like elephants, polar bears and other endangered animals in the wild.

Underwater Polar Bear in Hudson Bay, Canada. Paul Souders / Stone / Getty Images

Rather, the survival of the planet's ecosystems is now a matter of life and death for the human population, according to the WWF.

"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," Professor Robert Watson, who contributed to the report, told the Guardian. "The Living Planet report clearly demonstrates that human activities are destroying nature at an unacceptable rate, threatening the wellbeing of current and future generations."

"Nature is not a 'nice to have'—it is our life-support system," added Barrett.

Many scientists believe that studies like that of the WWF demonstrate that a sixth mass extinction is now underway—a theory that would mean the Earth could experience its first mass extinction event caused by a single species inhabiting the planet. The loss of all life on Earth could come about due to a combination of human-caused effects, including a rapidly warming planet as well as the loss of biodiversity.

"The Great Acceleration, and the rapid and immense social, economic and ecological changes it has spurred, show us that we are in a period of great upheaval," reads the study. "Some of these changes have been positive, some negative, and all of them are interconnected. What is increasingly clear is that human development and wellbeing are reliant on healthy natural systems, and we cannot continue to enjoy the former without the latter."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

Related Articles Around the Web
From Your Site Articles

    EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

    Oil palm plantations in northeastern Borneo, state of Sabah, Malaysia. Recently planted oil palms can be seen in the bright green grassy areas and a tiny bit of natural rainforest still struggles for survival farther away. Vaara / E+ / Getty Images

    Palm Oil importers in Europe will not be able to meet their self-imposed goal of only selling palm oil that is certified deforestation-free, according to a new analysis produced by the Palm Oil Transparency Coalition, as Bloomberg reported.

    Read More Show Less
    Scientists found the most melting near Mould Bay on Prince Patrick Island, NWT, Canada. University of Alaska Fairbanks Permafrost Laboratory

    The Canadian Arctic is raising alarm bells for climate scientists. The permafrost there is thawing 70 years earlier than expected, a research team discovered, according to Reuters. It is the latest indication that the global climate crisis is ramping up faster than expected.

    Read More Show Less
    Sponsored
    Pixabay

    By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

    Cherries are one of the most beloved fruits, and for good reason.

    Read More Show Less
    A fuel truck carries fuel into a fracking site past the warning signs Jan. 27, 2016 near Stillwater, Oklahoma. J Pat Carter / Getty Images

    By Jessica Corbett

    For more than three decades, the U.S. government has mismanaged toxic oil and gas waste containing carcinogens, heavy metals and radioactive materials, according to a new Earthworks report — and with the country on track to continue drilling and fracking for fossil fuels, the advocacy group warns of growing threats to the planet and public health.

    Read More Show Less
    European Union blue and gold flags flying at the European Commission building in Brussels, Belgium. 35007/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

    Newly adopted guidelines set forth by the European Commission Tuesday aim to tackle climate change by way of the financial sector. The move comes to bolster the success of the Sustainable Action Plan published last year to reorient capital flows toward sustainable investment and manage financial risks from climate change, environmental degradation and social issues.

    Read More Show Less
    Sponsored
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivering remarks to supporters at a Liberal Climate Action Rally in Toronto, Ontario on March 4. Arindam Shivaani / NurPhoto / Getty Images

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that his government would once again approve the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would triple the amount of oil transported from Alberta's tar sands to the coast of British Columbia (BC).

    Read More Show Less
    An exhausted polar bear wanders the streets of Norilsk, a Siberian city hundreds of miles from its natural habitat. IRINA YARINSKAYA / AFP / Getty Images

    An exhausted, starving polar bear has been spotted wandering around the Siberian city of Norilsk, Reuters reported Tuesday. It is the first time a polar bear has entered the city in more than 40 years.

    Read More Show Less
    Bumblebees flying and pollinating a creeping thyme flower. emeliemaria / iStock / Getty Images

    It pays to pollinate in Minnesota.

    Read More Show Less