Since 1970, the world populations of fish, bird, mammals, amphibians and reptiles has fallen by 52%. This revelation came from a study (the Living Planet Report) conducted by the World Wildlife Fund. The authors compiled data on 10,380 animal populations, including 3,038 different species, as an index to judge how global wildlife is faring as a whole. The same report, published two years ago, stated that the global wildlife populations had declined by 28%. The larger decline stated in the most recent study has come as a shock, but the difference between the figures may be due to poor methods of recording information of the populations in previous studies. The report found that freshwater populations experienced the greatest declines—an average of 76 percent.
“This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live,” Ken Norris, Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London, said in a statement.
The report said that the populations could recover if governments and individuals took appropriate action to protect what is left. Preserving nature was not just about protecting wild places but also about safeguarding the future of humanity, “indeed, our very survival,” said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini.
It was found that the main reasons for the declining populations were the loss of natural habitats, exploitation and climate change. The report measured the ecological footprint of different countries’ thus showing that Kuwait has the biggest ecological footprint. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates came in at second and third. India, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have ecological footprints that the planet can sustain.
“If all people on the planet had the footprint of the average resident of Qatar, we would need 4.8 planets. If we lived the lifestyle of a typical resident of the USA, we would need 3.9 planets,” the report said.
“Given the pace and scale of change, we can no longer exclude the possibility of reaching critical tipping points that could abruptly and irreversibly change living conditions on Earth,” the report said.
Industrial and agricultural practices that pollute the atmosphere and oceans, as well as growing demands on freshwater supplies are unsustainable, says WWF, and could trigger catastrophic changes to ecosystems and the climate.
David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK, said: ‘The scale of destruction highlighted in this report should be a wake-up call to us all. We all have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature.’
Ultimately, the world is not surviving what we are doing to it. The planet is chronically ill. It’s our home. It’s our only home.