Chris Madden cartoon

“Without biodiversity, there is no future for humanity, said Oxford University professor David Macdonald in Damian Carrington's article for The Guardian, “What is biodiversity and why does it matter to us?” 

The most comprehensive biodiversity study ever done, a worldwide report by 500 scientists, is a grim warning to humanity that the degradation of habitat and extinction of non-human species across the planet threatens the survival of all life on earth, including our own. One million species are threatened with imminent extinction. And that is just what is known.

Sir Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the report’s authoring committee, says that only transformative change now can save us all.

“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide … By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values," Watson said. "The member States of IPBES Plenary have now acknowledged that, by its very nature, transformative change can expect opposition from those with interests vested in the status quo, but also that such opposition can be overcome for the broader public good.”

Here are just a few lowlights of the report:

• Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions.

• More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production.

• The value of agricultural crop production has increased by about 300% since 1970, raw timber harvest has risen by 45% and approximately 60 billion tons of renewable and nonrenewable resources are now extracted globally every year — having nearly doubled since 1980.

• Land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of the global land surface and up to $577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss.

• Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s waters, and fertilizers entering coastal ecosystems have produced more than 400 ocean dead zones.

• Losses of intact ecosystems have occurred primarily in the tropics, home to the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet. One hundred million hectares of tropical forest were lost from 1980 to 2000, resulting mainly from cattle ranching in Latin America and plantations in South-East Asia. Eighty percent is for palm oil, used mostly in food, cosmetics, cleaning products and fuel.

• More than 85% of wetlands present in 1700 had been lost by 2000. Loss of wetlands is currently three times faster than forest loss.

• There are approximately 6,500 offshore oil and gas ocean mining installations in 53 countries.

• Global subsidies for fossil fuels total $345 billion, resulting in $5 trillion in overall costs, including nature deterioration externalities. Coal accounts for 52% of post-tax subsidies, petroleum for about 33% and natural gas for about 10%.

• There are more than 2,500 conflicts over fossil fuels, water, food and land currently occurring worldwide.

• More than 1,000 environmental activists and journalists were killed between 2002 and 2013.

Bill McKibben published "The End of Nature" in 1989. It has taken 30 years of determination to get the Green New Deal just proposed. Extinction cannot wait 30 years for action. Humans have wiped out two-thirds of all wildlife on this planet in just 50 years. It will not take 25 years to extinguish the rest.

Man’s downfall is likely our short-term linear thinking. Climate change and extinction are dynamic and accelerating. The warming and extinction rates are unpredictable and can jump to catastrophic and irreversible levels suddenly. When a million species disappear from ecosystems, other beings cannot find what they need to exist and cannot move fast enough to adapt to changing climate, resulting in ecosystem collapse.

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Jimmy Kimmel took the issue of extinction to the streets, asking people what they would be willing to do to save Homo sapiens. One young man said he would not dedicate $100 per month to the effort, but $50 per month. One young woman said, “I don’t know what Homo sapiens is. If they go extinct, it’s sad. But at the end of the day, I don’t care.”

We can start by caring — by democratizing the funding and citizen participation in decisions about wildlife and Wisconsin public lands away from the current paradigm: "Hunters, anglers and trappers fund 90 percent of fish and wildlife management in Wisconsin through (killing) license fees and excise taxes.” 

These are the opposition vested in the status quo of power and domination that Watson references: "We have solutions and so no more excuses: we must live on earth differently. UNESCO is committed to promoting respect of the living and of its diversity, ecological solidarity with other living species, and to establish new, equitable and global links of partnership and intra-generational solidarity, for the perpetuation of humankind.”

Ecological solidarity with other living species is the paradigm shift we must effect now, including those unlucky designated “farm” animals stolen from the wild, domesticated to fill slaughterhouses, and the wild living targets of hunters and trappers. We, the majority, must “live on earth differently” and claim the survivors as our living treasure. They weave the world together for us. They are our spiritual and actual life support. We are all endangered.

Action Alert:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has extended the comment period for American gray wolves to July 15. There are 5,500 gray wolves surviving in the United States. Nearly 900,000 comments against the disastrous de-listing plan have been delivered including 35,000 hand-written cards. These are the most comments in endangered species protection history. Keep the pressure on:

Petition to stop trophy hunters from killing giraffes to extinction:

Focusing on Wildilfe is a great site with petitions to help the world’s wildlife. Please sign this petition for a rare Indian bird going extinct, and sign up for its newsletter for other actions:

Patricia Randolph of Portage is a longtime activist for wildlife. or

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