Azara Blog: Latest end of the world report from the Zoological Society of London

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Date published: 2012/05/16

The BBC says:

Environmentalists say leaders at June's Rio+20 summit must urgently step up nature protection, as a report confirms a 30% decline in wildlife since 1970.

The Living Planet Report combines data on more than 9,000 populations of animals across the world.

Rio+20 is billed as a chance for world leaders to put global society on a sustainable path.

But the report's main authors, WWF, say progress on nature protection and climate change is "glacial".

"The Rio+20 conference is an opportunity for the world to get serious about the need for development to be made sustainable," said David Nussbaum, CEO of WWF-UK.

"We need to elevate the sense of urgency, and I think this is ultimately not only about our lives but the legacy we leave for future generations."

The Living Planet Report uses data on trends seen in various species across the world, compiled by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Further analysis from the Global Footprint Network aims to calculate how sustainable our global society is in terms of its overall ecological footprint - a composite measure of issues such as fossil fuel burning, use of cropland to grow food, and consumption of wood and wild-caught fish.

For this edition of the report, ZSL has examined more species (2,600) and more populations of those species (9,014) than ever before.

Overall, these populations show a decline of about 30% since 1970 - the same figure as in the last edition, published two years ago.

Tropical species show a decline of more than 60%, while in temperate regions there has been an average recovery of about 30%.

The worst affected species are those in tropical lakes rivers, whose numbers have fallen by 70% since 1970.

The director of the ZSL's Institute of Zoology, Professor Tim Blackburn, likened the figures to a stock market of the natural world.

"There would be panic of the FTSE index showed a decline like this," he said.

"Nature is more important than money. Humanity can live without money, but we can't live without nature and the essential services it provides."

It is unfortunate that an NGO like the WWF is allowed to be an author on such a report, since they have an agenda to advance and so their impartiality is suspect.

The BBC points out that temperate regions have actually had an increase in the "health" of their ecosystems and it is tropical regions where there is a problem. This is because most of the rich countries are in temperate regions, and rich countries have successfully exported much of their pollution, their emissions and other ecological problems to poor countries. This is because NGOs like WWF and the Sierra Club have successfully protected ecosystems in rich countries, and so have endangered ecosystems in poor countries (the production of goods has to go somewhere). Unfortunately ecosystems in the tropics (much of which is inhabited by poor countries) are much more valuable than ecosystems in the temperate regions.

The comment by Blackburn that "humanity can live without money" is bizarre. It would be interesting to see if he could live without money (so no wealth and no income, and given that he is a professor he earns quite a lot). Or perhaps he just wants all of humanity to go back to living in caves.

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