Scientists say we are now consuming the ecological goods of one-and-a-half Earths and if we don’t slow down, there will be nothing left to sustain us. According to a new report, wildlife populations have been cut in half over the past 40 years. More specifically, 39 percent of wildlife on land, 39 percent of wildlife in the ocean and 76 percent of freshwater wildlife have disappeared over the last 40 years. Those are scary numbers.
The main threats to wildlife are habitat loss, exploitation, and climate change – all of which are attributed to humans. Habitat loss occurs when people cut down forests for the wood or clear land for development. Exploitation refers to the illegal hunting and fishing of animals. In some cases, both threats combined to produce a disastrous effect. For example, by 1984, the forest elephant had been confined to an area just 7% of their normal range because humans were destroying the forests the elephants lived in. By 2011, the elephant population shrank another 60% partly due to poachers killing the elephants, who had been confined to a much smaller area, for ivory.
The impact that humans have on the environment is called an “ecological footprint”. People in high-income countries have a much greater ecological footprint than people in low-income countries and thus, must be more diligent in their efforts to maintain a healthy ecological environment. According to one scientist:
“We’re gradually destroying our planet’s ability to support our way of life. But we already have the knowledge and tools to avoid the worst predictions. We all live on a finite planet and it’s time we started acting within those limits.”