By Will DeBerry
You may have heard about the UN’s sustainable development goals, which broadly categorize and rank the issues and challenges associated with sustainable development. Unfortunately, continuing negative environmental trends hinder progress and dampen success in other areas. In an effort to turn this trend on its head, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES for short) released the first global biodiversity assessment since the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Nearly 15 years later, experts from over 50 countries worked together to deliver this timely report, which not only calls for immediate transformative change but also compiles important data from over 15,000 sources to update what we know about our environment. This information is crucial in deciding what actions to take next.
The report states that around 1 million plants and animals are threatened with extinction, many in the coming decades. More specifically, over 40% of amphibians, 33% of reef-forming corals, and ⅓ of all marine animals are threatened. More than ⅓ of all land surface and nearly 75% of all freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production. The statistics are staggering but it is critical we are up to date on the information we use so that we can be as informed as possible, and then inform the uninformed. The report also mentions that without this transformative change we are almost sure to miss our nearest environmental goals and that we will be hard-pressed to meet our 2030 goals. With organizations as eminent as the United Nations compiling all this information for us, it’s easy to be intimidated as a single individual facing this massive problem.
The report ranks the culprits for these negative environmental trends as follows: changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution, and invasive alien species. While it is important to recognize these culprits on a broad level, the next steps need to be specific actions that will lead us to our goal of sustainable development. But in order to do this we need transformative change, says Sir Robert Watson, chair of the program. “By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide recognition across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals, and values.”
Team-member Professor Brandízio stated that “A pattern that emerges is one of global interconnectivity and ‘telecoupling’–with resource extraction and production often occurring in one part of the world to satisfy the needs of distant consumers in other regions.” While this concept occurs all over the world with all types of resources and people, the rainforests have been, and continue to be, one of the prime examples. Logging, mining, ranching, soy farms, palm oil–these issues continue to persist and in some cases grow, almost solely to benefit the needs not of the local people, but of consumers across the globe. If we want to succeed in our conservation efforts, we must create a paradigm shift that Sir Robert Watson spoke of, and we must do it quickly.
At Rainforest Partnership, we are happy to be part of the solution, but we need you to be part of it too. Take a moment to think about your own consumption habits. When we become more aware, we become more prepared to face the tasks ahead of us. Check out our website for ways to help, and subscribe to our newsletter to learn more about our projects’ progress.