The Call of the Wild — But are we Listening?

According to a recent report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), “exploding human consumption” has caused a massive drop in global wildlife populations.

The WWF’s 2018 Living Planet Report, published every two years, “gives us a picture of the changing state of global biodiversity and the pressure on the biosphere arising from human consumption of natural resources.” It states that between 1970 and 2014 the population losses in vertebrate species averaged 60%, a rate of decline previously seen only during mass extinctions. 4,000 species were tracked as part of the study.

The report asserts that human consumption is rising at an ever increasing rate and the demand for energy, land and water is driving major planetary changes. Currently, one quarter of the land on the planet has not been impacted by human activities; it is predicted that by 2050 this will decrease to just ten percent. The USA and Canada are cited as two of the biggest consumers of natural resources, averaging more than seven global hectares per person.

Reforestation in certain areas has helped to slow the overall loss of forest on Earth, however the location of planting trees is also important. Rates of tropical rainforest depletion are increasing; stopping the decline here is crucial given that these forests have some of the highest levels of biodiversity. It therefore follows that South and Central America show the greatest population declines for vertebrates — mammals, fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The decline here is as high as 89%.

Even the Mariana Trench, the deepest point on Earth with a maximum known depth of 6.8 miles, has not been unaffected by human consumption. Such is the extent to which man’s negative impact has reached every part of the globe, plastic pollution has been identified at the very bottom of the trench. However, it is in freshwater that the population decreases are truly stark. Species living in lakes, rivers and wetlands have seen an 83% decline in population since 1970, due to pollution, overfishing and overhunting.

Stating that this is the first generation that truly has an understanding of human’s impact on nature, Marco Lambertini, WWF director general, wants to use this data as a call to action: “We can be the founders of a global movement that changed our relationship with the planet, that saw us secure a future for all life on Earth, including our own. Or we can be the generation that had its chance and failed to act; that let Earth slip away.”