Ecologists call on humankind to curtail environmental destruction

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This week’s featured research article has just been published in BioScience by eminent ecologists (and signed by more than 15 000 scientists from 184 countries) and calls on humankind to curtail environmental destruction and cautions that a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided. The paper reflects on a similar paper published in 1992 that stated that humanity was pushing Earth’s ecosystems beyond their capacities to support the web of life. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of that paper, the researchers look back at their warning and evaluate the human response by exploring available time-series data. Since 1992, with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse. Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising GHGs from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and agricultural production – particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption. Moreover, humanity has unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century. The researchers state that we are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats. They conclude that by failing to adequately limit population growth, reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivize renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt defaunation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere. The paper can be downloaded here (or email jennie.fluin@sa.gov.au for a copy).