The Guardian, Tuesday 30 September 2014,
The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years, according to a new analysis. Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the research by scientists at WWF and the Zoological Society of London found.
“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human wellbeing.
“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. He said more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy had to be produced sustainably.
The steep decline of animal, fish and bird numbers was calculated by analysing 10,000 different populations, covering 3,000 species in total. This data was then, for the first time, used to create a representative “Living Planet Index” (LPI), reflecting the state of all 45,000 known vertebrates.
“We have all heard of the FTSE 100 index, but we have missed the ultimate indicator, the falling trend of species and ecosystems in the world,” said Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s director of conservation. “If we get [our response] right, we will have a safe and sustainable way of life for the future,” he said.
If not, he added, the overuse of resources would ultimately lead to conflicts. He said the LPI was an extremely robust indicator and had been adopted by UN’s internationally-agreed Convention on Biological Diversity as key insight into biodiversity.
On a long flight recently I watched a film called “Avatar”. At the risk of going a bit new-age, I was struck by the moment when the hero, in his avatar form, prays to the deity of the planet “Pandora”. Talking about the colonists from Earth, he says “They killed their mother…”. I don’t know if the “planet is dying”. We haven’t been around very long, and I suspect the planet will outlive us. But we are a very interesting species, and it is a pity that we are going to saw off the branch we are sitting on. The universe won’t give a shit and this planet has, I believe, around another 5 billion years to go before it is consumed by its dying star. But to bring the discussion down to earth (sic), how many of us are prepared to give up what we have (cars, computers, mobile phones, dentistry, low-cost airlines, dog food and garlic presses, central heating and air conditioning, wine, whiskey,hamburgers, hot showers and flush toilets) to save anything? Ultimately, we are all “bots”.
I’m sure the planet itself will survive anything we throw at it, but our ecological niche won’t. What I’m afraid of happening during my lifetime is that we will lose all the things you mentioned, not through choice, but through collapse of our habitat. Just like Malthus predicted, except on a planetary scale instead of local.We are all “bots” in some ways, as you said, but under the right circumstances bots can be inspired to sacrifice and work together towards a common goal. During the Second World War, for e.g., people faithfully recycled, planted victory gardens, went without. Surely there must be something besides war that inspires us! (or, maybe not…)All bots need leaders. That’s the hallmark of a bot –s/he can’t move without leadership. And we planetary bots don’t have any at the present time. It’s not hard to see how the meme of a “messiah” evolved. We are paralyzed as a group if someone doesn’t take the lead and inspire us to follow him/her. (them)Anne