A doomsday scenario that’s real

Fish swim through the coral of the Great Barrier Reef, along the central coast of Queensland. AFP FILE PHOTO

A report put out by a United Nations body on biodiversity and ecosystems has highlighted the threat of extinction faced by large sections of living species on earth in a way no other study has done till now. It is a comprehensive study, compiled over three years by 145 experts with help from hundreds of others and it paints a terrible picture of the world which is becoming increasingly hostile to millions of life forms in it. Nearly one million species of plants and animals, out of a total of eight million known to exist on the planet, are slated to vanish in the next few decades if the present rate of extinction continues. The extinction rate now is “tens to hundreds of times’’ higher than the normal rate in the past, and the reason is none other than human activities and human intervention in nature. 

The report notes that over 75% of the earth’s land mass and 66% of the marine ecosystems have undergone “significant alternation’’ and 85% of the wetlands are now lost. Humans extract 60 billion tonnes from nature every year to meet the demands for food, water, minerals and other resources, and this kind of exploitation is unsustainable. Ocean systems are degrading with rise in temperatures and getting acidified. Coral reefs and marine life are in peril. Billions of people who live in coastal areas will be directly affected and others impacted in many ways. The urban areas have doubled in the last 25 years, putting enormous pressure on resources. There will be more natural calamities in the coming years as a result of the continuing assault on nature and entire populations may see death and sickness or may be displaced. 

It is a horror script which may not still have described the entire doomsday story that is unfolding. But the report is not just scaremongering. It is a wake-up call for the world to get its act together to save itself before it is too late. The grim prospects facing the planet should spur and strengthen international processes aimed at reversing the present trends, and lead to implementation of many multinational treaties and conventions which are already in place. There is a need to link our livelihood and lifestyles, economies, food and health and quality of life to the health and wellbeing of the natural environment which is home to all other creatures, too. It will be wrong if the prescriptions and solutions are meant only to save ourselves. This world will only live or sink with us and other creatures which, in fact, have lived here since long before we made our appearance. 

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