It was Europe’s hottest summer on record, as sweltering heatwaves and wildfires accelerated emissions to a 15-year high. Kenya is suffering its worst drought in more than 40 years, while Pakistan is grappling with devastating floods that have killed thousands of people and displaced millions.
Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is at a six-year high, and tropical storms are battering the Caribbean. Overconsumption by rich nations is causing the planet’s most vulnerable people to suffer, and nature is in a state of crisis.
Unfortunately, this trend extends to the animal kingdom. Posted on Thursday, WWF’s Living Planet Report Captures a shocking decline in the numbers of wild animals under surveillance around the world – by 69 percent in less than a lifetime. The numbers of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish are shrinking.
The world’s tropics—some of the most biodiverse places on the planet—are experiencing precipitous declines in species numbers, with an average decline of 94 percent across Latin America and the Caribbean since 1970. During the same period, wildlife populations in Africa have declined by 66 percent, while the Asia-Pacific region saw a decrease of 55 percent.
Meanwhile, freshwater populations saw an average decline of 83 percent. Our rivers, lakes and wetlands – the lifeblood of every human community – are dying. The health of these freshwater ecosystems is essential to one in 10 animals, but also to all eight billion of us humans who depend on them for everything from agriculture and industry to the water we drink.
These horrific drops are indicative of the ongoing global neglect of biodiversity. Already, it is projected that even if we limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F), large parts of the Amazon and Africa could lose between half and three-quarters (PDF) of their biological diversity.
However, such a catastrophic prospect would affect all of us, be it our social stability or our individual well-being and health. It also undermines the basic human rights of those who suffer disproportionately from the impacts in the Global South.
It even affects us economically: the Global Futures study by the World Nature Fund (WWF) estimated that the decline of natural assets would cost the world at least $406 billion annually – adding nearly $9 trillion by 2050 – roughly the same as combined economies In the UK and France, India and Brazil.
Despite governments indicating that they prioritize nature, we are currently seeing a lack of high-level political support and leadership towards addressing the biodiversity crisis. 40,000 people, including 120 world leaders, attended the 26th session of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow last year, with some significant pledges. However, in the run-up to the fifteenth biodiversity meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) in December, countries like Brazil continue to destroy natural habitats.
We need countries to come together to secure an ambitious CBD this December. Must be able to drive immediate action to the ground. To secure a healthy and sustainable future for people and wildlife, this must include an overarching goal of securing a nature-positive world by 2030 – meaning we end the decade with more nature than in 2020, not less.
Also important is the question of who bears the responsibility to pay for the costs of international protection of biodiversity. The consumption habits of rich countries lead to disproportionate loss of nature, so it is the duty of the world’s richest countries to provide financial support to developing countries.
Our economies must change so that natural resources and nature’s services, such as clean air and water, climate regulation or food pollination, are properly valued. Our societies and industries must also shift to sustainable production and consumption habits, particularly when it comes to food.
One of the most amazing things in nature is its ability to regenerate. It bounces if we let it go.
Some losses seem irreversible. For example, the sturgeon in the European Danube River, for example, was recently declared extinct. However, we have the solutions to reverse the loss of biodiversity and the science and technology to help many other endangered species, whether it be the mountain gorilla, the loggerhead turtle or the common crane, thrive again.
We can see where deforestation is happening in real time via satellite, we can predict which areas are most important for conservation, and we can use modeling to ensure the most effective conservation efforts are being pursued.
A safer and more sustainable future for people and nature is still within our grasp, as long as political leaders and businesses step forward to build a nature-positive society for all.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.