OUR planet is dying faster than we realise. This is the latest message contained in a new paper published on January 13, 2021 by a team of 17 US, Mexico and Australia-based researchers in the journal Frontiers in Conservation Science.
The scientists, like their colleagues had done in the past, are calling the attention of the people that inhabit planet earth, especially political leaders, to three imminent catastrophes – climate disruption, biodiversity decline and human overconsumption and overpopulation.
Drawing from over 150 studies, the scientists warn that these three crises which are bound to escalate in the coming decades pose greater danger to Earth more than ever before and are capable of even jeopardising the human race.
Citing another 2018 and 2019 studies, the paper said that since the agrarian age 11,000 years ago, planet Earth has lost about 50 percent of its plants and about 20 percent of its animal biodiversity. And if these trends are not halted, the earth stands the danger of losing up to one million of Earth’s 7-10 million plant and animal species through extinction.
Such loss of biodiversity would in turn result in the disruption of major ecosystems, leaving our planet with “fewer insects to pollinate plants, fewer plants to filter the air, water and soil, and fewer forests to protect human settlements from floods and other natural disasters”.
The scientists predict that those same forces that bring about natural disasters are bound to escalate due to global climate change – droughts and rising sea levels – triggering mass migration and forcing up to one billion people to become climate refugees by the year 2050.
Although environmental sceptics argue that large populations have economic benefits, scientists do not think so. “By 2050,” the 17 researchers write, “the world population will likely grow to 9.9 billion, with growth projected by many to continue until well into the next century.”
This explosive population growth will threaten food and housing security, exacerbate joblessness and result in overcrowding and inequality. With larger populations too, comes increase in the chances of pandemics such as COVID-19 and other diseases.
It sounds frightening, but humanity is certainly hurtling toward a future of “mass extinctions, health crises and constant climate-induced disruptions…”
This looming disaster, however, can be prevented if we modify our behaviour towards our environment, and if world leaders start taking environmental threats seriously.
As the scientists pointed out, the intention of this warning is not “to scold average citizens, or claim that all is lost, but to plainly describe the threats facing our planet, so that people will start taking them seriously and plan mitigating actions before it’s too late”.
Preserving our planet through responsible environmental behaviour is a task for every individual.
There is something each and every one of us can do – from curtailing our voracious appetites for goods, especially new products, instead of re-using and maintaining old ones, to cultivating a lifestyle of energy-efficiency, planting at least a tree, avoiding as much as possible the use of papers which are made from trees, etc.
Our dear planet earth is in every sense like a ship on which we are navigating the vast universe. We must not sink ‘this vessel’ out of sheer recklessness like the SS Titanic.