12th June 2014
Denis Wright and
10 items of bad news re the environment, since 1994
1 Species of animals and plants made extinct: estimated at around 100 per day.
10-100 million species exist, 1.5 million have been named. Many will be destroyed before being named. This is the 6th known mass extinction, the only one caused by humankind. Humanity already exceeds (by 20 percent) the planet’s capacity to sustain its consumption of renewable (biological) resources – see www.panda.org/downloads/general/LPR2002Summary.pdf
2 Forests and woodlands: lost at rate of about 14 million hectares per year
Trees in an area the size of a soccer pitch are cut down or burnt somewhere every 2 seconds.
3 Topsoil loss: approx 25 billion tonnes a year
By water and wind erosion after tree-cutting, urbanisation, overgrazing and salination.
4 Water shortage, becoming acute in the Middle East and Africa
The Nile is used by 10 countries, all of whose populations are increasing fast. Already almost none of the Nile’s water gets to the sea.
5 Hunger and disease
At least 800,000 people have protein/calorie malnutrition and more than 40 million have HIV or AIDS. Food shortages increase as environments deteriorate.
6 500 million motor vehicles, rising by about 12 million a year
28 million in the UK alone, and similarly rising by about 2 % per year. Can’t go on like that!
7 Energy shortage
World oil usage has increased to 75 million barrels a day, will peak in 2020 as reserves run out, green sources cannot substitute unless per-person use reduces (and number of persons stabilises)
At least 70,000 different chemicals enter the environment through human activity, many of them being non-biodegradeable. They threaten many life-support systems.
9 Wars, genocide and other violence
These have always been part-caused by land hunger, but increasingly now by resource shortages. We have already had two ‘petroleum wars’ in the Gulf since 1990, water wars are likely to follow. And nothing is more destructive than warfare to the natural world and environment.
10 Population increase
800 million more humans since 1994, now totalling 6400 million and don’t they ALL deserve a decent life, with reasonable affluence? Yet the planet is finite….
Though clearly not the only cause of all the above problems, increase in human numbers is the greatest single multiplier of them. To quote Jonathan Porritt, writing for today’s event: “our continuing failure to address that population challenge – wisely, compassionately and democratically – borders on the criminal”.