The report’s more ominous conclusions are that one quarter of all the species studied are under threat, and the rate of extinction is up to 100 times the average for the last ten million years. The Chair of the panel which produced the report, Sir Robert Watson said “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
This accelerated rate of potential losses is said to be the sixth great extinction in the history of life on Earth. Another such was the meteor strike which saw off the dinosaurs. The big issue now is that the causes seem to be human activities. The main ones are listed as changes to land and sea use, exploitation of natural resources, climate change, pollution and introduced invasive species. The report warns that current trajectories and goals for the next 30 or 40 years will not, even if achieved, be sufficient to stem the losses. Transformative changes are needed in many fields which will impact on food and energy production, freshwater and coastal management, major infrastructure projects (such as HS2) and urban living and development.
It is easy when talking about global reports like this one to assume that the problems are all somewhere else, that they do not directly concern us. This is not so. Here in the West Midlands we are both contributing to the situation, and will suffer the consequences if the predictions are realised. We may have cleaner air than used to be the case, but moving manufacturing from here to other parts of the world means that the dirty air has moved as well. We are acutely aware of the problems of world-wide pollution, but need to remember it is our pollution as well as other people’s. The need to find solutions here is just as urgent as in remote forests, seas and mountains.