Opinion Editorial

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Editorial: 'We must act immediately or risk survival of human race'

'If ever there was a time for such a global view, this has to be it.' Stock image
'If ever there was a time for such a global view, this has to be it.' Stock image


A dangerous invasive species is threatening up to one million plant and animal species with extinction.

It is called humanity, and should its destructive tendencies continue, we are courting disaster.

The most comprehensive report yet on the state of global ecosystems is also the most damning.

The risk to all this life is directly linked to human activities which in the past century has become hundreds of times higher than the average across the last 10 million years.

The analysis by a UN-backed panel points the finger at agricultural activities as the main culprit in relation to damaging ecosystems.

How we produce our food, pollute our clean water and disrupt our climate are likely to be the defining issues for the survival of much of the planet.

Of course we have had many admonishing reports in the past, provoking fleeting spasms of concern but according to Anne Larigauderie, who was executive secretary of the group that produced the study: "We can no longer say that we did not know."

From now on, we have to act. Without "transformative changes" to the world's economic, social and political systems disastrous biodiversity losses will accelerate. Where once geographical distance created natural protection zones, globalisation means the planet is being re-sculpted for purely material gains and the ecosystem is paying for it at a devastating cost.

Some three-quarters of our land and two-thirds of our oceans have been damaged by our insatiable demand for food. Much of the harm is being caused by current agricultural procedures; carbon emissions, harvesting, logging and pollution have all had massively adverse impacts.

If there is any good news in the findings, it is if we respond immediately we can begin to reverse the process. The truth is we have no choice. We need to get radical; non-negotiable shifts towards sustainable production of food and mandatory curbs in greenhouse emissions must be introduced. Next year conservation goals will be set at the UN Convention on Biodiversity. There can be no more complacency or ambiguity. It is time to move beyond the aspirational to the concrete and compulsory.

Anything other than a committed response could compromise our very survival.

Freshwater shortages and climate instability are already "ominous" and will worsen without drastic remedial action. The ethical and moral imperative to change is irrefutable. It is the poorest people who suffer most from our growth-at-all-costs models. Robert Watson, who chaired the group, warned: "We are eroding the very foundations of economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,"

It really is that stark. The 18th century naturalist Alexander von Humboldt cautioned: "The most dangerous world-view is the world-view of those who have not viewed the world."

If ever there was a time for such a global view, this has to be it.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss