Half of Earth’s Animal Population Gone in Just Forty Years

Carmen Parra

The Living Planet Index (LPI) from the World Wildlife Fund reported that between 1970 to 2010 there has been a 52% decline in vertebrae species populations on Earth. The study considered 10,380 populations of 3,038 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. The most dramatic decline, 83%, was seen in Latin America. Freshwater species were the most impacted with a decline of 73%. The report also found that the primary causes of the decline are habitat loss, degradation and exploitation through hunting and fishing. Blawg pic #1

It is clear that the culprits are humans. The report states that we need 1.5 Earths in order to “meet the demands humanity currently makes on nature.” In other words, humans need to reduce their overall ecological footprint, most significantly carbon emissions. The United States utilizes 13.7% of the world’s resources landing second only to China who accounts for

about 20% of the world’s demand.

Recently thousands gathered for the People’s Climate March in New York City to shed light on this very problem. The march aimed to put pressure on the world’s leaders to act swiftly in order to address climate change.

Two countries that have been successful in their efforts to reduce their impact on the environment are Denmark and Brazil. By December 2013, 57.4% of Denmark’s electricity was wind powered. Brazil has successfully reduced deforestation by 70 percent and kept 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in recent years.

Although some critics find the WWF study to be somewhat pessimistic, most agree that there is a lot that can be done to slow down or reverse destruction. As the study states, “the sum of all human demands no longer fits within what nature can renew.”

4 Responses

  1. Thank you, David for this article. I can’t help but think that the high loss in Latin America has to do with a couple factors: One, there were a lot more species there to begin with (huge biodiversity in a lot of areas) and two: the effects of the neoliberal agenda that’s been put in place in several countries since 1973, when Pinochet led the coup against democratically elected socialist, Salvador Allende. Rampant free market forces are absolutely the enemy of biodiversity; since the market is all about exploiting resources.

    It’s also interesting that Latin Americans recognize that there’s a problem, I’d say more than we do. See for example the “Rights of Mother Earth” movements in Ecuador and Bolivia. Neither one has proved strong enough to stop exploitation, but imagine a constitutional amendment here supporting the rights of nature (yeah, I can’t either).

    A final and related factor in Latin America is the Indigenous Rights movement, including the recent appearance of uncontacted tribes in the Amazon: people who reject the modern world and whose survival as tribes depends absolutely on maintaining the land and animals that support them. Thus it’s not so much a case of human v. animal as it is modern human v. animal. (and plant, and land). Whether their struggle will amount to anything against the incessant call for development (which destroys the people’s land and then dangles jobs in front of them so they can live like slaves in the cities), is anyone’s guess.

    Again, thank you. Seeing the numbers is horribly sobering.

  2. It would be instructive or at least more fully informative to point out that the sourcing of this data about our harm to Earthlings comes from an organization (WWF) that supports harming Earthlings by hunting them.

  3. […] Our thanks to the Animal Blawg, where this post originally appeared on November 3, […]

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