Living Planet Report, 2014
The 2014 Living Planet Report has been published by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network. It is the tenth edition of the publication, which looks at changes in wildlife populations around the world. The report uses something called the Living Planet Index (LPI) to track changes globally. The 2014 report shows a huge decline in LPI between 1970 and 2010, with oceans and freshwater species declining rapidly. In addition to the telling statistics included and stark future predictions, the report also makes a number of recommendations for positive change.
In the 2014 edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report the picture painted of the state of the population of the word’s wildlife is bleak. “The report finds that the global LPI shows an overall decline of 52 per cent between 1970 and 2010, falling by 76 per cent, populations of freshwater species declined more rapidly than marine (39 per cent) and terrestrial (39 per cent) populations.” Though many advocates have known of the desperate situation for the environment and wildlife for a long time, seeing it quantified is a difficult read. The report goes on to highlights that “the most dramatic regional LPI decrease occurred in South America, followed closely by the Asia-Pacific region,” though they do note that “in land-based protected areas, the LPI declined by 18 per cent, less than half the rate of decline of the overall terrestrial LPI.” There are serious environmental problems all over the world which demand our attention.
The Living Planet Report offers a number of solutions and recommendations, many of which might be predictable: wider and more efficient use of renewable energies, as well as ways of preserving species and protecting natural areas from resource extraction and consumption. One novel recommendation is contained in a section entitled “We Love Cities,” in which the authors explain how urban centers can serve to improve the situation around the world. They note that “nearly 15 per cent of the world’s food is supplied by urban farming,” a percentage which could grow even higher with better policy and planning. Though they do note that “cities are centres of consumption” they also underline that “smart urban development and better consumption choices can also help people live more sustainable lives. Ultimately they say that “well-governed, forward-thinking and well-designed cities are more sustainable along every dimension.” Though a great deal depends on individual behavior, they note the importance of policy makers in steering things, and emphasize that “good governance rewards itself.”
Though the report can be seen as bringing devastating news in many respects, it ends with remarkable positivity. “There is nothing inevitable about the continuing decline in the LPI, or ongoing ecological overshoot,” they say. “They are the sum of millions of decisions, often made with little or no consideration of the importance of our natural world.” Recognizing that the environmental decline is actually part of a complicated web of human behavior, motivated by everything from “a myopic focus on economic growth and narrow interests” to “desperate strategies for earning a livelihood,” the report ends by emphasizing that things can change with the right political will. “In each case,” they say, “there is a better choice. Changing our course and finding alternative pathways will not be easy. But it can be done.”
The Living Planet Report is the world’s leading, science-based analysis on the health of our planet and the impact of human activity. Knowing we only have one planet, WWF believes that humanity can make better choices that translate into clear benefits for ecology, society and the economy today and in the long term.
This latest edition of the Living Planet Report is not for the faint-hearted. One key point that jumps out is that the Living Planet Index (LPI), which measures more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, has declined by 52 per cent since 1970.
Put another way, in less than two human generations, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half. These are the living forms that constitute the fabric of the ecosystems which sustain life on Earth – and the barometer of what we are doing to our own planet, our only home. We ignore their decline at our peril.
We are using nature’s gifts as if we had more than just one Earth at our disposal. By taking more from our ecosystems and natural processes than can be replenished, we are jeopardizing our very future. Nature conservation and sustainable development go hand-in-hand. They are not only about preserving biodiversity and wild places, but just as much about safeguarding the future of humanity – our well-being, economy, food security and social stability – indeed, our very survival.
In a world where so many people live in poverty, it may appear as though protecting nature is a luxury. But it is quite the opposite. For many of the world’s poorest people, it is a lifeline. Importantly though, we are all in this together. We all need nutritious food, fresh water and clean air – wherever in the world we live.
Things look so worrying that it may seem difficult to feel positive about the future. Difficult, certainly, but not impossible – because it is in ourselves, who have caused the problem, that we can find the solution. Now we must work to ensure that the upcoming generation can seize the opportunity that we have so far failed to grasp, to close this destructive chapter in our history, and build a future where people can live and prosper in harmony with nature.
We are all connected – and collectively, we have the potential to create the solutions that will safeguard the future of this, our one and only planet.