The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis Report was published today, and it makes grim (though not hopeless) reading. It concludes that 60% of the world’s vital “ecosystem services” — air, water, fisheries, climate control etc — are being degraded or used unsustainably.
The report, which has taken 1300 scientists from 95 countries four years to produce, concludes that it is still possible for human beings to make changes which will ease the strain on the earth’s resources, but radical changes are becoming a matter of increasing urgency.
The main findings are:
- Human activities have effected more change to the world’s ecosystem during the last 50 years than in any other period of history. (This should not be surprising). What is shocking is that the rate of change continues to increase leading, for example, to a significan threat to biodiversity. Between 10 and 30 % of the world’s mammal, bird and amphibian species are threatened with extinction.
- Gains to human well-being have been bought at the cost of the degradation of vital ecosystem services. Fresh water and “capture fisheries” are stretched well beyond sustainable limits, leaving a potentially huge threat to future generations.
- The report predicts that damage to ecosystems will continue to worsen during the first half of this century, harming our ability to meet the Millenium Goal of halving world hunger by 2015.
I’m glad to see that the report makes specific reference to the world’s poorest, noting that it is they who will bear the brunt of these changes. I said this a while ago– so it must be true! That’s why all this stuff about global warming and environmental degradation is so important to me. It isn’t primarily a matter of economics, still less about tree-hugging. It’s that care for the poor is built into the gospel so deeply that to ignore these threats, or to dismiss them as hippy nonsense, amounts to a dereliction of Christian duty.