UN Report: 1 Million Species are Endangered

Ashley Kim, Editor-in-Chief

 On May 6th, the United Nations released a landmark environmental report with alarming implications for endangered species, declining biodiversity, and the outcome of human involvement in carbon emissions and climate change.  The report covered an abundant number of topics, but the conclusion is clear; our planet is degrading rapidly before our eyes, and unless we act soon, we could face more than an environmental crisis.

  Though the report focuses on worldwide environmental issues and large-scale crises, we can all do our part to prevent a further loss of biodiversity.  The members of West High’s Environmental club hope to bring more awareness and action to the students and faculty of the school. They hope that small steps can eventually lead to a better future.

  “Our current conservation methods are not very sustainable,” Kyle Wakamoto (12), a member of West High’s Environmental club, said, “and many have only scraped very little in terms of helping our planet.”

  The massive report was compiled over the course of three years by 450 researchers, 15,000 scientific and government reports, and 150 authors from 50 countries.  It was created by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (ISPBES), an international body associated with the UN. The summary of the report was approved by representatives of the 109 involved nations.  

  According to the report, a calculated 1 million species of plants and animals are threatened by extinction.  Species are going extinct at an accelerating rate, and more plants and animals are endangered than ever before in human history.  Many of these land species are likely to go extinct within decades unless their damaged or destroyed habitats are restored. Among the threatened species are more than 40% of amphibians, more than one-third of marine mammals, and almost one-third of sharks and fish.

  This rapid decline in species and biodiversity affects humans as well―food and energy production are deeply entwined with nature.  As species are lost, our clean air, water, and soil will also dwindle. Food and water security as well as human health will suffer if the current decline in biodiversity is not addressed soon.  The report lists eighteen measured ways in which nature helps humans. It also says that fourteen of those are declining.

  Robert Watson, a former NASA and British scientist and the head of the report, added, “We are indeed threatening the potential food security, water security, human health and social fabric [of humankind].”

  Humans are reducing biodiversity in a variety of ways.  In cutting down forests, grasslands, and other natural habitats to develop farms and cities, we are leaving species without habitats, killing them off.  Climate change also plays a big role in biodiversity. Burning fossil fuels can severely change conditions for species, altering their habitats and making survival harder.  Global warming is already affecting several species.

  However, despite a bleak prediction of Earth’s future, the report stresses that many of these negative effects can be countered.  Action must be taken quickly, from the government level to the individual. The report mentions changing the way we grow food, produce energy, deal with climate change, and dispose of waste as ways to prevent many of these effects.  As individuals, simple changes in eating habits and energy usage can change things for the better.

  Drishti Tyagi (10), a part of the Environmental club, said, “I hope we’d recycle a bit more, and be more conscious about how much waste we’re producing.  In addition, we should try to use more sustainable products with less plastic.”

  It’s not too late to make a difference.  Even though this report marks a prediction of severe implications for our planet and humanity, it also makes clear that these negative effects can still be countered.

  Andrew Purvis, the co-author of the report and a researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, added, “The key to remember is, it’s not a terminal diagnosis.”