A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

‘Massive’ loss in life-sustaining eco-systems

United Nations warns loss of natural environments is close to irreversible

The world is moving closer to several “tipping points” beyond which some ecosystems that play a part in natural processes such as climate or the food chain may be permanently damaged.

That’s the conclusion of the third U.N. “Global Biodiversity Outlook,” which finds that deforestation, pollution or over exploitation are damaging the productive capacity of the most vulnerable environments, including the Amazon rainforest, lakes and coral reefs.

The report builds on recent work for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which showed that 21 percent of all known mammals, 30 percent of amphibians and 35 percent of invertebrates are threatened with extinction.

“This report is saying that we are reaching the tipping point where the irreversible damage to the planet is going to be done unless we act urgently,” Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, told journalists.

Djoghlaf told journalists: “There is not a single country in the world that has achieved [a pledge that was undertaken in 2002]. So we continue to lose biodioversity at unprecedented rate.”

Three potential tipping points were identified.

  • Global climate, regional rainfall and loss of plant and animal species were harmed by continued deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
  • Freshwater lakes and rivers are becoming contaminated, starving them of oxygen and killing off fish.
  • And coral reefs are collapsing due to the combined blow of more acid and warming oceans, as well as overfishing.

“Humanity has fabricated the illusion that somehow we can get by without biodiversity or that it is somehow peripheral to the contemporary world,” said Achim Steiner, director general of the U.N. Environment Program.

“We need a sea-change in human thinking and attitudes towards nature: not as something to be vanquished, conquered, but rather something to be cherished and lived within,” said the author of the U.N. Biodiversity Report, economist Pavan Sukhdev.

The issues raised by the report are due to be discussed at a U.N. biodiversity meeting in Japan in October.