The Lowcountry knows all too well the challenges that come with growth: congestion, traffic and overcrowded schools.
But to the world’s wildlife, human population growth is a matter of life or death. And as things are going now, wildlife is on the losing side.
Indeed, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says that, unless quick action is taken, vertebrate wildlife, by the end of the decade, will have decreased by 67 percent since 1970. It is already 58 percent of what it was in 1970.
It’s worse for freshwater animals. They have declined by 81 percent in the last four decades.
The problem? For one thing, wildlife habitat is being cleared for agriculture to feed the human population, which has grown from about 1.6 billion to more than 7 billion over the last hundred years. That explains why farmland occupies more than a third of the planet’s surface, according to WWF.
People have to eat. But WWF contends that we must employ “an adaptive and resilient food system that provides nutritious food for all.” That’s a tall order, but it’s vital that we work toward it.
Sadly, even with such a food system, wildlife is still in danger due to other threats.
One area where coastal South Carolina is out front is in its commitment to preserving green space. Voters in Charleston County have twice voted to pay more sales tax, in part to ensure that more of the area’s natural assets are protected. Keeping woodlands healthy and free from development helps keep the ecosystem healthy.
Pollution — air and water — can pose serious problems for wildlife, and for people who rely on fresh water and clean air for energy and recreation. And global warming, according to WWF, can force animal populations to move or can lead to their becoming extinct.
Let’s hope that when he becomes president, Donald Trump will switch gears and recognize that global warming is not a hoax and that there is great value in protecting the environment and developing sustainable alternative energy.
Every two years WWF releases data like these after analyzing changes in more than 18,000 wildlife populations composed of nearly 4,000 animal species around the world. Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said human actions “are pushing life on our shared planet toward a sixth mass extinction.”
And Johan Rockstrom, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, said, “We are no longer a small world on a big planet. We are now a big world on a small planet, where we have reached a saturation point.”
It’s a grim report, but it’s important to consider as we set priorities locally and nationally. We ignore the devastating warning signs at our own peril.