The screening on BBC One last Sunday evening of Sir David Attenborough’s new documentary Extinction: The Facts left many viewers shocked, terrified and angry according to some press reports. The hour-long programme saw the legendary natural historian and fellow experts investigate the devastating effects of climate change and habitat loss on wildlife and plant life, and how it’s also impacting humanity and the planet.
Disturbing scenes saw Attenborough detail how a million different species are at risk of extinction due to the biodiversity crisis, which is also putting us at greater risk of pandemic diseases like COVID-19.
Having watched the programme there was a temptation to say “well that’s it, there is nothing we can do, it’s all over”. Attenborough, however would not agree. He concluded the programme on a positive note. “I do truly believe that, together, we can create a better future. I might not be here to see it, but if we make the right decisions at this critical moment, we can safeguard our planet’s ecosystems, its extraordinary biodiversity and all its inhabitants. What happens next is up to every one of us.”
Meanwhile the natural world is in a “desperate” state, with global wildlife populations “in freefall” due to the impact of humans, according to one of the world’s most comprehensive examinations of biodiversity on our planet according to wildlife charity the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Hammering home Sir David Attenborough’s message, the charity’s recently published Living Planet Report 2020 Bending the curve of Biodiversity Loss, https://www.wwf.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-09/LPR20_Full_report.pdf paints a startlingly bleak picture of the rapid damage being wrought by modern civilisation, warning “nature is being destroyed by humans at a rate never seen before, and this catastrophic decline is showing no signs of slowing.”
The report says that populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have collapsed by an extraordinary 68 per cent on average globally since 1970 – more than two thirds in 50 years. It also finds that intensive agriculture, deforestation and the conversion of wild spaces into farmland are among the main drivers of natural destruction, while overfishing is “wreaking havoc with marine life”.
It wonders if everything we’ve seen in 2020 is enough to make us reset our relationship with nature and points out that we know what needs to be done if we’re to have a chance of putting nature on a path to recovery by 2030. Like Sir David Attenborough, the report strikes a positive note pointing out that with global action to protect wildlife, produce food in better ways, and change what we choose to eat, we can turn things around.
Both Extinction: The Facts and the WWF report make it absolutely clear about the stark choices and consequences before us. As the report concludes;” Citizens, governments and business leaders around the globe will need to be part of a movement for change with a scale, urgency and ambition never seen before.”
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