Nov 10

Our dying planet

Regardless of who wins what in the world’s political life we can be sure of one thing: life on earth will suffer.

In recent days Brazilian voters, apparently fed up with years of corruption and incompetence, elected a president who may well be an existential threat to what remains of the amazon rain forest, our planet’s more vital natural lung.

Reports last week were also a sobering reminder of what we have been doing to our one and only world in recent decades.

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We have seemingly wiped out sixty percent of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens civilization.

Perhaps we should use that last word guardedly.

But anyway, here’s a few lines from one newspaper report: “The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by the World Wildlife Fund and involving 59 scientists from across the globe.

“It finds that the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else.

“The biggest cause of wildlife losses is the destruction of natural habitats, much of it to create farmland. Three-quarters of all land on Earth is now significantly affected by human activities. Killing for food is the next biggest cause – 300 mammal species are being eaten into extinction – while the oceans are massively overfished, with more than half now being industrially fished.

“Chemical pollution is also significant: half the world’s killer whale populations are now doomed to die from PCB contamination. Global trade introduces invasive species and disease, with amphibians decimated by a fungal disease thought to be spread by the pet trade.

“The worst affected region is South and Central America, which has seen an 89% drop in vertebrate populations, largely driven by the felling of vast areas of wildlife-rich forest.”

Given the recent election result in Brazil we can now expect that process to accelerate.

And Ireland?

This from a report in the Irish Independent: “The government’s failure to take action on climate change is a “breach” of the State’s human rights obligations, the UN special rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment has said.

“A statement by Professor David Boyd has been submitted to the High Court as part of legal action being taken by Friends of the Irish Environment, which claims the government’s response to global warming is not sufficient.”

The statement, said the report, cites reports from the Environmental Protection Agency on emission projections, and the annual report of the Climate Change Advisory Council, which has said Ireland is “completely off course” in terms of meeting 2020 and 2030 reduction targets.

This, of course, highlights a problem with the Paris Climate accords, a treaty of sorts which produced a lot of self-congratulatory hot air about reducing emissions, but a good deal less action once political leaders returned to their respective countries where they are pulled this way and that on the now life or death matter of toxic emissions.

The United States, of course, is on course to pull out of the Paris pact.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on the Brazilians.

Indeed, no country on earth is in a position to be throwing stones.

Which of course merely emphasizes the dire situation that we are all in, and the grim environmental future that we all face in a natural world that doesn’t consider mere human borders.