Wildlife perils

13 Sep 2020

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ACCORDING to the Living Planet Index, the global population of animals, birds and fish has decreased by over two-thirds in less than five decades; a startling reminder of the dangers of human excess and myopia. As we witness the catastrophic effects of climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and the spread of zoonotic diseases, it is time to pause and reflect on the contemporary world’s relationship with the natural world, including its indifference to the plight of other sentient beings. Apathy and egoism has cost us heavily, and will continue to do so, until better sense prevails. The past few decades have strengthened a single ideological and economic system, but its ‘progress’ has come at the expense of the environment and natural resources, and it has increased disparity. Rapid urbanisation, rampant consumerism, agricultural expansion, deforestation, and unthinking, unchecked greed have led to the present situation, and we now have to live with its discontents. If sincere efforts are not made to reverse the self-destructive trajectory we are on, we risk leaving behind an uninhabitable world for future generations.

We know that the planet and all species within it are interconnected, and yet the short-sightedness of some has robbed many of a better future. High-profile meetings are held, international accords are signed, and tall promises are made — but then what? The natural habitats of animals continue to be encroached upon, entire forests are decimated, oceans are choked, and the air is made unbreathable. The Living Planet Report goes on to mention that 40pc of the world’s oceans have been “degraded”; while 75pc of the total fish stocks are “overexploited”. Another recent study by the UK’s National Oceanography Centre found there was 10 times more plastic in the Atlantic Ocean than estimated before. This is not entirely surprising, given that 8m metric tons of plastic waste is dumped into the ocean each year, and eventually makes its way into the human food supply. Or it suffocates and kills marine life. The previous year saw an alarming number of whales wash ashore on beaches across the world; their digestive systems bloated with plastic. This included a juvenile sperm whale with 100kg of plastic, rope and netting in his stomach in Scotland. With the Covid-19 pandemic raging in many parts of the world, there is a surge in demand for personal protective equipment, which only adds to the plastic pollution.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2020