Pervasive Human-Driven Decline of Life on Earth Points to the Need for Transformative Change

The human impact on life on Earth has increased sharply since the 1970s, driven by the demands of a growing population with rising average per capita income. Nature is currently supplying more materials than ever before, but this has come at the high cost of unprecedented global declines in the extent and integrity of ecosystems, distinctness of local ecological communities, abundance and number of wild species, and the number of local domesticated varieties. Such changes reduce vital benefits that people receive from nature and threaten the quality of life of future generations.

Both the benefits of an expanding economy and the costs of reducing nature’s benefits are unequally distributed.This unparalleled appropriation of nature is causing the fabric of life on which humanity depends to fray and unravel: Most indicators of the state of nature, whether monitored by natural and social scientists or by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, are declining. These include the number and population size of wild species, the number of local varieties of domesticated species, the distinctness of ecological communities, and the extent and integrity of many terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. As a consequence, nature’s capacity to provide crucial benefits has also declined, including environmental processes underpinning human health and non-material contributions to human quality of life.

Despite the severity of the threats and lack of enough progress in tackling them to date, opportunities exist to change future trajectories through transformative action. Such action must begin immediately, however, and address the root economic, social, and technological causes of nature’s deterioration.

This review article is authored by Sandra Díaz et al., published in a journal called, Science 13 December 2019:Vol. 366, Issue 6471

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