Nairobi, Sept 11 – A new report by the conservation group WWF provides unequivocal evidence that nature is unravelling and that humanity’s destruction of the environment is having catastrophic impacts not only on wildlife populations but also on human health and all aspects of people’s lives.

According to this year’s Living Planet Report, a deep cultural and systemic shift is urgently needed that requires a transition to an economic system that values nature.  Humanity must rebalance its relationship with the planet to preserve the Earth’s amazing diversity of life and enable a just, healthy and prosperous society.

“The Living Planet Report 2020 underlines how humanity’s increasing destruction of nature is having catastrophic impacts not only on wildlife populations but also on human health and all aspects of our lives,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International.

“We can’t ignore the evidence – these serious declines in wildlife species populations are an indicator that nature is unravelling and that our planet is flashing red warning signs of systems failure. From the fish in our oceans and rivers to bees which play a crucial role in our agricultural production, the decline of wildlife affects directly nutrition, food security and the livelihoods of billions of people.”

The way we produce and consume food and energy, and the blatant disregard for the environment entrenched in our current economic model, has pushed the natural world to its limits, the report says. The COVID-19 pandemic is a clear manifestation of human being’s broken relationship with nature and highlights the deep interconnection between the health of both people and the planet.

Mankind must secure the diversity of life and have the moral duty to coexist with it because ignoring it puts the future of nearly 8 billion people at stake, the report stresses. “A better future starts with the decisions that governments, companies and people around the world take today.

“World leaders must take urgent action to protect and restore nature as the foundation for a healthy society and a thriving economy. It’s time for the world to agree on a New Deal for Nature and People, committing to stop and reverse the loss of nature by 2030 and build a carbon-neutral and nature-positive society. This is our best safeguard for human health and livelihoods in the long term, and to ensure a safe future for our children,” the reports adds.

The 2020 global Living Planet Index (LPI) shows an average 68 per cent fall in monitored populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish between 1970 and 2016. Species’ population trends are important because they are a measure of overall ecosystem health.

Endangered species captured in the LPI include the eastern lowland gorilla, whose numbers in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo have seen an estimated 87 per cent decline between 1994 and 2015, mostly due to illegal hunting, and the African grey parrot in southwest Ghana, whose numbers fell by up to 99 per cent between 1992 and 2014 due to threats posed by trapping for the wild bird trade and habitat loss.

Since the industrial revolution, human activities have increasingly destroyed and degraded forests, grasslands, wetlands and other important ecosystems, threatening human well-being. Seventy-five per cent of the Earth’s ice-free land surface has already been significantly altered, most of the oceans are polluted, and more than 85 per cent of the area of wetlands has been lost, according to the report.

The most important direct driver of biodiversity loss in terrestrial systems in the past several decades has been a land-use change, primarily the conversion of pristine native habitats into agricultural systems, while much of the oceans have been overfished. Globally, climate change has not been the most important driver of the loss of biodiversity to date, yet in coming decades it is projected to become as, or more, important than the other drivers.