Web of life

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The over-exploitation of the natural resources and rapacious consumption of ecologically diverse plant life appears to have reached a point where a re-think of the new and capital development model needs to be done to prevent further damage to flora and fauna on the planet. Moreover, the ruthless exploitation of the natural resources has unfortunately been threatening or leading to extinction of some species of all studied animal and plant groups. Almost a quarter of all the known plants and animal have been driven to extinction that may threaten the human survival itself in the coming years if no corrective measures are initiated. Most of the reports that have been prepared keeping in view the status of the natural resources and biodiversity should act as pointers for the governments across the world to initiate remedial measures for sustaining human survival on this planet. The message from the global assessment report of the Inter-governmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is no different and also points to rapacious exploitation of the nature by human beings threatening the flora and fauna of the known species. It is important to note that “if the world continues to pursue the current model of economic growth without factoring in environmental costs, one million species could go extinct, many in a matter of decades”. Catastrophic erosion of ecosystems is being driven by unsustainable use of land and water, direct harvesting of species, climate change, pollution and release of alien plants and animals in new habitats. While ecosystem losses have accelerated over the past five decades universally, there is particular worry over the devastation caused in tropical areas, which are blessed with diverse biodiversity than others; only a quarter of the land worldwide now retains its ecological and evolutionary integrity, largely unaffected by human impact. Nature provides ecosystem services, but these are often not included in productivity estimates: they are vital for food production, for clean air and water, provision of fuel for millions, absorption of carbon in the atmosphere, and climate moderation that is necessary for human sustenance. The result of such skewed policies, as the IPBES estimates, is that the global rate of species extinction is at least tens to hundreds of times higher today than the average rate over the past 10 million years, and it is accelerating alarmingly. The inter-governmental committees across the globe that have been formed for checking the adverse impact of the climate change and ecological devastation do not appear to have succeeded in formulation of new policies. This effort has mainly failed due to capitalism-centered development model, which extends benefits to a select group of corporate houses in the world, which does not have any regard for over-exploitation of natural resources. The assessments made in the past over a century have been lop-sided due to dominance of the capitalist powers in developed countries, which just want to rule the world through acute exploitation of the resources. The ecological economists have for years pointed to the extreme harm that humanity is courting by modifying terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems to suit immediate needs, such as raising agricultural and food output and extracting materials that aid ever-increasing consumption. Expanding agricultural operation by cutting down forests has raised food volumes, and mining feeds many industries, but these have severely affected other functions such as water availability, pollination, maintenance of wild variants of domesticated plants and climate regulation. Losses from pollution are usually not factored into claims of economic progress made by countries, but as the IPBES assessment points out, marine plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, affecting at least 267 species, including 86% of marine turtles, 44% of seabirds and 43% of marine mammals. At the same time, about 9% of 6,190 domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had gone extinct by 2016, and another 1,000 may disappear permanently in coming years. Viewed against a shrinking base of wild varieties of farmed plants and animals, all countries should have cause for alarm. They are rapidly emptying their genetic resource kit. Reversing course is a dire necessity to stave off the disaster that could threaten human survival. This can be done by incorporating biodiversity impacts into all economic activity, recognising that irreparably breaking the web of life will impoverish and endanger people everywhere on this planet. The economic activity should factor conservation of nature before it spells disaster for the human civilization.