News - 07 May 2019

Humanity’s defining challenge

A three-year, UN-backed study has revealed dire implications for the future of humanity—but the path forward is clear. The report, compiled by hundreds of experts from 50 countries, confirms that "the loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity is already a global and generational threat to human well-being".

Photo: Bulldozed and burned: deforestation in Queensland

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) study is the the greatest attempt yet to assess the state of life on Earth, and the first to systematically include indigenous and local knowledge at a global scale. The goal of the IPBES is to provide scientifically credible, independent and up-to-date assessments to help governments and other bodies make informed decisions.

The report shows that extinction threatens tens of thousands of species all over the world, the ways in which countries are exploiting nature faster than it can renew itself, and the implications for humanity if these trends continue over the next three decades.

“Protecting [nature] will be the defining challenge of decades to come.”

 Sir Robert Watson, IPBES Chair

Although this report is bleak, it clearly shows us the path we must follow. To urgently address this situation, the report recommends that existing nature laws be enforced and further regulations applied to curb destructive practices like deforestation and overfishing.

“I anticipate that the global assessment will highlight the urgent need for all people, policy and lawmakers, government and non government sectors, to take action to protect the future of human life on earth. Without clean water to drink and air to breathe, healthy soils and oceans to grow our food, we cannot survive.”

Dr Kirsten Davies is an academic at Macquarie Law School, Macquarie University, and was a coordinating lead author for the IPBES Asia Pacific regional Assessment and a scoping expert for the Global Assessment

“[The report] has a menu of policy choices and information that can help governments seek new ways for transformative change in dealing with nature.”

Professor Peter Bridgewater from the Institute for Applied Ecology and Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra

Right now, Australia stands out as one of the worst offenders in the world for nature destruction: we’re second in the world for biodiversity loss, and number one for mammal extinction. In fact, our recent report Abandoned: Australia’s forest wildlife in crisis revealed that 48 of Australia's forest fauna species are threatened by logging alone.

The Wilderness Society believes that strong laws and independent enforcement can work to save species, and break the cycle of vested interests and politicians exploiting loopholes in our laws to destroy our rives, forests and wildlife. In the United States, the Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of 227 species in the last 45 years, and 39 species have fully recovered under its protection.

By contrast, only one species has ever been taken off Australia’s threatened species list because of conservation action. 

The IPBES report will be handed to world leaders to make politicians, the private sector and the public more aware of the trends shaping life on Earth, and show us all how to better protect nature—and our future. The Wilderness Society and supporters will continue to call for new nature laws and an independent environmental protection agency to enforce them.

Read the IPBES report summary

Related stories in major news outlets:
The Guardian: Australian political parties urged to act as UN panel releases grim extinction warning
Sydney Morning Herald: 'Unparalleled': A million species at risk as humanity's impact rises

You can power the movement for nature

We know now what needs to be done to ensure a safe future for our world. Your donation today will power a movement to convince Australia’s politicians and decision-makers to protect the ecosystems our lives depend on—with strong new nature laws.