The Living Planet Index Report (LPI- a measure of the world's biological diversity) produced by The Zoological Society of London, states that in the past 44 years, we have lost over half, yes HALF, of the planet's wildlife and the trend is a continuous decline in biodiversity. For freshwater species, nearly 80% has been lost. These staggering statistics are scary. The loss of biodiversity is an issue we should all be concerned about, for we depend on functioning ecosystems for so many purposes, not just food and clean drinking water.
What is the cause in this alarming decline? The attributed cause is 'unsustainable human consumption'! We are simply too numerous and too demanding on our planet to allow both us and wildlife to co-exist. Why must the existence of one lead to the decline in another? This loss in biodiversity doesn't just mean cute animals. Plants, the very basis of food webs, are being lost at an unprecedented rate. But what can each of us do to change this? Nothing, some might say. That this is an issue for the government to solve and to develop legislation to fix the problems we create.
However, the uncomfortable truth is that we are all responsible and we must all share the responsibility to look after our planet. The world is simply overpopulated. With each additional person on the planet, the more resources we consume. Simple! But it goes beyond that. All of us living today can choose every day to live in a more sustainable way. The old ethos of reduce, reuse, recycle comes to mind. We have all gotten pretty good at the recycling part, now maybe it's time to focus on the reduce part.
I don't know about you, but I would like to think we can have both a fulfilling and comfortable life whilst also being able to enjoy a rich and diverse natural world. Here's hoping if we act now, our forests, the Great Plains and the oceans return to their former glory.
For more information on the LPI visit: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/
Moments ago I heard the very sad news that Professor Oliver Rackham passed away, a leading authority on countryside history and historical ecology who wrote many highly regarded ecology and history books. He was awarded an OBE for his services to Nature Conservation in 1998.
Very few people can rival his intimate understanding of the countryside surrounding us and how centuries of industrial and political change have turned our countryside into something heavily influenced by human intervention.
His groundbreaking work 'A History of the Countryside' was recommended to me while I was studying in Aberystwyth. As I read this book, my perception of the countryside changed. I could see sculpted mansion estates, hedges dating back centuries, deer hunting parks. The world was different. Human history entwined with ecology. This book changed the way I see the world.
His contribution to the New Naturalist series of books: 'Woodlands', was an equally important revelation to me. To discover that so little was known about the root systems of trees surprised me. Learning about the delicate interconnections of trees, mosses and fungi, has influenced my research for many years.
In Woodlands, Rackham introduced me to my favourite tree: The Wild Service Tree (Sorbus torminalis). Rackham's description of this tree and its fascinating history urged me to go out and see if I could find one. I found a service tree on the edges of the River Tamar in a small oak woodland. It was a strange sensation to find something I had previously only read about, the leaf is so distinctive. Rackham guided me to that tree. Ever since I first read Rackham's words about this tree it has become part of me. A service tree was printed on my CV when I got my job at NatureBureau. A service tree was printed on the head table at my wedding reception. I can only thank Rackham for telling this trees story.
There were a number of occasions where I almost met Oliver Rackham, but for various reasons they never quite worked out. I now regret that I will never have the chance to discuss woodlands with him. I will instead have to return to his books and find him in there.
All our thoughts at NatureBureau are with his family and friends.