The most comprehensive and detailed review of the state of nature has been published in Paris. Our environment correspondent Matt McGrath extracts the key messages.
1 – “Boy, we are in trouble”
This phrase was uttered by Prof Sir Bob Watson who has chaired this report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
While Sir Bob went on to explain that there is still hope and much we can do to save nature, I think it’s worth dwelling for a moment on just how much trouble we are in.
Globally, two billion people rely on wood to meet their primary energy needs. Around 70% of cancer drugs are natural, or are synthetic products inspired by nature.
Then there’s all that water that nature cleans, all the food it provides, all the CO2 it absorbs, all the storms that it blocks.
I could go on, but the picture is very plain.
Humans are more dependent on nature now than anytime in our history.
Over the past 50 years, as the world’s population has doubled, we have pulled more people out of poverty than ever before.
And how have we done it?
By chopping, burning, poisoning and thrashing large sections of the most biodiversity-rich lands and oceans around our only planet.
This feeding frenzy has killed off thousands of species and now threatens a million more.
“Nature is changing in part because there’s more of us and we are consuming more,” said one of the IPBES co-ordinating lead authors, Dr Kate Brauman.
“As people become more affluent they have bigger footprints, they eat more they drive more and they fly more.”
2 – “We need to change the stories in our heads…”
One key message from the assessment is that we need to re-evaluate what we mean by the idea of a “good life”.
For centuries, in western culture, this has all been about accumulating wealth, working hard, making sacrifices for the benefits of our children.
Progress, as defined in many families, has meant children earning more than their parents. More money, more things.
“We need to change the way we think about what a good life is, we need to change the social narrative that puts an emphasis on a good life depending on a high consumption and quick disposal,” said Prof Sandra Diaz, one of the co-chairs of the IPBES report.