Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth's natural life
May 6, 2019 7:19 AM   Subscribe

Scientists reveal one million species at risk of extinction in damning UN report A group of scientists from all over the world have written a damning report about the state of biodiversity on our small planet. Here is a link to the media release from IPBES, the organization behind the report. The title of this post is from The Guardian. posted by mumimor (28 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Let's call it what it is and stand up against euphemism:
This is the end of the world
posted by growabrain at 8:44 AM on May 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Not sure the actual report or even the "Summary for Policymakers" is available. Splash page is here:

But the fact that this is making headlines is a good thing.
posted by jetsetsc at 8:58 AM on May 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

I would like to note that this isn't a climate change thread.

Climate change is a component of biodiversity loss, but not the most significant one:
The direct causes of Nature's degradation—in order of importance—are shrinking habitat and land-use change, hunting for food or illicit trade in body parts, climate change, pollution, and predatory or disease-carrying alien species such as rats, mosquitoes and snakes.
Robert Watson (chair of the group who made the report) noted that "Our destruction of biodiversity and ecosystem services has reached levels that threaten our well-being at least as much as human-induced climate change."

We need to decarbonize, but we also need to develop a healthier relationship with the earth. These are both huge problems that are related but not the same, and why solving climate change is not as simple as just building tons of solar panels and electric cars. (For example, to do that, we'd need to open a ton of new mines, which only exacerbates biodiversity problems.)

Sadly, of the people who have a healthier relationship with the earth:
Nature managed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities is under increasing pressure but is generally declining less rapidly than in other lands […]

The areas of the world projected to experience significant negative effects from global changes in climate, biodiversity, ecosystem functions and nature’s contributions to people are also areas in which large concentrations of Indigenous Peoples and many of the world’s poorest communities reside.
We must empower the poor. We must empower women. We must empower minorities. Or else.
posted by ragtag at 8:59 AM on May 6, 2019 [27 favorites]

Let's call it what it is and stand up against euphemism:
This is the end of the world

Ughghghgh can we not?? As someone elsewhere on this site wrote one time: despair is a luxury. We don't have that luxury. We have to keep going.
posted by witchen at 9:01 AM on May 6, 2019 [14 favorites]

I couldn't find the actual report. The press release was today.
posted by mumimor at 9:03 AM on May 6, 2019

Let's call it what it is and stand up against euphemism

Greta's take: "It’s 2019. Can we all now please stop saying “climate change” and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?"
posted by progosk at 9:31 AM on May 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

The intentional, with full knowledge, suicide of our species, due to our not having organized our political-economic systems properly to further even our own self-interests,

is a good thing.

The planet will be just fine once we're gone.
posted by goinWhereTheClimateSuitsMyClothes at 11:14 AM on May 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Deutsche Welle English's DocFilm last month: “The Insect Apocalypse” (42½min video, direct .mp4 link.)
The results of long-term monitoring published in 2017 have confirmed that as much as 75 percent of the world’s insect population has disappeared in the last 30 years.
posted by XMLicious at 11:31 AM on May 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's not the end of the world. Only the latest mass extinction to take place here.
posted by agregoli at 12:10 PM on May 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Also, I think it's bizarre. The solution here is and has always been "live harmoniously with nature and each other." What the misanthropes are saying is, in effect, "I'd rather burn everything down rather than change my ways."

Which, I mean, I get it, but maybe try to get outside more? Go for a hike or a swim or plant some sunflowers or something? We're lucky to live on such a pretty planet. We're lucky to have consciousness so we can enjoy it. It'd be a real shame to just throw that away. I think it's worth fighting for.
posted by ragtag at 12:37 PM on May 6, 2019 [14 favorites]

Have you ever planted sunflowers? You should, they're beautiful and easy to grow and help pollinators in your area. I planted a couple hundred of them over the weekend and am anxiously awaiting their sprouting.
posted by ragtag at 12:41 PM on May 6, 2019 [8 favorites]

The latest short short story in the Daily Science Fiction site is The History of the World in Four Sentences, which actually goes into more context, but is summed up as the title declares:

"The Earth was a paradise. Man came along. Man died out. The Earth was a paradise again."

Some futurist fiction authors have it right down.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:56 PM on May 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Could the "i hated humans anyway" members here just not contribute that every time the humans who like humans are talking about humans continuing to survive?"

Human-lovers could be asked to do the same thing. Realistically nothing of importance will happen either way. I could spend the rest of my days burning coal and tar and you could spend yours planting trees and recycling. Either way, it won't make an important impact, our discussions here are limited to "things have to change!!!!" or "fuck it!!" Both are equally ineffective at anything. The massive changes required will never result from an internet comment section. The best we can expect from this section of text is catharsis. For some people, it's throwing their hands up and resigning themselves to enjoying their lives while they can and not personally carrying that weight with them, for others it is to state the ways in which they are trying to help or hopeful calls for action.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:01 PM on May 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

The massive changes required will never result from an internet comment section.

I really disagree. Massive changes for good have happened as a result of the "comment section" here (the emotional labor thread was a big catalyst for change in so many personal relationships), and massive changes for bad have happened over in the "comment sections" of 4chan and r/MGTOW and so many other corners of the internet. It all matters.
posted by witchen at 1:51 PM on May 6, 2019 [12 favorites]

[Folks, if you don't care or you think extinction is great, please just skip this type of thread. It's not useful to require every discussion on this stuff to start from first principles.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:54 PM on May 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you're having trouble with the Dropbox link (I got a "too many requests" error), the Summary for Policy Makers pdf is now available on their website.
posted by gesso at 6:18 PM on May 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

[Couple deleted; as with previous note, please let's just skip the sidebar on the subject of "nothing can/will be done". Asking people to argue with you starting from there is just, again, a starting point that's really unhelpful. If you feel like nothing can/will be done, ok, but don't insist people turn every discussion of this stuff to hopelessness -- it's not good for people's mental health, and it's not good for the site.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:39 PM on May 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

I am eager to see suggestions that lead to an actual solution to this problem.
posted by hippybear at 7:53 PM on May 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

People are already doing the right thing in some places, like the Knepp Estate, here's an article about it in the Guardian. Here's an other example, on the island of Majuli in Assam (video with terrible music).
Politically, you can create restrictions on field sizes and mandate corridors of wilderness for all types of indigenous plants and animals to exist alongside more conventional farming. You can protect wetlands and coastal areas and limit fishing. It isn't hard to create change in a practical sense, the problems are the agricultural industry, the bad habits and the corrupt politicians. Those are big challenges, obviously, but it's our lives and our children's lives that are at stake.
posted by mumimor at 12:53 AM on May 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

I too am interested (and active) in solutions - explaining them, generating them, hashing out possibles, and very interested in working on small ideas that scale, the time is past to rely on big govt. Many of these are \ are going to be about building in survivability.

Even here in NZ where govt is making strong statements (I don't have a nice short synopsis - there still a lot og hot air making their sentences very long) they will not be able to be fast enough.
posted by unearthed at 1:12 AM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Personally, I've changed to an energy company that only delivers sustainable energy -- can you do that where you live, then do it. It's even cheaper! Also, I'm changing my garden into a forest garden, so I'm reading a lot about that, and also looking into the history of the land (to see what may be hidden in the ground), it's really fascinating. Our farm is in an area that was half (man-made) desert and half moorland and wetland. I've found an arial photo from the fifties and it's completely amazing to see how much change has happened, in a good way, since the EU and the local government decided to protect the area as a habitat area for a number of species. It's like that video about the wolves in Yellowstone. So I know on a personal level that change can happen.
But it's my youngest daughter who is the real driver in our family. She's gone from being concerned about the future to being outright angry if anyone buys unnecessary clothes or -- god forbid -- eats unsustainable food. She's our environmental police and it's good. It's her future, after all.
posted by mumimor at 1:26 AM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think the most important thing is to stop looking at the global issues. You're not a civilization. You're an individual. Focus on what you can do, today.

I think we as Americans always want somebody else to swoop in to fix things so we can go on about our lives. I think we're indoctrinated into believing in heroes. But heroes don't appear out of nowhere: they're just people who got busy learning and doing. Greta Thunberg was nobody a year or two ago, and now she has a following of millions and has the ear of at least a few governments. I wonder what she'll be up to when she graduates high school.

Hell, I didn't know the first thing about trees three years ago, but I've planted a couple thousand of them by now.

If you want ideas for concrete actions you can take, I thought this little essay has some good musings on how to move forward. In brief, society fifty years hence isn't going to look anything like society fifty years ago, and you would do well to A) prepare for it, and B) build community while doing so. Stop living like we're not in a crisis. Learn how to manage with less. (I mean really learn. Practice.) Teach others to do likewise. Stop supporting big businesses and frequent your local farmers market or join a CSA or start a garden of your own. Tear up your lawn and plant natives. Maybe build a little democratic consensus locally while you're at it.

In short, collapse now and avoid the rush.
posted by ragtag at 6:05 AM on May 7, 2019

European mayors demand EU emissions peak by next year
Their demands include:

Develop a just and inclusive European long-term climate strategy that enhances resilience and ensures emissions in the EU peak by 2020, more than halve by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050;
Enhance the 2030 EU climate and energy targets and Nationally Determined Contribution to ensure a resilient, rapid and just energy transition in line with the above goals;
Align the next EU long-term budget with this strategy, remove fossil fuel subsidies and mainstream climate action as a priority across all funding programmes; and
Commit all member states to binding net-zero emissions reduction targets and the above goals.
posted by mumimor at 10:58 AM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Stop eating fish. It’s the only way to save the life in our seas (George Monbiot, Guardian)
When you hear the word fisherman, what picture comes to mind? Someone who looks like Captain Birdseye: white beard, twinkly eyes, sitting on a little red boat chugging merrily across a sparkling sea? If so, your image of the industry might need updating. An investigation by Greenpeace last year revealed that 29% of the UK’s fishing quota is owned by five families, all of whom feature on the Sunday Times Rich List. A single Dutch multinational, operating a vast fishing ship, holds a further 24% of the English quota. The smallest boats – less than 10 metres long – comprise 79% of the fleet, but are entitled to catch just 2% of the fish. […]

What makes all this so frustrating is that regulating the fishing industry is both cheap and easy. If commercial fishing were excluded from large areas of the sea, the total catch would be likely, paradoxically, to rise, due to what biologists call the spillover effect. Fish and shellfish breed and grow to large sizes in the reserves, then spill over into surrounding waters. Where seas have been protected in other parts of the world, catches have grown dramatically. As a paper in the journal PLOS Biology shows, even if fishing was banned across the entire high seas – as it should be – the world’s fish catch would rise, as the growing populations would migrate into national waters.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:31 AM on May 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Rare black bear seen in no-go zone between North and South Korea This is a weird side-effect of conflict. I remember reading something similar about the east-west border in Europe
posted by mumimor at 10:58 AM on May 10, 2019

Just admit it! You don’t care about other species! (Alexandra Petri, WaPo)
For years I have come to you with news that the prairie chicken is not doing so well, and you have furrowed your brow and made concerned sounds. But — the prairie chicken does no better. I am sure you intend to do something about the prairie chicken, but “doing something about the prairie chicken” has slid somewhere on your priorities list below “doing nothing about the prairie chicken" and “forming strong, detailed opinions about the coffee cup that briefly appeared in a single shot of ‘Game of Thrones.’” And that’s fine! I mean, it’s not fine, but it’s between you and your God. Just, admit it, so we can stop wasting time.

I feel like the hardest part of my job right now as a scientist is how you pretend you care about other living beings (apart from dogs and cats, the dunking otter, the new dunking otter, or the occasional octopus who has on account of his exceptional gifts risen from straitened circumstances, pulling himself up by eight bootstraps). To save the rich and glorious tapestry of species that makes life possible on earth, there is nothing you would not do, except alter the way you live in even the slightest bit or be mildly inconvenienced for a very brief time. That is the sense I’m getting? I guess I understand why it is an important element of your self-image that you care about such things, but — look, you are not fooling anyone.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:36 PM on May 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I oversaw the U.S. nuclear power industry. Now I think it should be banned. (Gregory Jaczko, WaPo)
Before the [Fukushima] accident, it was easier to accept the industry’s potential risks, because nuclear power plants had kept many coal and gas plants from spewing air pollutants and greenhouse gases into the air. Afterward, the falling cost of renewable power changed the calculus. Despite working in the industry for more than a decade, I now believe that nuclear power’s benefits are no longer enough to risk the welfare of people living near these plants. I became so convinced that, years after departing office, I’ve now made alternative energy development my new career, leaving nuclear power behind. The current and potential costs — in lives and dollars — are just too high.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:49 AM on May 19, 2019

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