The innumerable benefits provided by the Earth – everything from fresh water and clean air to productive soils, wild fisheries, and genetic resources - have been depleted at an unprecedented rate in the past 50 years, and in many cases humans are living on borrowed time unless they wake up, a group of scientific experts said today.
In presentations made jointly in 12 cities around the world, authors of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment delivered a major report on the grim status of the services provided by the planets ecosystems and the consequences to human well-being. The report also outlined possible responses that might be adopted to improve ecosystem management and contribute to human well-being.
"This is a sobering report card - but one with useful and hopeful options" said Jane Lubchenco, the Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology at Oregon State University, and one of the studys 1,360 authors from 95 countries. "Everyone in the world depends on nature and ecosystem services to provide the conditions for a decent, healthy and secure life," Lubchenco said.
"We hear a lot about various environmental problems and ecological issues, but this report integrates all of the changes underway and shows explicitly how they relate to human well-being," Lubchenco said. The severity of the problems, Lubchenco said, does not mean the situation is hopeless.
"Social change is not always steady and gradual," she said. "Once people better understand the situation and what we have to do, I think its possible we could see dramatic actions from many groups, including business, the general public, religious groups, and the scientific and political communities. The scientific community is offering an evaluation and suggested options. Now is a real opportunity for leadership."
The study said that three key changes must take place before major change is realistic.
People must first understand that the services provided by nature are not free and limitless. Local communities must have real influence in how conservation decisions are made, and end up with a fair share of the benefits. And the whole process must become more broad-based, not confined to a single government agency or one small part of a corporate bureaucracy.
Better understanding the real economic value of natural systems, and the bottom-line cost of losing them, will help, the study suggested.
Businesses must also learn that their long-term corporate survival may depend on protection of ecosystems, the report concluded, and they should explore changing consumer preferences and new business opportunities created by the demands of a changing world.
Jane Lubchenco | EurekAlert!
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