Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Living Planet Report

The WWF has produced its Living Planet Report for 2010, a science-based analysis on the health of our planet and the impact of human activity, and as you might expect, the news is not good. The key finding is: “Humanity's demands exceed our planet's capacity to sustain us. That is, we ask for more than what we have.”

One of the markers of our planet’s biodiversity is the Living Planet Index, which tracks populations trends in over 2500 vertebrate species. Between 1970 and 2007, the Living Planet Index declined by 30%. This decline was seen in all biomes: freshwater species (-35%), marine species (-25%), and terrestrial species (-24%). The decline was worst among tropical species (-60%) and in species in low-income countries (-58%). Though temperate species make some gains in this period (+29%), thanks to improved environmental management in many regions, much of the change is probably because these species started from an already reduced baseline due to decades and centuries of agricultural expansion and industrialization. So much for the only bit of good news.

The high decline of species in low-income countries is clearly affected by globalization and consumption patterns in high-income countries. Our high ecological footprint is taking its toll. An excellent way to see this is through the Living Planet Report Mindmap. Here you can see how we’re all linked to biodiversity, how our footprint influences biodiversity and what choices we have for the future. It's an excellent resource worth exploring. You can also download and read the entire report.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Most Threatened Species in 2010

I stumbled on a powerpoint presentation online that gives a nice summary of endangered species (well, I didn't exactly stumble since my search terms were "endangered species powerpoint"). The problem with writing about endangered species is that it's very much doom and gloom, after all, extinction is forever. The message in this presentation, which was directed at kids, was "Endangered means there's still time." Nice.

Then I found this nice infographic that summarizes the ten most threatened species in 2010. I suspect most of them will make the "10 most threatened" lists for the next several years, but the image presents information about the reasons that these species are so threatened. The present high rates of species loss are due to five human-caused factors: habitat loss, pollution, invasive species, overexploitation and global warming and you can see each of these factors rearing its head for these threatened species.

It should be noted that these are the most threatened high profile species. It's easy to find many more less famous species whose numbers are much more desperate, in the hundreds or only dozens. The Iberian lynx, for example, is thought to have less than 100 members.You can find lists of critically endangered species on Wikipedia and elsewhere. If "endangered"
means there's still time, then critically endangered means time is critical.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Welcome to the International Year of Forests

We're back. After a too long hiatus, we're gearing up for the 2nd Annual Ecolympics hosted by the Core Curriculum at Boston University. This year we're running the events for two weeks, April 1 -- 15 and looking for a bigger impact. Naturally, it's you our participants who are going to determine how big our impact can be, so we're counting on you.

We got the Ecolympics going last year to raise awareness about the human impact on the environment and the consequent species loss. The problem of species loss is so severe -- Harvard naturalist E.O. Wilson has said that 30,000 species are going extinct every year -- that last year was decreed the International Year of Biodiversity. One result was the Nagoya Protocol, where nations agreed to halve biodiversity loss by 2020, increase the percentage of protected lands from 12.5 to 17% and increase the percentage of protected oceans from less than 1% to 10%. Making this happen is going to take a commitment from all of us.

This year is the International Year of Forests and Yann Arthus-Bertrand, who directed the compelling eco-documentary Home (and put it online, gratis) has prepared a visually stunning short film to summarize the importance of forests. Here, also, is a collection of some endangered forests around the world, from which the above photos are taken.

We're now in the planning stages for this year's Ecolympics. Along with our main Ecolympics activities, we're aiming to again feature vegetarian cooking classes and film nights as well as some new events like hosting sustainability seminars, going on local hikes and possibly tree
planting. If you're at BU and want to get involved, do get in touch. If you're beyond BU and want to get involved, also get in touch! We want to make a bigger, longer-lasting impact this year and we can do that with your help.