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A planet unsuitable for wildlife is a planet unfit for people

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Lindsey Knewstub

Global wildlife population declined sixty percent over the past four decades, according to the Living Planet Report 2018, released this week by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). After assessing the current global conservation crisis, the report concludes that the current generation may be the last to reverse the trend.

Amanda Rodewald

Professor; Senior Director of Conservation Science, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Amanda Rodewald, Senior Director of Conservation Science at the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and a professor of ornithology, says the report should be considered as a warning for people to change habits before making our planet unsuitable for people, too.

“A steady stream of research from around the globe consistently shows that human activities are imperiling ecosystems and the services they provide, accelerating rates of species extinction, and ultimately compromising human health and well-being.

“The declines in wildlife populations are shocking and send a strong signal that we must do more to conserve biodiversity and safeguard our environment. At the same time, the trends are alarming in terms of what they mean for human populations. We are degrading the very same systems that provide humans with food, water, clean air, and other services that directly or indirectly support our health and well-being. The bottom line is this - if we are making our planet unsuitable for wildlife, then we also are making our planet unsuitable for people.

“One might easily feel helpless to change course, but our individual decisions can have enormous power collectively.

  • For one, vote; we can send a powerful signal about how much we value the health of our planet by voting for candidates that will protect the environment, conserve species, and safeguard human health and well-bring.
  • Use your voice; write your representative along with other politicians and decision-makers, urging them to support pro-environment policies and to uphold international treaties.
  • Build capacity in others; we can support agencies, conservation organizations, community groups, or others that actively work to conserve species and ecosystems. 
  • Exercise your choice as a consumer by purchasing sustainably-produced and/or certified products, such as shade-grown coffee.
  • Look around your home for opportunities to contribute; you can use native plants in your garden, plant trees on your property, reduce-reuse-recycle, among many other small steps.”

Steven Osofsky

Professor of Wildlife Health and Health Policy

Steven Osofsky, professor of wildlife health and health policy at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine and pioneer of the One Health movement says while using nature’s resources at a rapid rate may help global societies flourish now, we face significant negative impacts over time. 

Wildlife Health Cornell and the Engaged Cornell Program are working to reverse the conservation crisis.

"By mining nature’s resources at an unsustainable rate, global societies can flourish in the short term, but face significant impacts from the degradation of nature’s life support systems over the longer term.

“It’s become undeniable that human activity is rapidly transforming most of Earth’s natural systems. The global impacts of accelerating climatic disruption, land degradation, growing water scarcity, fisheries degradation, biodiversity loss, and pollution threaten the global development gains of the last several decades and are likely to represent the dominant global threats of the next century. 

“By altering the composition of the atmosphere, degrading arable lands faster than they can be replenished, overfishing, polluting, changing the chemistry and temperature of our oceans, withdrawing ground water faster than it can be recharged, and dramatically reducing the number and population size of species who coinhabit the planet with us, we are without any doubt putting the poor and future generations in harm’s way."

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