Human Kind’s standard of living has improved during the last few decades. Variables like nutrition, elimination of hunger, drinking water quality, education, war reduction, income per capita, etc. show much signs of improvement. According to the following article, quality of life is better today than what it used to be. Problems still exist though, but in general we are heading in the right direction in our evolutionary process.
Not is the case of Planets Earth’s ecosystems actual condition regarding oceans, rivers, and wild life in general. The toll our Planet has taken in the last fifty years is considerable and the deterioration of ecosystems is alarming. I was thinking, before I wrote this article-the timeframe coincides with this study– that for the most part, up until 1960 the world was still a pristine place. There was plenty of wild life around the world and in Africa safaris were a common practice for the rich and famous and possessing animal trophies was seen as glamorous. Our oceans were still plentiful. Coastal communities made a comfortable living from the ocean without having to sail to far from shore, rivers were full of fish and other species because mining and agricultural-use of chemicals was not a widespread practice – pollution was still low.
All of this started changing in the sixties and into the seventies because of population expansion which impacted wildlife habitat, territory encroachment, and wildlife killed for food. In addition to this, humans starting making a profit out of natural resources which initially did not make a big change but as the decades went by, the impact has been devastating and the outlook is very grim. If it is still hard to control this in developed countries with adequate regulations, imagine what is going on in areas of the world that contain huge poverty and humans will do the unthinkable-animals decimated and left to die- just to survive because they have no other option to make a living. It is a very complex and delicate situation and for the most part there is no way of stopping it. Fortunately, there are some cases of wildlife improvement thanks to some foundations and governments that by educating communities about ecotourism and sustainability they are changing the way they approach their environments. Because of poverty and mafias that corrupt government officials, poaching of endangered species is still going on and international demand abound for these species such as shark fin, rhino horns, elephant tusks, etc. Protected National Reserves have had to be created with electric fences and armed guards to keep poachers away so some of these species can be protected and saved from extinction, but it is a constant battle that costs a lot of money to maintain.
On the other hand, pollution and depletion of natural resources is truly alarming. Man has caused this pollution directly and indirectly. Directly by clearcutting forests for agriculture, dumping chemicals into our waters, the amount of garbage and plastic dumped into our oceans is unprecedented and islands of debris can even be seen from space. Once again the poorest countries with less regulation are the biggest polluters. But the biggest pollution created by man that is indirectly affecting many ecosystems-and in this case created by the world’s two largest super powers- is the emission of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere in the last century. We are doing this at a faster pace than plants and trees can process this volume and cleanse the air. If you add to the equation the ongoing depletion of forests around the world, the picture is even more alarming because these forests act as filters to purify the air. This is why this issue is one of the most important priorities of human kind and the world is on track to signing agreements to reverse this trend- especially China and the United States.
One of the long term solutions will be education. This change in mentality will have to come from future generations and it will have to start early in the classroom and communities. Into the curricula will have to be added Environment, Community, and Ethical Behavior, to form better world citizens. Income inequality which is mentioned so much today and has been covered in this blog, is another factor. As long as there is extreme poverty there will be poaching and destruction of natural resources and corruption. It is a vicious cycle unfortunately and it will take generations and brave leaders to confront this. When I say brave, I mean courageous environmentalists that are being assassinated because they are confronting powerful interests of mafias that corrupt authorities and in some cases act as NGO’s that pretend to be defenders of nature when in reality they pollute indiscriminately and support illegal operations and obstruct formal investments by misinforming local communities that end up siding with illegality because of ignorance and manipulation. The dilemma here is where do you draw the line between responsible extractions with job creation, while at the same time protecting the environment-delicate proposition indeed.
It is sad to see all this happening. Many reasons to blame and no end in sight, but once again humanity will have to come as one to at least save most of what we have left of ecosystems and wildlife. Maybe we can bring up the numbers of species that once thrived and roamed the earth like the Asian Tiger down to just 3,000 today from 100,000 specimens 100 years ago, the Polar Bear reduction in population due to global warming in Alaska and Canada from 1,500 to 900 as of 2010 or resuscitate the White Rhino population from just four specimens left today and on the brink of extinction, to the majestic world records in weight and size of Black Marlin and Tuna caught of Cabo Blanco in Northern Peru in the 1950’s that don’t exist anymore but seem to be coming back recently because of conservation, to so many other examples of lost nature.
I’m still optimistic in human kind’s resilience to turn things around