One Million Species At Risk of Extinction Due to Humans: UN

(RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil)—Every day billions of people depend on wild flora and fauna to obtain food, medicine, and energy. New UN-backed research has shown that one million species are on the verge of extinction due to overexploitation, climate changes, pollution and deforestation.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services—or IPBES—report said Friday that unless humankind improves the sustainable use of nature, the Earth is on its way to losing 12% of its wild tree species, over a thousand wild mammal species, and almost 450 species of sharks and rays, among other irreparable harm.

Humans use about 50,000 wild species routinely and 1 out of 5 people of the world’s 7.9 billion population depend on those species for food and income, the report said. Fuel wood is used for cooking by 1 in 3 people, with the highest percentage in Africa.

“It’s essential that those uses be sustainable because you need them to be there for your children and grandchildren. So when uses of wild species become unsustainable, it’s bad for the species, it’s bad for the ecosystem and it’s bad for the people,” report co-chair Marla R. Emery of the United States told The Associated Press.

This report provides more than just a sad picture. The report includes recommendations for policymakers as well as examples of sustainable wild fauna and floral use. According to the report, the central idea should be to ensure tenure rights for Indigenous peoples and local peoples who historically have sustainable used wild species.

The study found that Indigenous peoples own approximately 38,000,000 km (14,600,000.000 sq miles) of land across 87 countries. This is equivalent to 40% of the terrestrial conservation areas.

“Their lands tend to be doing better in sustainability than other lands. And the common thread is the ability to continue to engage in customary practices,” said Emery, who is also a researcher with the U.S. Forest Service.

Emery said it was vital to protect national and international systems like education that preserve Indigenous languages. It also maintains the ability of older members to transmit traditional knowledge to sustainable practices to younger generations.

An example of good practice is fishing arapaima, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish, in Brazil’s Amazon, co-chair of the report Jean-Marc Fromentin of France told the AP.

“It was a move from an unsustainable to a sustainable situation,” Fromentin said. “Some communities in Brazil created community-based management and then called some scientists to learn more about the fish’s biology and to put in place an efficient monitoring system. It worked so well that the model went to other communities and countries like Peru.”

Gregorio Mirabal, the head of Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin, who did not take part in the report, told the AP there had been already several U.N. studies stressing the importance of biodiversity and the threats posed by climate change, but they don’t bring about solutions.

He also mentioned the growing problem of contamination by oil and mercury in the area. These practices are also viewed as dangerous and can lead to violence such as the murder of an Indigenous soldier in Venezuela’s mining region.

“There is irrational exploitation of natural resources in the Amazon, but there is no social investment to improve the health, educational, cultural, and food situation of the Indigenous peoples,” Mirabal said.

Representatives from the 139 members countries, who gathered in Bonn (Germany) this week to approve the report. There were many experts involved, from Indigenous knowledge holders and scientists. IPBES, an intergovernmental independent body, is not part the U.N. System but has the support and assistance of other organizations such as the United Nations Environment Programme.

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