The choices we make can lead to a sustainable society living in harmony with healthy ecosystems or to the collapse of these ecosystems which will then have a dramatic effect on our economies and our ability to survive.
Humanity, along with all species is dependent on our habitat. Degradation of our environment will affect the carrying capacity of life on the planet and this in turn will affect the number of people that the planet can support. Many of the natural resources of the planet when degraded have impacts far beyond what is commonly perceived.
Due to the large body of research that has now been done it is now clear that many of the world's ecosystems are under intense pressure from human encroachment, the harvesting of natural resource and land clearing. This pressure is causing the destruction or degradation of habitat and species and permanent loss of productivity, threatening biodiversity and with it human well-being. (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report 2007 Working Group 11)
Today we can see significant impacts on many ecosystems and this has been observed in all parts of the globe. The following findings highlight the issues we face: "The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, associated disturbances (eg flooding, drought, wildfire, insects, ocean acidification), and other global change drivers (e.g. land use change, pollution, over-exploitation of resources)." (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report 2007 Working Group 11:5)
It is generally recognized that ecosystems are degraded or destroyed when the productivity of the biosphere is not able to keep pace with human consumption and waste generation. This is intimately related to the human population of the planet.
Human consumption is now 23% larger than nature's capacity to regenerate or to absorb our ecological footprint (Millennium Project Sate of the Future Report 2006) "... we are using the planet's resources faster than they can be renewed – the latest data available indicates that humanity's Ecological Footprint, our imprint upon the planet, has more than tripled since 1961. Our footprint now exceeds the world's ability to regenerate by about 25%." (Living Planet Report 2006: 1)
The changing state of global biodiversity and the pressure from human consumption on natural resources brings with it increased human hardship, this is particularly true for the poorer nations whom have less adaptive capacity than richer nations. The issues relating to decreasing biodiversity are urgent. The earth has entered an era in which humans are the dominating environmental force and environmental crises have sociological and economic consequences.
It can be argued that poor economic performance raises the risk of state failure, which in turn poses a potential threat to international security. Maintaining the health of ecosystems and biodiversity, and promoting sustainable agriculture and economic growth, reduces the risk of state collapse and with it the potential for conflict.
There appears to be a link between peaceful nations and ecological performance. If increasing the peacefulness of nations who are at the most ecological risk can help them improve their economic performance and mitigate the potential for conflict then this would be of immerse value to humanity.
What will be needed is an increased level of co-ordination at both the national and international level. To meet the challenges of biodiversity, globalization cannot be viewed simply as an economic process describing the movement of goods and services between independent or isolated nations. It will require the formation of complex, interdependent nations and systems. There must be a multinational approach and international commitments to conserve biodiversity and to help create more peaceful societies. These societies will provide a basis for more sustainability and to share information and critical technologies useful in achieving these ends. Organizations such as the UN and other regional organizations need to be strengthened to meet these ends.
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