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1 Million Species Are Threatened With Extinction. And Humans Are To Blame

A bumblebee lands at blossoms of flowering cherry trees during springlike temperatures in Erfurt, Germany, Sunday, April 7, 2019. (Jens Meyer/AP)
A bumblebee lands at blossoms of flowering cherry trees during springlike temperatures in Erfurt, Germany, Sunday, April 7, 2019. (Jens Meyer/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

A massive new United Nations assessment reports that humans are transforming the Earth so much that 1 million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction. And the greatest threat could be to ourselves.


Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation ecology at Duke University. (@StuartPimm)

Andrew Wetzler, managing director of the Nature Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a conservation group. (@aewetzler)

From The Reading List

The Guardian: “Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth’s natural life” — “Human society is in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems, the world’s leading scientists have warned, as they announced the results of the most thorough planetary health check ever undertaken.

“From coral reefs flickering out beneath the oceans to rainforests desiccating into savannahs, nature is being destroyed at a rate tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10m years, according to the UN global assessment report.

“The biomass of wild mammals has fallen by 82%, natural ecosystems have lost about half their area and a million species are at risk of extinction – all largely as a result of human actions, said the study, compiled over three years by more than 450 scientists and diplomats.”

Associated Press: “UN report: Humans accelerating extinction of species” — “People are putting nature in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming over 1 million species of plants and animals, scientists said Monday.

“But it’s not too late to fix the problem, according to the United Nations’ first comprehensive report on biodiversity.

“‘We have reconfigured dramatically life on the planet,’ report co-chairman Eduardo Brondizio of Indiana University said at a press conference.

“Species loss is accelerating to a rate tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past, the report said. More than half a million species on land ‘have insufficient habitat for long-term survival’ and are likely to go extinct, many within decades, unless their habitats are restored. The oceans are not any better off.”

NPR: “1 Million Animal And Plant Species Are At Risk Of Extinction, U.N. Report Says” — “Up to 1 million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species on Earth are at risk of extinction — many of them within decades — according to scientists and researchers who produced a sweeping U.N. report on how humanity’s burgeoning growth is putting the world’s biodiversity at perilous risk.

“Some of the report’s findings might not seem new to those who have followed stories of how humans have affected the environment, from shifts in seasons to the prevalence of plastics and other contaminants in water. But its authors say the assessment is the most accurate and comprehensive review yet of the damage people are inflicting on the planet. And they warn that nature is declining at “unprecedented” rates, and that the changes will put people at risk.

“‘Protecting biodiversity amounts to protecting humanity,’ UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said at a news conference about the findings Monday morning.

“The report depicts ‘an ominous picture,’ says Sir Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (commonly called the IPBES), which compiled the assessment.”

Anna Bauman produced this hour for broadcast.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.