The oxygen we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat – they all depend on other forms of life.
Without the rest of species on the planet, there would be no prosperity, no economy, no us. Not only have we taken all those species and the goods and services we obtain from them for granted, but we have also destroyed their homes and families – at grave cost to them, and us.
As scientists like E.O. Wilson have been telling us for a generation, we need half of the planet in a natural state, with functioning ecosystems that continue providing for us. For instance, we cannot achieve the Paris climate agreement goal (not to exceed 2°C in atmospheric temperature above pre-industrial levels) without intact ecosystems – our forests, grasslands, ocean habitats – absorbing much of the excess carbon pollution we expel into the atmosphere. More protected areas with thriving biodiversity not only go hand-in-hand with climate change mitigation but also they are required to correct our devastating trajectories. Nature is our greatest friend and ally, not our foe.
A question we often encounter, however, is how can we protect more forests and oceans with the growing human population? We’ll need to feed 10 billion people! But studies show that our current agricultural footprint already can feed 10 billion people. We’re just wasting a third of it along the supply chain, from the field to the table. We can feed the human population with dietary changes (eat less red meat and more plants); fishing and farming subsidies reform; and smarter, less wasteful, regenerative agriculture that helps build soil instead of throwing it away every time it rains.
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