By Greg Walcher
A recent World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report claims humans have killed more than half of all the wildlife in the world since 1970. Alex HortonEmail Bio Follow The report attracted media mass attention, even though the actual 145-page essay doesn’t really say that, much less prove it.
More ironic, the political focus is mostly on countries where the declining wildlife populations do not live, and the solution suggested is so vague it couldn’t possibly address the issue.
The hype about the document, an annual harangue called the “Living Planet Report,” is not surprising, considering the source. This is the same organization that told us a decade ago we would all have to abandon Planet Earth.
“Earth’s population will be forced to colonize two planets within 50 years if natural resources continue to be exploited at the current rate, according to a… study by the WWF. [The study] warns that the human race is plundering the planet at a pace that outstrips its capacity to support life. The report… reveals that more than a third of the natural world has been destroyed by humans over the past three decades.”
That was a remarkable conclusion, especially considering that 71% of the Earth’s surface is water. That means humans would have to have destroyed virtually every square inch of land on Earth for the report to be credible. So it’s incredible that the WWF and its annual report continue to attract media attention.
This year’s diatribe claims almost 60% of all the fish, birds and animals on Earth have been killed by people in two generations. It proposes “a new global deal for nature,” a companion for the Paris Climate treaty. Except unlike Paris, the proposed “new deal for nature” has no numbers and no specific goals. In fact, there is no definition of what the agreement might entail.
Rather, it includes vague suggestions that we’re not locking up enough land from public access, nor creating enough national parks, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas and other “unpeopled” places. For the United States, that means the WWF is not satisfied that laws, regulations and other actions have already prohibited mining, drilling, timber harvesting and other human activities on 427 million acres of federal land. That’s the size of Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming combined, and it does not include state and private lands that have also been closed to most human activity.
The report’s language is decidedly European and American, using policy terms common to the western environmental industry. For example, it discusses the “progress” in removing dams in the USA – levying special criticism on agriculture in the Rio Grande Valley – and approvingly cites efforts to designate more wild and scenic rivers.
It continues the ongoing criticism of western mining, timber production and “unsustainable agriculture,” accusations with which we’re all too familiar. In truth, these people simply want to stop most human uses of land, water and other resources of the American West.
There is another major problem with using this report to further that goal. The wildlife it laments do not live in the American West. Many are found in countries where energy-deprived, jobless, hungry, desperate people cut down forest habitats for fuel, eat wildlife to survive, and kill other species to sell their ivory, horns or meat for a few dollars.
Also, keep in mind that the reported declines in wildlife populations are based on computer modeling, not actual counting of actual animals. Still, even if you give such a report the benefit of the doubt, as many will, the dangers cited are from “warming oceans choked with plastic,” allegedly toppled rain forests, and supposedly dying coral reefs. Thus, populations are said to be tanking worst in the oceans and tropics, including an 89% decrease in South and Central America.
But make no mistake – the U.S. is nonetheless at fault. The report claims “crop failures brought on by climate change” are the reason caravans of Central Americans stream to the United States illegally. That’s why we must “urgently transition to a net carbon-neutral society and halt and reverse nature loss – through green finance and shifting to clean energy and environmentally friendly food production.”
How those terms are defined or implemented in a truly ecological, sustainable manner (more vague, malleable, politicized terms), the report does not say.
In a way, the details in this report may actually disprove its own conclusions. The U.S. and Canada are among the countries that use the most natural resources. Yet the worst wildlife declines are in the tropics, not in North America. The prime examples cited are African elephants, whale sharks, orangutans in Borneo, wandering albatross near Antarctica, jaguars in South America, gharial crocodiles in India and Nepal, and giant salamanders in China.
To note just one example where the WWF gets its “green finance” and “clean energy” facts completely upside down, a major reason orangutans are disappearing is that their habitats are being cleared to make room for palm oil biofuel plantations. How that is ecological or sustainable the WWF does not say.
The World Wildlife Fund is not the only Chicken Little constantly warning of a dire future. A similar article, published in the National Academy of Sciences journal last spring, was even more shocking. It claimed that since the dawn of civilization, humans have caused the loss of 83% of all mammals and half of all plants on Earth.
That’s because, WWF says, “the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life.” However, the WWF and many other environmental industry groups, also oppose modern mechanized farming practices and seeds that significantly increase yields, allowing farmers to feed more people from less land. Still more ironies and non sequiturs.
So while you stop driving cars and heating your homes, you might also need to stop eating – while you pack for the trip to some other planet.
If we are not Chicken Little, is the sky still falling?
Greg Walcher is president of the Natural Resources Group and author of “Smoking Them Out: The Theft of the Environment and How to Take it Back,” now in its second printing. He is a former head of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.