Will Policy Makers Listen to the World's Scientists

© Roger de la Harpe

The world has been warned time and again about the potential harm man is doing to ecosystems around the world. Now 1,360 scientists from 95 countries have spent four years studying the current state of the planet, and have released their findings in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. The report gives evidence of man's dependence on healthy ecosystems for food, water and a stable climate. It shows how, in the recent past, man has altered the environment to meet demands for food, fresh water, fibre and energy, but in doing so it has damaged ecosystems.

These ecosystems now cannot cope with tasks they had previously performed, such as the purification of air and water and the lessening of the impact of disasters. The board compiling the report have said that the "dire state of many of the world's fish stocks" is an "outstanding" problem. Another ominous observation is that two billion people are likely to run into problems, especially regarding water supply, due to the loss of services provided by ecosystems. They warn that the planet is on the "edge of a massive wave of species extinctions, further threatening our well-being".

People that suffer the most from ecosystem changes are those who have the most work to do to achieve the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals the poor of sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, Latin America and south and southeast Asia. The report says that with a coordinated effort international policy changes could still reduce man's impact on ecosystems for a better future. However, they warn that this is unlikely to happen "until ecosystem services cease to be perceived as free and limitless, and their full value is taken into account."

Eight of the world's leading conservation organisations, BirdLife International, Conservation International, IUCN - The World Conservation Union, Fauna & Flora International, the Nature Conservancy, Wetlands International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have said that, as a result of the assessment, they will work together to conserve ecosystems. "We call on the world to join us."

They made three specific requests for world governments to recognise the importance of achieving environmental sustainability, for the private sector to take greater responsibility for its social and environmental impacts, and for individuals to 'consume with a conscience'. They say that everyone can make choices in their own lives that will help conserve the natural environment, from using public transport to wasting less water. To learn more go to www.millenniumassessment.org

By Melissa Wray

Kruger National Park - South African Safari