Will the population bomb destroy our natural world?

January 27, 2014
  • Will the population bomb destroy our natural world?
As a part of the lineup of events organised as a part of Who Cares about Nature, a festival for learning and recreation focused on nature and the environment, Dilmah Conservation hosted a special lecture by Dr. Bill Jackson, Chief Executive of Parks Victoria, Australia and former, Deputy Director General of the IUCN.
This public lecture entitled 'Man and the Natural Ecosystem ' was held on Saturday, 25 January 2014 at the auditorium of the Lakshman Kadiragamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS). Through the presentation, Dr. Jackson sought to provide an overview of the importance of preserving ecosystems and promoting responsible and sustainable consumption in order to ensure the conservation of biodiversity towards the benefit of not only plant and animal life, but human survival.

Dr. Jackson highlighted the exponential rise in population and the interlinked dependence on natural resources which poses grave challenges to the availability of these essential resources for posterity. Coupled with the decline of non-renewable resources,an incline in population not only affects the wellbeing of humans, but plant and animal habitats, thus contributing to notable losses in biodiversity within natural ecosystems.

Quoting Jim Leape, the Director General of WWF International in the 2012 Living Planet Report, Dr. Jackson stated that 'we are using 50 per cent more resources than the Earth can provide, and unless we change course that number will grow very fast-by 2030, even two planets will not be enough', highlighting the need for conscious measures for responsible consumption, sustainable development and conservation. While various significant covenants such as the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment Stockholm in 1972 set forth noble ambitions to help maintain, restore and strengthen the earth's capacity to produce vital renewable resources, further interventions and efforts  have become necessary to mitigate the strain caused by a the growing global population.

As a consequence, biodiversity in particular has been subject to grave losses both in terms of genetic diversity of species and the health of ecosystems, with 12% of birds, 23% of mammals and 41% of amphibians being declared as threatened in the IUCN Red List. Dr. Jackson further emphasized that nature is able to recover and restore its balance provided that it is consciously provided the space and time to do so.

He stated that the wellbeing of ecosystems is central to human existence, as the goods and services provided by these including basic components of subsistence in the form of food and medicine, livelihood and raw materials for construction, utility items and crafts, and essential life support, defense against natural hazards, climate change mitigation and adaptation and various fundamental natural cycles. These provisions directly relate to human health, wellbeing, socio-economic needs, security and social relations.

In his lecture, Dr. Jackson explained that according to the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 60% of ecosystem services worldwide have become degraded in the past 50 years as revealed in the grievous loss to forests globally and a five-fold increase in fishing since 1950 which has resulted in a serious depletion of marine life. Not only have these losses compounded climate change phenomena worldwide, they have indirectly influenced harmful impacts to human health, with a notable rise in malaria and other insect-borne diseases causes by drastic changes to land usage. Dr. Jackson further stressed the importance of businesses playing an active role in the conservation of nature, particularly given the potential it possesses in sectors such as nature-based tourism.

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