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UN biodiversity report: The time to act is now

Posted on Thursday, May 09, 2019
Richmond SPCA CEO Robin Starr and her family recently visited South Africa and observed many wildlife species that could be pushed to extinction in the next few years.

A landmark United Nations report about the astounding decline in our environment and its far ranging impacts came out on May 6. Its conclusions are nothing short of terrifying. This global report is the first comprehensive look in 15 years at the state of the planet’s biodiversity. It was sickening, and if you are not shaken by its findings, you are either not paying attention or you are not sane.

The authors found overwhelming evidence that human activities are behind the stunning decline in our environment. The conclusion was that, owing to human-caused pressure, about one million of the earth’s species are probably going to become extinct in the next few years. Yes, I said in the next few years. The primary culprits of this species decline are land conversion (including deforestation), overfishing, bush meat hunting and poaching, climate change (of course), and pollution.

Acceleration of loss and destruction

This is not fear mongering about the long-range future. This is simple truth about the present and the very immediate future. What’s different about this report from what we have heard in the past is the degree of acceleration of the loss and destruction. Everything is speeding up, including the temperature and acidification of oceans, which contribute to the loss of coral reefs, themselves underwater ecosystems essential to more than 25% of marine species.

If you are reading our blog, then you probably care about animals. You probably are disturbed by the recognition that sea animals are dying painful deaths with their stomachs full of plastic and that polar bears are suffering slow miserable deaths of starvation while their habitat melts away beneath their feet. But, even for those people who don’t trouble themselves about animals’ suffering, this is a really big deal. The report makes clear that what is happening is going to soon materially
damage human wellness and world economies.

Attention and action needed

This blog is usually devoted to issues about companion animals and our efforts to protect and save the animals that we come into contact with fairly regularly. But, it is crucial that we pay attention to this UN report and act on it now. I am not only deeply concerned about what this UN report says but also by the very light news coverage and public attention it has received. We cannot afford to ignore, delay or deny. We cannot continue to focus on or indulge our petty desires for the things that make us happy and comfortable or that we like to eat. This will not just affect future generations but those of us who are here and now on this earth. Robert Watson, the chairman of the UN panel that produced the report, said “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

Read more about the report here:  https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/05/ipbes-un-biodiversity-report-warns-one-million-species-at-risk/

Robin Starr and Dixie (dog)

Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA.

Robin left a successful career as an attorney to join the Richmond SPCA as its chief executive officer in 1997. During her tenure, Robin has transformed the organization into a national leader in animal welfare and has implemented a multitude of progressive and innovative programs and services, now replicated at agencies nationwide, dedicated to ending pet homelessness throughout the community. She is a visionary in the humane movement, and her work has led to Richmond being distinguished as one of the safest cities in the country for homeless animals.

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