By Chloe Aiello
The Earth is teetering on the precipice of a mass extinction event ー and the blame lays squarely on the shoulders of mankind.
A sweeping report from the United Nations, published on Monday, laid out a dire portrait of a future in which as many as one million species that are currently at risk have gone extinct at the hands of climate change and human-driven habitat destruction.
Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, chief program officer at the environmental advocacy organization Natural Resources Defense Council, said the type of future outlined in the report spells doom, not only for those species condemned to extinction, but for humans, who are just as dependent on the interconnected "web of life" as any other species.
"Our rivers, our streams, our bays, our backyard birds ー they are incredibly important for themselves, but we also all depend on them ー our communities, our children depend on them ー for our food security, for our healthy air that we breathe, for helping mitigate the kinds of impacts from climate change that we are starting to see," Casey-Lefkowitz told Cheddar.
Among the sobering findings of the 1,500 page report are that more than 500,000 land species no longer have enough natural habitat left to survive, lands managed by indigenous peoples have much better biodiversity but are under pressure from legal and illegal territory reduction, and current conservation goals absolutely can not be met without "transformative changes," including curbing the footprint of particularly devastating industries.
Although strides have been taken globally toward raising awareness of the human impact on climate change and attempting to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the Trump administration has actively undermined environmental protections in the U.S. In the roughly two and a half years since President Trump took office, he has supported policies that roll back pollution standards, reduce environmental regulations on oil and gas companies, and has nominated candidates with ties to oil, gas, and coal for key positions within the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior, according to National Geographic.
That said, Casey-Lefkowitz emphasized there are still options.
"The part that brings me hope in this report is that there is a lot we can do. We know we can have better ways of managing our forests, managing our fisheries, managing our agriculture, and perhaps most importantly solutions to manage climate change," she added. "We have the technology now, we have the knowledge and the ability to do these things now, what we need is the political will to act."
Individuals can not only promote more sustainable practices within their own homes and communities, but Casey-Lefkowitz urged them to use their voting power to effect change on a broader level.
"Every individual has a huge amount of power as voters, as citizens, as residents of this country to push our elected officials ... to be taking action to conserve large swaths of land and oceans that need to be protected from big industrial development, to take the kind of actions we know are necessary to fight climate change," she said.