We have incompetent, ignoramus, and corrupt politicians who disregard and weaken environmental legislation.
In 1992, approximately 1,700 scientists, many being Nobel laureates in the sciences, issued a “first warning” that humanity was in collision with the natural world for causing irreversible damage to the environment and critical resources - water, soil, air, leading to a situation of making life impossible.
In 2017, 15,000 scientists from 184 countries published a “second warning,” in which they warned humanity about the “irreparably mutilated” fate of our planet.
They notified that, 25 years past that first warning, there was a 25 percent decrease in drinking water per person; an increase in the number of “dead areas” by ocean pollution by 75 percent; an increase in deforestation by more than 120 million hectares of forests; a decline in the number of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and fishes by 29 percent.
Also in 2017, the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published an article stating that the world was already living a "biological annihilation" of its animal species, a fact that is being considered a sixth mass extinction.
The article mentions that, in recent decades, habitat loss, overexploitation of resources, invasive organisms, pollution, the use of toxins and, more recently, climate change, as well as the interactions among these factors, have led to a catastrophic decline in the numbers and sizes of populations of both common and rare vertebrate species.
This year, on 8 August, we reached the Earth Overshoot Day, that is, from January 1st to that day, we had already consumed everything that would be allowed for this year. After that, by December 31st, we have enjoyed the resources that “would belong” to our children, our grandchildren.
On August 13th, Nature published an article saying that, due to the intense melting caused by global warming, Greenland's ice layer could not be recovered any more, causing the seas to rise by six meters over this century.
On September 10th, BBC showed a scientists’ report that, due to human activity, there has been a “catastrophic decline” in the wildlife population of approximately two thirds in the last 50 years.
Dr Andrew Terry, of the Zoological Society of London, said: “If nothing changes, populations will undoubtedly continue to fall, driving wildlife to extinction and threatening the integrity of the ecosystems on which we depend.”
The pandemic itself is a powerful, daily reminder and with an extremely high cost of life showing how nature and human species are interdependent.
The very poor use of soils; destruction and burning of forests; use of agricultural poisons associated with transgene; mining; consumerism; food options generating obesity; destruction of ecological niches; planting of tree and grain crops for feeding animals; contamination and destruction of water sources; disastrous production and disposal of garbage, mainly plastic; and family planning are all subjects of first order debate, aiming at the survival of humanity.
In the opposite direction, we have incompetent, ignoramus, and corrupt politicians who disregard and weaken environmental legislation; the easy and made-up discourse of employment generation, income and “progress”; the silence of scientific institutions and the lack of culture of many scientists; fear and insecurity about what we have today and what tomorrow holds.
All these impacts are present and affect, to a greater or lesser degree, any country, all cities, and all citizens in any region of the planet. However, it is not only the integrity of the planet that is at risk, but what we are doing with life.
When dealing with the environmental issue, it is important to make it clear that it is not only the planet that has to be saved. Because of the vandalism that we have caused in its integrity, it has long been obvious and proven that biological life itself is intensely committed to its survival.
The time for “validity” for the existence of the human species will depend on how we are going to take care of living conditions on the planet.
Althen Teixeira Filho is a professor at the Federal University of Pelotas/Biology Institute. José Domingues de Godoi Filho is a professor at the Federal University of Mato Grosso/ School of Geosciences. Marco Gottschalk is a professor at the Federal University of Pelotas/Biology Institute.