A complete and utter catastrophe in the wilderness

A complete and utter catastrophe in the wilderness

A frightening new report has major implications for the wilderness all around us.

The wilderness that houses much of the wildlife we depend on is going through a major change — and not a good one. Researchers have found that in just the past two decades, human activity has destroyed 10 percent of the earth’s wilderness.

That’s right: since the 1990s, we have lost 3.3 million square kilometers of wilderness out of 30.1 million square kilometers total, which makes up 20 percent of the world’s land. Researchers drew a world map back in the 1990s with all the areas of wilderness — areas free of human interference — and found in 2016 that there had been a drop in 10 percent since that first map, according to a Wildlife Conservation Society statement.

The biggest loss making up 30 percent of the total was due to logging in the Amazon rainforest in South America. It shows that people are focusing too much on individual species rather than the ecosystems that support them, researchers say.

Unfortunately, time is running out. Scientists say that we may only have a couple decades to turn things around before it is too late for many species and even entire ecosystems.

“Globally important wilderness areas–despite being strongholds for endangered biodiversity, for buffering and regulating local climates, and for supporting many of the world’s most politically and economically marginalized communities–are completely ignored in environmental policy,” says Dr James Watson of the University of Queensland in Australia and the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York. “Without any policies to protect these areas, they are falling victim to widespread development. We probably have one to two decades to turn this around. International policy mechanisms must recognize the actions needed to maintain wilderness areas before it is too late. We probably have one to two decades to turn this around.”

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