Published on June 18th, 2008 | by Sam Aola Ooko


How Humans Are Killing Life Before “Earth’s Death in 2050 AD”

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) published a report in 2006 that documented the plunder of natural resources by human activity and warned that the globe itself could be outstripped in its capacity to support life, rendering the earth extinct in under 50 years.

Based on scientific data collected from across the globe, it revealed that more than a third of the natural world has been destroyed by human activity in just over the past three decades, because of, among others, increased emissions of green house gases into the ecosystem.

Unless consumption of natural resources was cut and the destruction of vital ecosystems was stopped, human life and that of thousands of other animals and plants would not be sustainable hence the suggestion that the earth itself could be extinct by 2050. In short, the demise of biodiversity will be the death of life on earth, as we know it.

Two years after the report, it is increasingly evident that that the world is already facing crunch time, with massive global food shortages, a biting fuel crisis, depleted plant species and increased threats of extinction to lower animal species.

But relieving pressure on the environment would mean painful concessions in energy consumption, addressing climate change and global warming issues more honestly, involvement in sustainable practices to ensure global nature balance and taking proactive action on protection of the earth’s resources.

This week, two news items may have passed unnoticed save for the gravity of their content. A report in LiveScience detailed top 10 new species out of the thousands that were discovered in 2007 to be existing on earth. Another report by Reuters gave a damning overview of white rhinos that could suffer extinction from the face of the earth.

In 2006, the number of threatened animal and plant species had far exceeded 16,000 for the first time in history. Yet during last year, the UN Global Environmental Output report warned that humanity’s very survival was at risk due to the speed of depletion of earth’s resources.

Found to be under a REAL threat of extinction were 30% of amphibians, 23% of mammals and 12% of birds, while one in ten of the world’s major rivers was found to run dry every year before it reached the sea, the report said.

In 2002 when the WWF report was written, USA’s consumption ‘footprint’ was 12.2 ha (hectares) per head of population compared to the UK’s 6.29 ha, while Western Europe’s as a whole stood at 6.28 ha. In contrast, Africa, arguably the Dark Continent, was found to be the most sustainable continental land mass with Burundi, a tiny east African nation, consuming the least resources in the world at just half an acre.

It was also found that an average US resident consumed almost double the resources as that of a UK citizen and more than 24 times that of some Africans. The United States placed the greatest pressure on the environment, with its carbon dioxide emissions and over-consumption of all products and services.

The UN audit found that world’s population had grown by 34% to 6.7 billion in 20 years while 73,000km2 of forest is lost across the world each year. But more intriguing was the fact that 60% of the world’s major rivers have so far been dammed or diverted factoring in the 50% decline in freshwater fish populations.

Image Courtesy: Akuppa at Flickr under a Creative Commons licenseKeep up to date with all the hottest urban planning news by subscribing to our (free) newsletter.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

Sam is a green journalist and media practitioner based in and writing from Nairobi, Kenya. He runs SolarGren Media, a public interest media organization dedicated to promoting eco-consciousness in Africa and the world. When he is not blogging or thinking green, he spends time promoting freedom of information and human rights reporting on his beloved continent.

  • “it is increasingly evident that that the world is already facing crunch time, with massive global food shortages, a biting fuel crisis”

    There is more food than there has ever been, the problem is economic and political. There is no oil shortage, [part of] the problem is China subsidising the richest 3% of it’s population’s fuel buying. (The problem is economic and political)

    Re: White Rhino, read between the lines of the article you link to: “confined to a remote and lawless corner of Congo”; and see my comments yesterday on developing countries (http://ecolocalizer.com/2008/06/17/should-poor-developing-countries-give-a-hoot-about-going-green/).

    I’m gonna get lynched for saying this, but I suggest you read Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist. Environmentalists hate him because he threatens their world view, but he’s peer reviewed and published by Cambridge Uni Press. Most importantly, he went to source rather than regurgitating journalistic interpretations of data.

    “the UN Global Environmental Output report warned that humanity’s very survival was at risk due to the speed of depletion of earth’s resources”

    So, either we’re doomed, if you believe those that have political gains to be made from environmental hysteria, in which case Nature will have time to recover and replace us with something equally fasincating, or we’re not. Banging on about statistics helps no-one.

    My question to you and readers is, how do these statistics actually help us understand where we are, and more improtantly what we can do about the problems we face?

  • Jim

    We need a link to the WWF report.

  • Thanks, Jim, for pointing out the omission of a link to the report. I have provided it as requested, but you may visit these links for further info: WWF 2006 Global Ecological Footprint Report; BBC story on the report.

    But it looks like Africa isn’t fairing well as I thought, see a 10 June 2008 Reuters story on WWF’s latest on Africa’s ecological footprint.

  • Matt: I would agree that some of these problems are economic or political. But don’t you think poor countries are also choking on debts owed to the already affluent West?

    Perhaps they’d need this money to spend on more sustainable programs and ease the burden on the environment?

    If there’s more food than there has ever been, how come many more millions are depending on relief in Africa and Asia, and that governments across the globe may never reach the 2015 MDG target of providing adequate sanitation and clean water to their people?

  • Hi Sam,

    Yes totally agree re: debts. Much of this came about after colonialism, when new and emerging LDC elites were encouraged to embark on “development” programmes in their countries, such as infrastructure and agriculture. These were initiated based on projected rates of return: Western “aid” money (loans) spent by African elites to employ Western consultants and construction firms to build infrastructure on Western engineering guidelines and expectations.

    What I am trying to get at is, much modern environmentalism is simply a re-working of this old blueprint.

    Also agree: re: spending money on ‘more sustainable programs’, but I question what they are, exactly. The ODI’s sustainable livelihoods intiative (http://www.odi.org.uk/plag/RESOURCES/sustainablelivelihoodsseries.html) is pretty good, but overall I am highly sceptical of Westernised approaches to development in LDCs (note the mention of tourism in the first para of that link). For me, there is much to be learnt from e.g. the Chipko Movement, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chipko_movement

    Your last question opens a can of worms! Good!

    1) “Export-led development” has encouraged farmers in the ‘Global South’ (India, Africa, South/Latin America) to produce food for export to US, Europe and increasingly East Asia, changing land use away from traditional uses. (Here is where the old Sustainability mantra of “Think Globally, Act Locally” is often turned on it’s head to “Think Locally, Act Globally”)
    2) Relief is necessary a result of this, and creates reliance on the “West” while ignoring wider problems with the development model.
    3) The MDGs were a result of a global movement towards more “sustainable” and inclusive practices of development in the 1990s. 9/11 put paid to most of that process, and then climate change completely wiped the MDGs off the agenda. This relates to geo-politics in a very compicated way…

    Hope that snap-shot helps explain my pov?! 🙂

  • Sam, I replied in detail yesterday – where is my comment?

  • Sorry Matt:
    Blame the Akismet anti-spam software on WordPress MU. I’ve just dug your yesterday’s comment and put it up here.


  • Well, on that comment, Matt, I think I’d propose your name as a resource guru next time there’s conference on North-South sustainability issues and how LDCs could do more for themselves.

    But then, Western expats and experts have had their fair share of views on how to keep both worlds in tandem with each other development-wise, and Jeffrey Sachs seems to make a lot of sense to me in his book, The End of Poverty.

    Aside from politics, (no, not Comrade Mugabe this time, please) do you also blame geo-culture for poverty, nay, sustainability woes? Very complicated indeed!

  • Thanks, Sam! (not the first time I’ve been accused of spamming ;))

    I am familiar with J Sachs… my tutor once warned me about taking him too seriously – he has been criticised for his ‘shock therapy’ approach to eastern Europe. He also seems to think that aid is the way forward for developing countries, a view I have problems with (I prefer Amartya Sen, and C.K. Prahalad). My major problem with “End of Pov” is that he promotes it using the Irish rock star Bono!

    When you say geo-culture, do you mean Immanuel Wallersteins interpretation, or another? I would tend to blame humans for poverty and sustainabiility woes. For me, it comes back to that eternal struggle between good and evil (erk! sounding a bit preachy now!). Not in an oppsites way, but like a scale – e.g. hot and cold are just measures of temperature. And the struggle is not necessarily a bad thing – the woes we face also have some really good spin-offs, such as medicine, macro- and micro- space exploration, globalisation (as supraterritoriality) etc.

  • Matt: I like your debating tenacity. I am a student of both men, but while Sachs appeals to the developing world, Immanuel Wallerstein appeals to the Western mind.

    Yet Wallerstein is more prophet of the two: the end of capitalism is nigh.

    Just like communism, he predicted way back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, capitalism will eventually have to pave way for middle ground – democratic socialism. Gets even more complicated, Matt…

  • “Sachs appeals to the developing world, Immanuel Wallerstein appeals to the Western mind.”

    Why is that?

  • Sachs’ message resonates well with the desires of the developing world, while Wallerstein, gives a certain reprieve to the West on the status quo. But this is for a time only…

  • I am trying to understand what the desires of the developing world are?

    If Sachs has been criticised for recommending aid, then is the desire to continue to be reliant on handouts from the West?

    By status quo, do you mean dependency? in which case does Sachs not advocate that aswell? (reading between the lines). I must admit it’s a while since I read them but I find it fascinating.

  • Even the most skeptical amongst us has got to be scared with the numbers. Human activity is rapidly changing the planet, and we should all be concerned and worried about that change … even if it doesn’t mean the end of the world.

  • Tony

    The Earth isn’t going to die in 2050AD, the planet has gone through tough times before in its history, there has been mass extinctions in the past, and the planet recovered from them. The worst scenario(unless we nuke the planet) is a lot of species will go extinct and humans along with them, then over tens of thousands of years the earth will recover and evolution will give birth to new species.

  • DocForesight

    Gentlemen (Sam and Matt): May I point you both to an article by George Will dated 02/15/2009 entitled “Dark Green Doomsayers”. In it you’ll find several documented mis-statements of impending doom and gloom for the earth and humanity.

    Predictions of our demise (and that of nature) are so often exaggerated that it is tiresome and ludicrous. CO2 is a trace gas in our atmosphere and no amount of human activity, alone, will make a dent in its total.

    Let’s instead focus our attention on removing despots, tyrants, criminals pretending to be heads of state and thus improving the delivery of aid, food, medicine, technology, sanitation and other benefits of advanced societies to the Third World.

    While some dither and fuss about AGW (while China and India pollute without restrictions), millions of people world wide suffer for lack of basic needs. Where’s the perspective here?

  • i believe that humans will destore the earth because in all of our lifes nothing but destruction in our eyes. my friend says that every one can hate but every one cant love.

  • Hahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha we,re all going to die!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Ya man were all gona die!! humans suck balls they steal shit from other species and cant just live in peace! And we use like a bajillion recources all the time and wen we run out we are gona die 😀 😀

Back to Top ↑