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World Faces Ecological Collapse Unless Urgent Action Taken, Says Devastating Global Assessment


Industrial agriculture a key driver of ecological collapse

WASHINGTON — The world faces ecological collapse and mass extinctions unless dramatic action is taken to change social and economic systems, according to a global assessment launched today by The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The IPBES report is the most comprehensive scientific global assessment on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The report is unequivocal on the dire state of the natural world and the fact that it is “human actions” that have “significantly altered nature across most of the globe.”  

The report calls for urgent regulatory change and makes a compelling case for the need for “transformational change,” including changing global economic, financial and social structures.

“This report shows that our current model of endless economic growth and overconsumption are at the root of ecological collapse. This unsustainable model is also fueling poverty, conflict and human rights abuses around the world,” said Michelle Chan, Vice President of Programs at Friends of the Earth U.S. “We cannot address the crises of climate, biodiversity and economic inequality separately – we need to tackle them together.”

Industrial agriculture is one of the main drivers of global biodiversity collapse according to the report.

“The meat and dairy at the center of many plates are also at the center of biodiversity loss and climate change. The animal agriculture industry is one of the biggest contributors to deforestation and produces at least 16 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of the food and agriculture program at Friends of the Earth. “In order to avert ecological catastrophe, we need policies that rapidly reduce public purchasing and consumption of factory farmed meat and dairy. We also need to support sustainable alternatives like plant-based foods and organic, regenerative animal agriculture.”

“The massive global decline of pollinators and other insects, driven by pesticides and industrial agriculture, is setting us on a path to catastrophe,” said Kendra Klein, PhD, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth U.S. “Without pollinators and other beneficial insects, our agricultural system and the food webs that sustain all life on Earth will collapse. We need to immediately transition from toxic, pesticide-intensive agriculture to organic, regenerative farming.”

“The vast industrial plantations that produce palm oil, paper, rubber, soy and other agricultural commodities are driving our planet to the brink of collapse,” said Jeff Conant, senior international forests program manager with Friends of the Earth U.S. “The global business model based on extraction, exploitation and extinction needs to be fundamentally transitioned to one based on regeneration, restoration and rights.”

Other drivers discussed in the report are infrastructure, mining, energy extraction, logging, and large-scale bio-energy.

The IPBES report also exposes the unequal distribution of the benefits and burdens in the use of biodiversity. The world’s poorest people who have contributed least to the climate and ecological crisis are already experiencing the effects of environmental depletion, including landslides and floods linked to deforestation and soil erosion. In the Global South, communities defending their territories and collective rights are increasingly being expelled from their land, yet the IPBES report finds that nature managed by indigenous peoples and local communities — although under increasing pressure — is generally declining less rapidly in indigenous peoples’ land.

Contact: Erin Jensen, (202) 222-0722, ejensen@foe.org

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