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Rethinking Land Use to Support Global Biodiversity

| 5/21/2019 6:30:00 AM

Two Farmers Looking Over Fields

Young Senegalese farmers look out over a parched field. Photo by Trees for the Future

The science is in: Life as we know it is at risk of extinction — specifically, one million plant and animal species are at risk. A UN-backed report released last week found that “nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely.”

As with most studies warning of the impending decline of our environment, the report left me feeling overwhelmed and anxious about where we go from here. But you know what stood out as different to me?

The report by IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services explicitly acknowledges the role “land use” is playing in the problem and made clear the need to change our agriculture systems immediately. The report listed “changes in land and sea use” as the leading driver of “change in nature with the largest relative global impacts so far.”

The Cost of Feeding Billions

We’ve got a lot of people to feed on this planet and most agriculture stakeholders have defended the way we treat land (and water) as a requirement for feeding the growing population. But the IPBES report (authored by 145 experts from 50 countries) found that “land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of the global land surface.”

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