Geologists have classified most eras of Earth’s history based on fossils, radiometric dating, and strata composition. The widely approved label for our current time, the Anthropocene, describes how our collective human imprint is changing the planet. It is a “proposed geologic epoch dating back to the beginning of significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems”.
It is not surprising to hear that humanity’s impact is globally negative, as evidenced by global climate change, biodiversity loss and species extinction. Although life on Earth has undergone vast changes over millions of years, never before has a single species caused it.
Fortunately, in response to our negative impacts, many humans are engaged in repairing historical and ongoing ecological damage. Along with our long list of negative impacts, examples of positive effects abound.
However, actions that degrade and repair the planet’s ecosystems are not a zero-sum game. All the time, places are destroyed and restored, but they are not the same places, and the actions do not occur to the same extent. We haven’t repaired as much as we have degraded and destroyed. (In fact, most restoration initiatives are pet projects of the very industries that are damaging the earth.)
It is unrealistic to imagine that human lives, coupled with our many wants and needs, can ever be benign to the planet. But no one disputes that. Environmentalists around the world are advocating for societies to change the systems that oversee resource development and extraction so that ecosystem functionality – which sustains all life – can be maintained or restored.
Determining and maintaining thresholds to ensure ecosystem health is not easy. Much thought has gone into setting targets to tip the scales in favor of nature, so that initiatives to heal the planet prevail over activities that further degrade it, and ecosystem health can be restored. where it was lost. Some scientists have argued that “nature needs half” – that half of the planet’s natural areas should be protected to maintain the processes that support human and non-human well-being. Considering we’re just one of about 10 million animal species, and many of the areas we reluctantly give up are covered in rocks, ice, and snow, that’s not much.
Last year, a group of international environmentalists published an article that offered benchmarks for achieving a ‘nature-positive’ world. The goals are to achieve zero net loss to nature after 2020, less damage than we repair by 2030 (become ‘net positive’) and achieve ‘full recovery’ by 2050.
Extract: “The Anthropocene means that the future is in our hands”. Courtesy of Commondreams.org