To the Editor:

The UN-sponsored report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was published this year. The IPBES states: “Due to human impact on the environment in the past half-century, the Earth’s biodiversity has suffered a catastrophic decline unprecedented in human history.”

According to the report, the main threat to species diversity is the growing human population’s need for more and more land; with urbanization and industrial farming being major contributors to this decline in biodiversity. It concluded: “that countries needed to base their economies on an understanding that nature is the foundation for development and to begin restoring habitats.”

The current Amazon fires have focused attention on both global warming and the loss of biodiversity. The problems are related not only because human activities are responsible for both — but also because — everything is connected to everything else. Global warming reduces biodiversity, which reduces the ability of the earth’s ecosystem to stabilize the climate. For example: Human activity is largely responsible for global warming by overloading the atmosphere with more CO2 and other greenhouse gases than nature can sequester; as a result the excess CO2 remains in the atmosphere increasing global warming. Accumulation of CO2 in plants occurs in the process of photosynthesis. On land it accumulates in vegetation and is eventually incorporated into the soil when the plants die. In the oceans tiny phytoplankton and other marine vegetation accumulate CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it on the sea floor when they die. This is one of many ecosystem services performed by nature. Unfortunately the oceans are warming and the phytoplankton populations are declining; on land we continue to destroy forests and other habitats.

Our life support systems are seriously threatened. Global warming and loss of biodiversity threatens not just our way of life but the very existence of future generations. We have met the enemy and it is us. The avarice of Man is boundless. Business as usual won’t fix it. What to do, what to do? — “and a little child shall lead them.” Right on Greta Thunberg!

Richard Peterson