Report: Modern Humanity's Lifestyle Has Wiped Out Half Of The World's Animal Population Over The Last 40 Years

| by Jonathan Wolfe

A troubling new report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) finds that half of the earth’s animals have died out in the last forty years.

According to the WWF’s Living Planet Report 2014, "the number of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish across the globe is, on average, about half the size it was 40 years ago. This is a much bigger decrease than has been reported previously, as a result of a new methodology which aims to be more representative of global biodiversity."

The report says that unsustainable farming, fishing, transportation and foresting methods are the cause of the decline.

Ken Norris, director of the Zoological Society of London, says the damage is a direct result of the way modern humanity chooses to live.

“The scale of biodiversity loss and damage to the very ecosystems that are essential to our existence is alarming,” Norris says. “This damage is not inevitable, but a consequence of the way we choose to live. Although the report shows the situation is critical, there is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation action, political will and support from businesses. We need to explain to the public that what they do is directly behind the trends we are seeing.”

The report says we would need a planet 1.5 times bigger than earth in order to sustain our current consumption habits.

“…Our own demands on nature are unsustainable and increasing,” the report says. “We need 1.5 Earths to regenerate the natural resources we currently use; we cut trees faster than they mature, harvest more fish than oceans replenish, and emit more carbon into the atmosphere than forests and oceans can absorb.”

Many of the most alarming population decreases have taken place in America. The U.S. fish population dropped 83% from 1970-2010.  American amphibians haven’t fared much better, with a population decrease of 73% over the same timespan.

Worldwide populations of freshwater creatures including fish, amphibians and mammals have dropped 76%.  WWF scientists say habitat loss, overfishing, and overhunting are to blame for the losses.

Here, courtesy of MailOnline, is a graphic showing some of the most troubling drops both in America and around the world:

The report urges people to be conscious of their consumption habits. The WWF calls for people to buy food that has been certified sustainably sourced by organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). They also say people should use either public or non-motorized transportation when possible.

David Nussbaum, chief executive of the WWF UK, says everyone on the planet has an interest in creating a sustainable world.

"We all, politicians, businesses and people, have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature,” Nussbaum says.

Sources: World Wildlife Fund, Telegraph