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How to Live Better and Stop Destroying the Planet

A recent United Nations-backed report highlighted the scale of destruction humans are inflicting on the natural world. To reverse these trends, humanity must transform its economic models and food system, treat the world’s oceans far better, and think carefully about the best ways to tackle climate change.

STOCKHOLM – Earlier this month, a bleak global assessment of the shocking state of life on Earth made headlines worldwide. According to the report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), about 12% of all known animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. Worse still, humanity is destroying entire habitats, and with them the web of life that supports societies and economies. Unsurprisingly, the findings were greeted with despair.

As IPBES scientific contributors and co-authors of the report, we face this news every day. It is impossible not to react emotionally to the scale of destruction humans are inflicting on the natural world. Yet the report also goes to great lengths – although this has been less widely reported – to identify ways to reverse this alarming trend. To succeed, however, humans need to undertake four major transformations.

First, we must substantially change our legal, economic, and technological systems. It is true, as the report emphasizes, that protected areas and legislation have prevented the extinction of many species, such as the panda. And further conservation steps are clearly needed. But humans need to make far more fundamental changes.

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