50th anniversary of World Environment Day and it’s been mainly downhill since

3 June 2023


Monday 5 June marks the 50th anniversary of World Environment Day.  It’s been mainly downhill for the environment ever since thanks to the demands of an ever-growing human population, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).

The first celebration of World Environment Day, under the slogan “Only One Earth”, took place in 1973. Since then, global population has doubled from four billion to eight billion. Australia’s population has almost doubled from 13.4 to 26.4 million.

SPA national president, Ms Jenny Goldie, says the only bright spot has been action through the Montreal Protocol in response to warnings about a hole in the protective ozone layer above the Earth.

“Meanwhile, we are seeing every other problem get immeasurably worse,” says Ms Goldie. “Fresh water per capita has been reduced by a quarter just in the last 25 years; the world fish catch has shrunk by a fifth; the world has lost 100 million hectares of forest; ocean dead zones have almost doubled; greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase and climate change accelerates.

“The most worrying thing, however, is the loss of biodiversity. We are now experiencing the Sixth Mass Extinction. Numbers of wild animals are only 40 percent of 50 years ago. On current trends, we could lose to extinction as many as 30 per cent of all species this century. This would be catastrophic,” she says.

In February, a report for NatureServer found that in the United States, 40% of animals and 34% of plants are on a path to extinction, and that 41 percent of the ecosystems are at risk of collapse.

“The report found that the highest number of threatened animals and plants is in California, Texas and the south-eastern states,” says Ms Goldie. “These have the richest biodiversity in the country, but are also regions where population growth has boomed in recent decades.

“Where there are more humans, there tends to be greater encroachment on nature.

“In Australia, it’s a similar picture. We have the worst record of mammal extinctions of any affluent country. Since Europeans settled in 1788, we have lost 30 mammal species and 29 bird species. Another 17 unique Australian birds and mammals are likely to become extinct in the next 20 years.

“Species extinction is caused by loss of habitat, introduced species (pests and weeds) and chemical pollution. All these are a function of the demands of the human population.

“On this World Environment Day, we must plan to stabilise then reduce our numbers. We must minimise our demands on natural ecosystems which essentially underpin the whole human economy.”


Environment , Media Releases 2023
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