We are destroying our planet one bite at a time

Did you know that there are 1.8 billion people that use the internet, yet there are still 1 billion that do not have an adequate supply of fresh water?

Or that by the year 2030 we will need two earths to keep up with our natural resource consumption?

The statistics are shocking. As a species, we are destroying our planet one bite at a time.

These figures, and many more statistics, were given to reporters at the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Living Planet Report 2010 functions which took place in Johannesburg and Cape Town on 13 October.

“There is an alarming rate of biodiversity loss in low-income countries while the developed world is living in a false paradise, fuelled by excessive consumption and high carbon emissions” said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International in a press release.

At the release of the Living Planet Report (LPR) it was explained that this is due to the export factor. “When resources are exported from South Africa and are beneficiated in another country such as Japan, then it contributes to Japans ecological footprint”. The biodiversity impacts of creating that product, which was exported to Japan, will sit with us, South Africa, explained Dr Morné du Plessis. 

“The era of cheap, abundant food and energy is coming to an end” said Tatjana von Bormann, WWF Coordinator of GreenChoice. She explained that a new era of uncertainty was here and that “the impacts have been most severely felt by the poorest and most vulnerable people”.

The LPR identified food production and supply as one of the key challenges of the 21st Century, said von Bormann. She explained that biological diversity is under increasing threat. “Because biodiversity is the source of our food, the fabric of our functioning natural system, providing us with an abundance of grains, seeds, nuts, fruit and vegetables - as well as wild seafood and fresh water species” this would affect us greatly she said. “We are dependent on a food system that is affected by, but also contributes to, resource depletion and climate change” she added.

Von Bormann said that the big question is: how will we feed our growing population in the years to come?

She said 80% of South Africa’s land already used for crops or grazing and, because out of this only 11% of land is actually arable land, our options are getting slimmerWhat this means is that much land in SA that is unsuitable for grazing and crops is still being inappropriately used for those purposes.

Von Bormann also pointed out that our marine fish stocks have also been impacted by massive over-fishing and freshwater stocks have also declined.

She said that the solution rests with individuals. “We don’t have to wait for politicians or businesses to change the system for us - we have immense power as individuals. We simply need to be committed. Willing to reassess our own dietary footprint, particularly how much meat and dairy we eat”.

The establishment of the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) , The Responsible Fisheries Alliance, GreenChoice, Living Farms Reference and many more are all making a positive impact on our planet. “South African retailers and businesses are following their lead seeking to ensure environmental and social criteria are inherent in the product they sell, and all they do” von Bormann said.

We all own this planet. It is time we all step up and take responsibility for it. Doing your bit on a daily basis can, and will, make a difference to the future. Supporting campaigns such as Meat Free Mondays, walking or car pooling to work and using the SASSI database when selecting fish will have a massive impact not only in South Africa but on the rest of the planet as well.

Lets unite to make the future brighter - not only for generations to come, but for those of us living here now. 

(Megan McLean, Health24, October 2010)


Read more:

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Earth not cooling down

Speak to Health24’s EnviroHealth expert

View Health24’s graphics on EnviroHealth

Go to Health24’s Environmental page 

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