The UN’s alarming biodiversity report out this week tells us that about 1 million of an estimated 8 million species on Earth are threatened with extinction in the next couple of decades, threatening human food security, access to fresh water, health, and social peace.

The product of over 450 researchers working with over 15,000 scientific and government reports, the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) named five major causes shrinking biodiversity:

  1. Converting forests, grasslands, wetlands, and other biomes into farms and sprawling cities. Habitat loss leaves plants and animals homeless. About three-quarters of Earth’s land, two-thirds of its oceans and 85% of wetlands have been destroyed as natural habitat, making it hard for many species to survive.
  2. Overfishing the world’s oceans. A third of the world’s fish stocks are overfished.
  3. Climate change makes it too hot, wet, or dry for some species to survive: half of the world’s land mammals (not including bats) and a quarter of the birds are threatened with extinction within a couple of decades.
  4. Land and water pollution making habitats unliveable.
  5. Invasive species that crowd out native plants and animals.

Of the 18 ways measured for how nature helps humans, the report said 14 are declining, It is not just climate change that poses an existential threat, although climate change is a contribution factor. The ecosystems upon which human societies depend are being destroyed by diminishing biodiversity.

This only reinforces our demand for an expanded Green New Deal that converts all productive systems to sustainability, not just energy production.

Our agricultural system has to be converted from industrial agriculture dependent on life-destroying, species-eradicating pollution from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers into organic regenerative agroecologies that are harmoniously integrated into their surrounding ecosystems.

Our urban structures have to be densified into walkable communities with jobs, shops, recreational and cultural amenities, and public transit within a short walk. That requires clean-powered electrified rail networks—freight rails, intra-city light rails, inter-city high-speed rails—that enable walkable communities to thrive around the rail network’s hubs and spokes.

These and other transformations of our production systems have to part of the Green New Deal if we going to restore habitat for other species and reach 100% clean energy across all sectors, not just electric power production.

It will take an ecosocialist approach as well—social ownership and democratic planning in key industries like railroads and power utilities in order to coordinate the conversion of interrelated sectors of production.

If we wait for private profit motives in the market to make these changes, we are dooming millions of species, including perhaps our own, to extinction.

I spoke about why we need an expanded and ecosocialist Green New Deal to the convention of the New Jersey Green Party last Saturday, May 4. The message seemed to be well-received by Greens in the Garden State, which is now so polluted by the petrochemical industry and where its habitat-destroying car-dependent transportation and urban design have created both massive suburban sprawl and monumental traffic jams.

Add UN’s biodiversity report to its climate reports as another alarm bell that we must change the way thing are soon before it becomes too late.

Howie Hawkins 2020

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