More than one in 10 of the UK’s wildlife species are threatened with extinction and the numbers of the nation’s most endangered creatures have plummeted by two-thirds since 1970, according to a major report. The abundance of all wildlife has also fallen, with one in six animals, birds, fish and plants having been lost, the State of Nature report, comprehensive scientific report, compiled by more than 50 conservation organisations, found.
Together with historical deforestation and industrialisation, these trends have left the UK “among the most nature-depleted countries in the world”, with most of the country having gone past the threshold at which “ecosystems may no longer reliably meet society’s needs”. The UK has lost significantly more nature over the long term than the global average, the report said, with the UK the 29th lowest out of 218 countries.
There has been the destructive impact of intensive farming, urbanisation and climate change on habitats from farmland and hills to rivers and the coast. It found that the fall in wildlife over the last four decades cannot be blamed on past harm, but has continued in recent years. 56% of species declined between 1970 and 2013, and 53% between 2002 and 2013.
“It wasn’t just all back in 70s and 80s, it is still happening now,” said Mark Eaton, at RSPB and the lead author of the report. “We are getting ever more efficient in our farming. In a way it is something to be celebrated, how good our farming science and technology is, but it does squeeze nature out.” There were good examples of wildlife and habitat recovery, but such projects were too few to turn the tide, with public funding for biodiversity having fallen by 32% from 2008 to 2015. “The ability to do it is within our grasp, it is just about resources and the willingness,” he said. The report said environmental stewardship schemes carried out by some farmers were beneficial but remained at a small scale: “At present, the hoped-for widespread recovery of farmland wildlife is yet to be seen.”
Insects and other invertebrates, which make up 97% of all animal species, are particularly struggling, with 59% in decline since 1970. These provide vital services such as pollination and keep soils healthy, said Eaton: “The work they do for us is just immense. If they were to disappear, I think we’d see environmental breakdown very quickly. They are about the most important things out there.”
About 75% of the UK’s landscape is classed as agricultural, with 40% consisting of arable fields and grasslands. The report found “agricultural change was by far the most significant driver of declines”, as a result of switching from spring to autumn sowing, which reduces food and habitat for many species, intensification of grazing, increased use of pesticides and fertilisers and loss of marginal habitats, such as ponds and hedgerows.
For the farming industry, the NFU vice-president, Guy Smith, said “we need to remember farming is here to provide one of the fundamental staples to life: food. If we undermine British farming’s competitiveness or its ability to produce food, we risk exporting food production out of Britain and increasing Britain’s reliance on imports to feed itself.”
People are right to be concerned about what is happening to the environment. There really is a serious environmental crisis. Damage to the environment is a major threat to the stability of human life on this planet, and moreover, this is directly attributable to human activity. The issue is not whether it exists but what to do about it. Sustainability is no longer enough. Too much damage has already been done. We need to restore the ecosystem. Creating a viable future for humanity requires all of us to cooperate and collaborate. If we choose to, we can generate abundance for all.
The ecological contradictions of capitalism make sustainable, or ‘green’ capitalism an impossible dream. Most Greens are in favour of some form of capitalism, generally, small-scale capitalism involving small firms serving local markets - “small is beautiful”. But small is not necessarily beautiful – all previous class societies to capitalism were based on small-scale production and none of them were at all beautiful. Could we, by adopting proper socialist arrangements, produce, transform nature, reap benefits from science and technology and have growth in needs satisfaction and in life quality: all without bringing on an ecological crisis? Socialists unequivocally say ‘yes‘: greens are frequently equivocal, vague or just confused.” The Green Party is not against the market and is not against profit-making. It imagines that, by firm government action, these can be tamed and prevented from harming the environment. This is an illusion. You can’t impose other priorities on the profit system than making profits. That’s why a Green government would fail. If the environmental crisis is to be solved, this system must go.
Capitalism by focusing on the short term is unlikely to take the longer term, and hence the environment, into account. Capitalists and corporations will seek to distort the facts of the matter so they can carry on as usual. Capitalists are ideologically blinkered against climate change since it exposes the dangers of capitalism as an environmental threat. Consider the fact that this has been on the international agenda for 30 years and nothing substantial has been achieved; emissions have increased over this period (and were only halted as an effect of the global recession). Additionally, note that the government has publicly stated that the environment must come second to the economy – but isn’t that what got us into this mess? The agenda of all Green groups of tough regulation is a sham. If regulation worked, wouldn’t big corporations be paying their taxes? The legal systems which govern these matters end up as the preserve of well-paid lawyers of whom the corporations have more than the governments. Ultimately the issue of the environment is an issue of power: who has the power to determine what happens to this planet? Only in a society where we have the power to determine what can and cannot be done will we be able to stop this headlong rush to environmental devastation. That means a world of common ownership and democratic control. Anything else which anyone offers is merely using an Elastoplast to seal a volcano. Only socialism can deliver on the environment.
Why does pollution and environmental destruction occur? A small amount is due to ignorance or miscalculation. A small amount is unavoidable given present technology and population. But the immense majority is due to the economic network. People destroy the environment because it is in their economic interests to do so. We say that the ecologically-unbalanced behaviour that humans at present engage in is due to the socio-economic system under which we live, namely the profit system, or capitalism. We call for a change of social system. Our politics does possess a human-centred approach: we want a socialist society primarily because it will be good for human beings. It will also be good for the biosphere but, then, what is good for the biosphere is also good for humans. Unless humans take into account the good of the biosphere things will be bad for them too. The Earth must come first for, without the planet's life-sustaining ecosystems, all human aspirations and goals are doomed.