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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 April, 2005, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Is the Earth's future in danger?
Planet Earth
Human activities threaten the Earth's ability to sustain future generations, a survey into the state of the planet has concluded.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, by 1,360 experts from 95 nations, says the way society has obtained its resources over the past 50 years has seriously degraded the environment.

The report also says a rising human population had polluted or over-exploited most ecosystems on which life depends, ranging from clean air to fresh water.

What do you think of the findings of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment? What can be done to reverse global decline?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

This topic was suggested by Chris Bird, Staffs:
I would like to discuss the report highlighting how humans are harming the planets ecology

Third World countries may contribute to the destruction of our environment but when choosing life or deforestation surely they will choose life. The burden for the world's future, and its current state, lies largely on the shoulders of those in the First World who have the technology and means to save the environment but are lacking the will, which is currently being replaced by greed.
Chris Pattullo, Vancouver, Canada

I've just moved to LA from New Zealand, and am in the process of buying new appliances here. I guessed that with it being so sunny and warm all the time here, that I wouldn't need a clothes dryer, I'd just put them on a line outside to dry naturally. So when I came to buying a new eco friendly washing machine, the assistant automatically assumed I wanted a dryer too. She thought I was joking about not wanting a dryer and that I'd "peg" the washing outside on the line. The way it currently stands, is that the whole Western world knows the environmental problems that face them, but until it affects them directly in their everyday lives....these ever new and ever stark reports will simply fall by the wayside.
Steven Hornby, Los Angeles, USA

The prevailing attitude among the nations is that economic prosperity is far more important than ecological issues. This means that they are bent on turning the Earth into a factory for human consumption. There is far too little appreciation for the amazing diversity of life and integrity of wilderness areas. If some of the money spent on looking for bacteria on other planets could be diverted to saving habitats and species from extinction, we may get on track to saving Earth.
Peter MacDonald, Wellington, NZ

The solution lies in public education
Michael Brown, Hong Kong
I live and travel throughout China. The pollution is beyond belief in most places. I think that the country will be unliveable in 50 years. Therefore I am glad the Millennium Ecosystem Assesment is right on. The solution lies in public education and massive taxes on all goods sold that are made in a non sustainable, zero polluting manner. The less pollution, the more tax.
Michael Brown, Hong Kong

Earth has solved much bigger problems since its fiery birth. Our only interest is whether any of us will remain to see how it solves the problems that we are creating.
J. Westerman, Leeds, UK

We don't need population control. We need people to stop consuming so much stuff.
Mary, Chicago, IL, USA

Well, if tiny Britain can afford to build 2 million homes on Greenfield sites, then the world should be able to accommodate the same ratio of new development, say 2 billion new homes. I don't really think the UK has any moral right to input this issue.
Tom, Perth, Australia

The ecosystem needs grassroots help from all quarters. To unite forces, we should speak up for Earth issues at every meeting and treat finding solutions with the respect it deserves, by holding it above politics as the top progressive issue of all time whose solution could benefit everyone. To this end, I wish China would allow their people to participate in discussions like this on BBC.
Dale Lanan, Longmont, Colorado, USA

The environmental message would be heard more clearly if it wasn't bundled up with such lunatic fringe politics. There is no overpopulation problem - there's an over consumption problem. The Earth can easily support 16 billion of us, never mind 6 billion - what it can't support is 6 billion American style consumers!
Ian, Airdrie, Scotland

The Earth's atmosphere...etc have been fluctuating for hundreds of millions of years
Jerry Kopel, Berkeley CA, USA
It is time for the "experts" to take two college courses: one in historical geology and one in ethics. The Earth's atmosphere, sea level etc., have been fluctuating for hundreds of millions of years.
The only real change is that "experts" - and the uneducated public they are able to frighten - are learning to play the lucrative game of "The sky is falling, it's the fault of Man/Big Corporations/Globalization. We need radical changes and, oh yes, more government grants to study the situation."
Jerry Kopel, Berkeley CA, USA

Don't worry; humans will never destroy Mother Nature. Mother Nature won't allow it. She will destroy humans first.
T Barnes, Birmingham USA

One of the worst things happening is the burning down of the tropical rainforests to sustain a relatively tiny number of slash and burn farmers and loggers. The major powers say nothing because it is politically incorrect. They would rather bash America for CO2 emissions than bash China and India whose air pollution is poisoning their people today.
Mark, USA

As people consume more, produce more, eat more, travel more and want more, the more it is clear that our existence on this finite planet is just a blip in time. The writing is on the wall with global warming, atmospheric anomalies, shrinking ice caps, dwindling resources and political interest in places with those resources. Time to really rethink the idea that 'more is better'.
David, Tokyo, Japan

I will do whatever I can to save our world
Ekasit, Bangkok, Thailand
Of course, we are heading for doomsday and that is not very far away either. The crux of the matter is that not all those who know care enough to do something constructive about it. I for one will do whatever I can to save our world.
Ekasit, Bangkok, Thailand

Go Earth, go HIV, go H5N1 (bird flu). We are a ridiculous being, we demolish our habitat, we are so obsessed with positive numbers that we cannot see our own negative effect. Our planet has 5 billion years left, I know we won't be there.
Paul Baker, Hove, UK

How many of these reports will it take for governments to take proper action? Those who paper over cracks, or worse, use biased studies sponsored by polluting industries to justify inaction, will have to answer to the next generations.
Philippe, London, UK

There is no way that we are not having an effect
Shane, Colorado, USA
I used to believe that the "hippies" were completely wrong and just plain stupid about the environment. But, in my short 20 years on this planet I have noticed things that make me rethink my position on the environment. The climate of my hometown has changed completely in the last 10 or so years, and I see the brown cloud of pollution over the city of Denver far too often. It hardly snows here in the winter anymore, and we are in a severe drought. There is no way that we are not having an effect. Do I believe that the human species is going to come to a cataclysmic end in the near future? No. We will innovate, and adapt using the thing that made us into the dominant species on this planet - our brains.
Shane, Colorado, USA

It is technically impossible to manifest sustainability in the current, principally competitive, economic framework. The planet is rich enough to support all of us. We need to do 'more with less' with our resources and technology. Let's make electricity the currency, harness huge amounts of energy renewably from the sun, and equitably distribute this real energy wealth to everyone free of charge. It is technically possible to do this.
Malcolm Green, Melbourne, Australia

The reason why so many doubt environmentalists' findings is made evident by the comments on this page. The people driving the environmentalist movement generally hold radical (and uneducated) views about economics and the relation between economics and environmental protection; accordingly the movement lacks credibility.
Peter, USA

No leader will risk votes and power by taking the necessary steps
Elizabeth Francey, London, UK
Humans are a horrifically destructive species. What is happening in the world today is a pattern that has been repeated throughout our history, and is now writ large. The problem will not be properly addressed, much less resolved, until it is far too late. No leader will risk votes and power by taking the necessary steps - steps which will mean an end to our lazy, apathetic way of life. Sadly it is our children and grandchildren who will have to fight to survive in a world of hardship and suffering.
Elizabeth Francey, London, UK

Think seven generations ahead! And stop buying endless stuff that we don't need - i.e. resist all the advertising nonsense that tells you your life can't be complete, whole, happy without new clothes, new appliances, new cars, new plastic gadgets etc etc etc. Enough consumption!
Christina Landsberg, Canberra, Australia

I hope that this will be an eye opener to those who are opposed to the Kyoto Treaty.
Rajesh G. Kulkarni, Malaysia

At some time, now or in the future, we would reach the point of population saturation as number of people increase steadily. Natures balance to control this, i.e. disease, global warming etc are to be expected if we grow the population exponentially and treat the earth as badly as we do. Population control is necessary across the globe.
John, Watford, UK

There is little doubt that the environment has been and is being damaged by human activity. However, read the GAIA principle. If human life damages the ecosystem to the extent that it makes human life impossible then human life will disappear. Life on Earth will go on, we will merely no longer be a part of it.
James Whistler, Cirencester, UK

Ultimately it is the people who will tell the politicians that change is necessary all over the world
Omer Ahmad, London, UK
It makes no sense to ask individuals to make fundamental changes to his/her lifestyle when the solution requires huge changes at international level. I do not believe things will improve soon; it is not in the nature of people to act until the situation reaches near critical levels. Foremost the USA has to be involved but politicians would never allow such a vote loser to take centre stage. Ultimately it is the people who will tell the politicians that change is necessary all over the world. Until that time we will go on using resources like there isn't a problem.
Omer Ahmad, London, UK

Yes the population is rising and will continue to do so. As a result an ever increasing strain is being placed on ecosystems. Well spotted those experts - now perhaps you can give a solution that is socially and economically acceptable to all governments not just a problem that most of us are well aware of. Irrespective of the money that can be ploughed into third world countries, how many of them will change their traditions of farming or raising of ever increasing families. We have been doing it for decades and nothing changes. Anyone want to tell the Chinese that they can't continue with their rapid economic growth after centuries of poverty?
C. Preece, Tamworth, UK

What annoys me most is the arrogant attitude the USA has taken to the Kyoto agreement. Their pollution doesn't stop at the boundaries of the US, it affects us all. We have only one Earth, we can't afford to get in wrong. All countries have a moral responsibility to ensure the well being of this planet. The financial cost does not enter the equation.
Steve Cain, Wiltshire

I can feel a charity concert coming. Let's p-a-r-t-y for the planet!
Sarah, Bern, Switzerland

Climate issues are too important to be hijacked by a few anti-capitalist idiots. If any social model offers a way forward for dealing with climate issues it is the capitalist one, or have people forgotten the massive pollution and disregard for nature created by the former communist eastern block.
Richard, Chesham, UK

Our planet will survive but we won't if we continue to rape and pillage our host
Nigel Brown, Maputo, Mozambique
It is more our way of life that is in danger rather than the world. Our planet will survive but we won't if we continue to rape and pillage our host. Unless the human population can be stabilised and eventually reduced, we will be dying in larger numbers from illness, natural catastrophe and war!
Nigel Brown, Maputo, Mozambique

Well, if man is not going to take care of Mother Earth, She will take care of herself and then man, in that order.
Srinivas Shastri, Bangalore, India

To help the environment, I think the most difficult part is to bring the public and the world acting collectively, since different countries have different needs. The first world, like the US, should use their democracy, education and legal system to set examples. The second world, like China, should rely on trading-offs and other economic means to encourage their people care more. For the third world, let the people get fed first. If life is a misery now, how many will care for their future?
Joseph Ko, Hong Kong

If the environmental organisations put some of their vast wealth into solutions we might get somewhere. Can't burn coal - it pollutes. Can't use nuclear power - dangerous. Wind turbines - ugly. Hydroelectric - damages the local ecosystem. The world's climate is changing, but the reason is not clear. This does not matter to the greens, who mostly think fire was a bad invention.
DW, Sheffield, UK

We need politicians that actually implement policies
Angus, Havant
Blame the politicians. When they use global warming as an excuse to raise petrol taxes 'to reduce consumption', they are cynically using global warming to their own ends. They know consumption isn't affected by the additional taxation and are therefore using genuine environmental fears to further their own agendas. We need politicians that actually implement policies with a chance of success rather than hopeless ones that simply generate revenue. At the same time, environmental groups are useless at realising when politicians are using them.
Angus, Havant

I don't think that over a thousand people who spend their lives in the various fields of environmental science and who have come to a consensus can be ignored so lightly. As far as being a member of the public is concerned, this can be helped by being careful with what and from whom we buy our consumables. For instance, do we really need to transport lamb from the other side of the globe? Buy British and, if possible buy local.
Sam Bellani, Tunbridge Wells

It saddens me that more people do not take into account these types of studies and realize the incredible destruction we bring to our planet. While our leadership in the US fights to keep Social Security alive or to ban gay marriage, we ignore the real danger of world wide self destruction. I never thought that I would envy my ancestors and parents for living before me in a world that was not spiralling towards ecological collapse.
Slade Thorpe, Savannah, USA

Everyone seems to blame first-world countries for the destruction of the environment. But how much de-forestation and water consumption is used to support small family farms in third world countries? It's also the same people who rant and rave about the evils of first-world countries, who support economic policies which encourage habitat destruction in third-world countries.
Rob, Boston, USA

Worrying about the environment is a rich man's concern. 90% of the Earth's population has other priorities: finding jobs, fleeing war zones, surviving Aids, etc.
JA, Alger, Algeria

How many millions of dollars, pounds, euros, yen, etc have been spent on previous studies that have told us the exact same thing
Matt, Phoenix, AZ, USA
Of course there is an environmental problem. A huge one. But how many studies have there been, how many millions of dollars, pounds, euros, yen, etc have been spent on previous studies that have told us the exact same thing. Wouldn't that money be better spent on finding viable solutions rather than diagnosing and re-diagnosing the planet?
Matt, Phoenix, AZ, USA

Eco-systems are dying, yes, and it has everything to do with capitalism. We have an economy that exploits environmental resources as well as human resources, and commodifies everything, including natural resources. If this situation is to be addressed effectively and in a sustainable way, then we need to take a serious look at how we are organised socially. One thing we can all do right now is switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet.
John David Price, Auckland, New Zealand

It disturbs how many people simply don't care about what is going on, thinking that we can continue as we have a incredible notion, we all slate the USA for its need to have monster gas drinking cars, and yet we are little better, some dramatic changes are needed to rectify the situation, but which leader will commit political suicide and do it.
Chris, Wellingborough

I'm not worried. The mighty EU will save us! Well, at least the Euro-whiners will whine, complain, and criticize everyone else, while doing nothing save talk. Charity concert, anyone?
Michael, USA

If our world really is in danger from human activities, it is clear that the sole reason for this is the excessive, never ending greed of the large multinationals who are allowed, unhindered by our weak political leaders, to pillage the global resources without even thinking of tomorrow. Too many "winks" and "bungs" I fear.
Michael Mciver, Hastings, UK

When great nations like the United States and China have scant respect for the Kyoto Treaty, it is evident that human activities will threaten the Earth's ability to sustain future generations. The environment has been severely degraded and global decline can only be reversed if some sense can be instilled into the leaders of these nations. Obviously the leaders of the United States and China are living in cloud cuckoo land and need a crash course on the importance of saving the Earth's future.
Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium

Governments of nearly all countries are still focussed on the family unit, having children and expanding the population
Fraser Irving, Sheffield, UK
In the early nineties, when I was at university, a friend of mine told me that the world ecosystem can only sustain a world population of around 50 million people whilst maintaining any form of balance. Governments of nearly all countries are still focussed on the family unit, having children and expanding the population. This leaves me with two key thoughts. Firstly, what sort of a future are we creating for our children, and secondly, why doesn't anyone care? I'm glad I don't have kids. Bringing them into here and now is like issuing a death sentence to them.
Fraser Irving, Sheffield, UK

Although we have always been actively exploiting our environment, I think this exploitation and abuse is drastically accelerated by our modern, materialistic and consumption driven cultures and economies. If we really want to save our planet we, as a race, will have to adopt a philosophy of life that goes beyond simple greed. As long as people are rewarded for exploiting our environment and for driving senseless and pointless consumption to the extreme, we need only count the days before our environment really collapses. With all our scientific knowledge we can reduce waste and consumption! We can live in greater harmony with our environment. The only problem is that this is not compatible with the wants of the rich and elite who are in charge and want us to consume and waste as much as we can because it makes them richer and more powerful.
Nico van Leeuwen, Aachen, Germany

Man is interfering with the laws of nature and its very thin balance has been disrupted for the greed of big companies and developed countries. We are not very far from the day when our Earth resources will diminish to the extent that it would be possible for the fittest to survive and the rest to perish. Laws of nature function according to the principles of cause and effect and survival of all spices depends upon maintain its fine mechanism. Unfortunately, all the disasters that we see happening these days around the globe are caused to a large extent because the third world countries cannot control their population increase and the West, its unending demand of worldly goods. We must stop unnecessary waste of the Earth's resources, control pollution and cut back on excesses.
Saqib Khan, UK

We do not have sufficient data available to make such doom-laden predictions
Roger, Whitwick, England
No, no threat from humanity at any rate. We as a species have barely been conscious for 3 - 4 thousand years. We do not have sufficient data available to make such doom-laden predictions. The earth is in a permanent state of flux, this small stable epoch that has enabled humanity to thrive could just be a "quiet moment" in a turbulent history. Beware of scientists predicting doom - there is lots of research money to be had and they would not get funding if they said everything is probably ok and operating within natural parameters.
Roger, Whitwick, England

Of course human activity threatens the Earth's ability to sustain future generations - of us. Other life will replace us eventually - there have been several mass extinctions. The big question is whether this extinction is imminent or not? Nevertheless I think we should stop polluting; do something to arrest population growth and basically clean up our act!
Julie, London, UK

Of course we have damaged the environment, and depleted our fossil fuels almost to nothing, but the only ones who can change this are the global governments. Until America, China, Europe, etc put environmentalism before votes and cash, the situation won't change more than marginally. Wind, wave, solar and tidal power technologies exist, and many Western nuclear power stations are coming to the end of their lives, so why no take the logical step into renewable energies? Oh, yes, because a few people don't want 'ugly' wind turbines near them, because it might harm the US economy, and George Bush's chances in elections. I'm not a hippy, in fact I can't stand them, but I realise something has to be done. I leave it to the government.
J Stansfield, Edinburgh, Scotland

I am filled with deep regrets at the nonchalant attitudes of those who regard the environment as something "trivial". The environment is not disposable. We have been damaging it at an unbelievable rate: this was known even before the report came out. Treaties such as the Kyoto protocol are necessary, but are not enough. By the year 2015, developing countries will be emitting as much or more gas emissions as developing countries are now. My suggestion to the international leaders is to commence the second discussion phase of the Kyoto Protocol.
Aaron Hakim, Mississauga, Canada

My biggest fear is that we have already crossed the point of no return
Carlos Cortiglia, London, UK
The reports are absolutely credible. With massive population increases that lead to pollution, destruction of natural habitats, and over-exploitation of natural resources, there is bound to be a limit. My biggest fear is that we have already crossed the point of no return. Perhaps global warming, creating sudden climate changes, is Earth's way of getting rid of us.
Carlos Cortiglia, London, United Kingdom

The earth's future is not in danger. Humanity may be in danger, but the Earth will get along just fine with or without us.
Patrick, Chelmsford, USA

Perhaps we should lead the third world by example, and stop encouraging over population. The benefits system in this country is actively encouraging population growth, on an island that cannot sustain it.
Tony Humphreys, Prestatyn, UK

Wake up people. We are a virus, we are no better than rats. It's not long until we kill the Earth for good.
Steve, London

If the ecosystem has got this far in 50 years then it's going to take at least 100 years to turn round. For once I go with President Bush who simply says "deal with it". Incidentally over-population will either be handled by disease or evangelism; for the latter to succeed, the new Pope needs to think again.
David Ball, Wokingham, UK

Complete indifference. Get on with life instead of worrying about what a load of greenies have to say.
Dave, Sheffield, UK

Study highlights global decline
30 Mar 05 |  Science/Nature


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