UN Report finds nature declining 'at rates unprecedented in human history' but notes 'it is not too late to make a difference…if we start now'

Transformative change is needed in order to stem an “unprecedented” rate of species extinction and ecosystems decline, warns a new report from the United Nations’ (UN) Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). 

According to the report, authored by 145 experts from 50 countries using data from the last 50 years, one million species now face the threat of extinction, including more than a third of all marine mammals. The summary of findings, released Monday, identifies and ranks the culprits as: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species. 

[Pedestrians at Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, Japan (the famous scramble crosswalk is used by over 2.5 million people daily) Photo credit: Thomas La Mela/Shutterstock.com]

[Pedestrians at Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, Japan (the famous scramble crosswalk is used by over 2.5 million people daily) Photo credit: Thomas La Mela/Shutterstock.com]

“This essential report reminds each of us of the obvious truth: the present generations have the responsibility to bequeath to future generations a planet that is not irreversibly damaged by human activity,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UNESCO. “Our local, indigenous and scientific knowledge are proving that we have solutions and so no more excuses: we must live on earth differently.” 

Noting that it’s “not too late to make a difference,” IPBES offers possible actions to take in different sites and environments, including in urban areas, with the authors encouraging: “nature-based solutions; increasing access to urban services and a healthy urban environment for low-income communities; improving access to green spaces; sustainable production and consumption and ecological connectivity within urban spaces, particularly with native species.” 

Many of these measures are strategies laid out in Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s “Resilient Boston Harbor” vision, unveiled in October 2018. The One Waterfront Initiative team supports this vision, which aims to protect the city’s residents, infrastructure and jobs near and around its 47-mile shoreline through approaches such as “elevated landscapes, enhanced waterfront parks, flood resilient buildings, and revitalized and increased connections and access to the waterfront.” 

Today this effort is ongoing, and we are continuing to work towards a bold plan for iconic, resilient, and public open space on the Boston Waterfront. To read more about our vision to be a leader and partner to create more sustainable green spaces in Boston, click here.

To see the summary of the IPBES findings, click here. The full six-chapter Report will be published later this year.