“Current environmental degradation undermines natural assets, and negatively affects human well-being. It is clear that a deteriorating environment is an injustice to both current and future generations.”
UN Global Environment Outlook
Huge damage has been done to our planet in the past 200 years as the human population has grown from around one billion in 1800 to over six billion today and society has developed in ways that consume increasing volumes of natural resources. To give a few examples:
An estimated 130,000 square kilometres of tropical forest are lost each year , an area the size of Greece.
The dry tropical forest of Mexico and Central America once covered 55 million hectares. Today it covers less than 110,000, less than 2% of its original size.
The US’s Michigan pine forest now covers only 0.05% of its original area – 1.6 million hectares has shrunk to just 800.
The UK’s Scottish Caledonian forest now covers only 17,000 hectares of its original 1.5 million.
According to the United Nations, 71-78% of the world’s fisheries are ‘fully exploited’, ‘over exploited’ or significantly depleted’. Some species have already been fished to commercial extinction. More are on the verge of extinction.
Fertile soil is being eroded across the world by forest clearance, overgrazing and other activities. An estimated 20,000-50,000 square kilometres of land is degraded every year.
By 2025 nearly two billion people are expected face water scarcity and two thirds of the world’s population will face periodic water shortages.
While the main focus of many environmental campaigns is to prevent further damage to ecosystems, there is also a need to restore the damage that has already been done. Even if damage to the environment stopped tomorrow, the earth’s capacity to support life will still have been dramatically reduced by human activity.
Restoration projects can make a major difference in healing the wounds inflicted on nature. They can be large in scale – for example one project to restore a mountain forest in Belize involved planting 3.5 million seedlings in a year. But they do not have to be large to be effective. Once damaging activity is halted and restoration begins, nature’s own restorative power is released to continue the recovery.