Out now: The Environment, December 2022 / January 2023

A red flag for nature

This issue of The Environment celebrates nature in its many forms. It comes to you midway through the COP27 climate talks in Egypt and weeks before delegates gather in Montreal, Canada for the COP15 biodiversity summit.

At time of writing, pressure was growing on COP15 host China to call heads of state – over the usual environment and farming ministers – to attend this critical summit.

The state of our wildlife, plants, oceans and landscapes is now an emergency.

WWF’s latest report on the world’s wildlife populations flags the extent of the crisis. The Living Planet Index flags a “devastating” 69 per cent drop since 1970 in the numbers of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish that scientists monitor.

The study spanned 32,000 populations from 5,230 known species. Our losses so far include an 83 per cent drop in freshwater species and a shocking 94 per cent drop in monitored wildlife across Latin America and the Caribbean.

“There is no time to lose to secure a nature-positive society,” WWF scientists warn.

This issue brings you the Seed Detective tracking down and saving rare heritage crops. We take a walk with scientists studying how and where nature most benefits our health and wellbeing.

We look at how tighter monitoring, benchmarking and standards might deliver landscape-scale carbon-capture projects that work with, not against, our wildlife.

And CIWEM head of policy Alastair Chisholm looks back at the 45-day reign of UK prime minister Liz Truss, asking whether the bonfire of environmental protections she proposed will outlive her tenure.

What is really sad is how hard it is to understand how much nature we have already lost. Scientists call it shifting-baseline syndrome; what you know is what seems normal.

Younger people will never understand that normal in 1970 meant furrows filled with lapwings, streams bristling with brown trout, wildflowers splattered scarlet with soldier beetles...

What you’ve never seen, you’ll never miss.

Karen Thomas is the editor.

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