By Stacey Leasca
May 07, 2019
Credit: Jamie La/Getty Images

The United Nations issued a dire warning on Monday morning: The Earth’s animals are dying and humans could soon suffer the consequences.

In the first of its kind report, the UN explained that more species are now threatened with extinction than at any time in human history, and said the explosive growth of the human population is to blame.

“While the planetary garden still exists,” Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason University told USA Today, “it is in deep disrepair, frayed and fragmented almost beyond recognition."

A child proboscis monkeys clinging to its mother, both in distress surrounded by charred mangrove forest destroyed by fire due to massive drought.
| Credit: Caroline Pang/Getty Images

As the report noted, an astonishing one million of the Earth’s eight million species are threatened with extinction by humans. But, if they disappear, it’s likely so will we.

"The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever," Sir Robert Watson, IPBES chair, told CNN, adding that "transformative change" is needed to save the planet.

In the report, the authors suggested that the solution lies in the hands of the world’s governments, who must come together to address the global environmental and biodiversity decline due to human-caused climate change.

Group of wild elephants looking for banana trees in the middle of dumping ground (Sri Lanka, Trincomalee).
| Credit: Getty Images

As CNN noted, that climate change is exacerbating the already ill effects of other issues such as overfishing, pesticide use, pollution, and urban expansion. And all of that is leading to a hotter climate, which will cause coral reefs to die and rain to turn acidic, and completely destroy coastal communities.

“Once you get to basically 2 degrees Celsius, the models show that only 1 percent can survive,” Watson explained. “Let’s be quite candid. We’re not on the pathway to 2 degrees Celsius. We’re on a pathway to 3, 3 ½ degrees Celsius. The coral system is truly in trouble.”

If this messaging seems bleak, that's because it’s supposed to be.

"The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture," Watson additionally told reporters. "The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide."

But, as the scientists also noted, there is still hope. We just need to act right now.

"Through 'transformative change,' nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals," Watson said. “By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals, and values."

As a traveler, there is plenty you can do to ensure you minimize your environmental impact on your journeys and leave the world a better place than you found it. For a few easy tips to start check out these eight ways to be a more responsible traveler.