The Earth still Faces Critical Challenges: the Loss of Biodiversity and How Humans Can Live in Harmony with Other Species / SDGs-6, 14, 15 (Water Resources, Water, and Land Ecology)

Original Article: Ms. 王舜薇

Translated by: Eden Social Welfare Foundation

Special thanks to: 隋守凡


In the year 2005, a survey, conducted by 1360 specialists worldwide, called Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, i.e. MA, explained that humans’ activities of production have pushed the earth to the edge of massive species extinction.  This ecosystem change will diminish basic well-being of humans, including access to food and clean drinking water, hindering human endeavors to prevent being poor and hungry.


For example, the greenhouse gases emissions of intensive industries cause climate warming, the melting of ice sheets in Polar Regions and rising sea levels - all affect the survival of specific life forms.  Moreover, the distribution of mountains, forests, and vegetation will also continually affect the food chain and the function of water purification which interrelates to the human living environment vitally.  Furthermore, if the inshore ecosystem, such as swamps and wetlands that play a contributable role in adjusting floods, is damaged, our environment won’t be able to endure the excessive impacts from extreme natural disasters, such as hurricanes and heavy rainfalls. Instead, this will bring enormous negative consequences to humans.


In addition, the report points out that when biodiversity is decreasing and ecosystem services are degrading, the life security of humans will be threatened and the necessities of human survival won’t be fully satisfied as well.  In which case, human values of social relationships, culture, and traditions, and mutual benefits will be in danger of destruction.


Frankly speaking, all human beings in the ecosystem on earth are inter-connected. No one is an outsider, unless we start to look for the possibility of living on other planets.  This report was finished only 13 years ago and the content is not alarmist talk anymore.  Similar cases both internationally and in Taiwan are not rare, for example: Hurricane Irma sweeping Caribbean Sea and South America in 2017, and two typhoons - Typhoon Morakot in 2009 and Typhon Nibot in 2016 that hit Taiwan.  Our ecosystem lacks the sufficient tenacity to endure the natural disasters, which results in severe loss of human lives and property damage, especially for those in lower social class and economic status.



The biodiversity is decreasing, and our environment is still facing critical challenges


The American Economist Jeffrey Sachs made a simple example - explaining abundant biodiversity having positive influences on the tenacity of an ecosystem:  When a farm growing only one kind of crop copiously in an industrial way is attacked by pests, invaded by exotic species or damaged by natural disasters, the crop will most likely perish completely.  In fact, a farm with a diverse range of crops has a greater chance of survival from uncertain attacks than a farm with only one kind of crop.


However, massive industrial mechanical production happens to be one of the driving powers for the economic growth of the 20thcentury, which resulted in the huge increase of human population on earth and caused a greater consumption of natural resources.


This development pattern is also reflected on the IUCN Red List of Species which is published by IUCN periodically.  The species classified as “critically endangered” are increasing gradually, implying that the loss of biodiversity is ongoing.


To deal with the crisis,in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, Brazil in 1992, 168 countries signed the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity, i.e. CBD), which was the first international alliances operation aiming at the issue of biodiversity.  From 2000 to 2015, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) will combine the protection of biodiversity and the related environment and public sanitation.  Goal 7 of the MDG is to ensure environmental sustainability, including the 4 specific targets as follows:


   7A. Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources

   7B. Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss

   7C. Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

   7D. Achieve, by 2020, a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers



Among them, the most accessible target is 7C.  According to the information from the UN, by 2015, the percentage of the total population around the world with access to safe drinking water will be over 90 percent and the spread of public sanitary facilities will decrease the chance of people practicing open defecation.


Regarding ecology conservation in the goals of 7A & 7B, although the conservation areas of the lands, forests, and oceans are larger than before, many environmental problems are still unsolved.  Overfishing, deforestation, and the pollution of lands and oceans are still the gravest challenges.


From MDG to SDG, the rising concern of the problems of environmental ecology


From MDG to SDG, the emphasis of the problems of environmental ecology and biodiversity is rising.  To solve the ongoing environmental problems, the related goals in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) started from 2015 were amplified with more details.  For instance, certain targets in Goal 7 of the MDG are separated into an independent goal in SDG.  The problems related to the water environment, ecology and biodiversity are scattered in Goal 6, 14 and 15 of the SDG.


SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

SDG 14: Life below water

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

SDG 15: Life on land

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystem, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.


Specifically, Goal 6 of SDG is elevating water supply and public sanitation in developing countries (6.1, 6.2), and puts more emphasis on water source management and the efficient use of water to prevent waste and pollution (6.3, 6.4); Goal 14 of SDG specifies the reduction of any kind of marine pollution by 2025 (14.1), the end of overfishing by 2020 (14.4), and the presentation of efficient programs of protecting marine and coastal ecosystems (14.2); Goal 15 of the SDG illustrates the protection and restoration of sustainable terrestrial ecosystems by all the nations by 2020 (15.1) and the assurance of a whole conservation of mountains ecosystems (15.4).