The Time to Choose � the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

3/29/2005

Today�s release of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), a five-year research effort by 1,360 of the world�s leading scientists, gives compelling evidence of our dependence on healthy and diverse ecosystems for clean water, food, a stable climate, and much more. The MEA is the largest mobilization ever to assess the current state of the world�s ecosystems, and the services they provide to support life on Earth.

In response to the significance of the MEA�s findings, eight of the world�s leading international conservation organizations � Birdlife International, Conservation International, IUCN-The World Conservation Union, Fauna & Flora International, the Nature Conservancy, Wetlands International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) � are pledging to work together to conserve ecosystems for the improvement of human well-being. We call on the world to join us.

The MEA shows that unsustainable human actions are degrading ecosystems throughout the world. The short-term economic and other benefits that may be derived from exploitation of our forests, wetlands and oceans are significantly outweighed by the far greater long-term damage to human livelihoods and health.

For example:

  1. The MEA notes that wetlands provide services to humanity valued as high as $15 trillion annually, including the water supply on which an estimated 1.5 -3 billion people depend. Yet current human practices are degrading and destroying these wetlands at a faster rate than any other type of ecosystem.

  2. Over-fishing off eastern Canada depleted cod stocks to the point that an entire industry collapsed in the 1990s, putting tens of thousands of people out of work.

  3. In the aftermath of the recent tsunami, we are learning that areas where development had not damaged natural barriers such as sand dunes, reefs and mangroves experienced less damage.

MEA scientists also looked at different scenarios for the future of our ecosystems, based on the choices we make today. They concluded that the cornerstone of our choices must be a commitment from all sectors of civil society to work together for change.

Governments, businesses, conservation and development organizations, and individuals can cooperate to integrate development and conservation efforts. With change, our ecosystems can continue to provide tangible economic, health, cultural, environmental and recreational benefits for future generations.

Together the members of the coalition pledge their support and commitment to act on the MEA findings.

We call on world governments to recognize the importance of achieving environmental sustainability. Future development plans must reflect the full costs and benefits of changes to ecosystem services, and establish transparent decision-making processes and incentives to openly involve all relevant stakeholders in decisions that ensure an equitable distribution of benefits and costs.

We call on the private sector to take greater responsibility for its social and environmental impacts. Business leaders should adopt progressive approaches to ecosystem management, such as ensuring a sustainable supply of raw materials and reducing consumption of scarce resources.

Consuming with a conscience is a personal contribution. Everyone can make choices in their own life that help to conserve our delicate natural systems, from using less water to taking public transport.

The MEA shows conclusively that our ecosystems are in peril. Now is the time for action.

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