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We Risk Living in an 'Empty World' If Assault on Nature Not Stopped, Warns UN Biodiversity Chief

"If our support systems are gone, there will be no humans."

The future of global biodiversity is bleak without immediate action.

The future of global biodiversity is bleak without immediate action. (Photo: Denis Defreyne/Flickr/cc)

If humanity doesn't take action now, we will be left to survive on an "empty world."

That's the warning from new United Nations biodiversity chief Elizabeth Maruma Mrema. 

In an interview with the Guardian Monday, Mrema declared that unless the world takes action, the complex system of biodiversity that sustains life on the planet will collapse, taking it with it much of the "prerequisites for human health and livelihoods."

That doesn't leave much hope for the continuation of human civilization.

"People's lives depend on biodiversity in ways that are not always apparent or appreciated," said Mrema. "Human health ultimately depends on ecosystem services: the availability of fresh water, fuel, food sources."

Mrema gave the interview to the Guardian on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The forum, which began today and goes through Friday, has already been the scene of climate protests and demands for immediate action to address the global environmental crisis.

"My friend and colleague Elizabeth Mrema is absolutely right," tweeted U.N. Environmental Program executive director Inger Andersen. "2020 is not a 'year of conferences,' but a real opportunity for us to stop and indeed reverse ecological devastation." 

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If world governments and leader continue to have an insufficient response to the climate crisis, Mrema warned, the world could be win for major, "catastrophic" consequences.

"The global community will have said: let biodiversity loss continue, let people continue to die, let the degradation continue, deforestation continue, pollution continue, and we'll have given up as an international community to save the planet," said Mrema. "I hope that's not where any of us would want to be."

Mrema also noted that the children of the world are having to take action to preserve their planet. 

One such youth activist, Holly Gillibrand of Scotland, used Mrema's interview as a call to action.

"Biodiversity loss gets very little attention despite the fact that our survival is tied to the survival of the rest of nature," tweeted Gillibrand. "'Humans risk living in an empty world' is a dangerous misconception: if our support systems are gone, there will be no humans."

Despite the hurdles ahead of any agreement, Mrema said there's little alternative to figuring out how to save the planet.

"We have been talking of action for many years," said Mrema. "Really, we need transformative action to make a difference."

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