Earth's wilderness decimated

Earth as seen on July 6, 2015 from a distance of one million miles by a NASA scientific camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft. Image: NASA

A new study shows that our planet has 10% less wilderness than in the 1990s.

Via the CS Monitor:

Ten percent of Earth's wilderness has disappeared since the 1990s, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology.

Over the last 20 years, we've lost a total area amounting to twice the size of Alaska, researchers report. But, experts say, there's still time to save the remaining wilderness areas – and they hope the recent findings will spur change.

At the moment, only about 23 percent of the world's land area is made up of wilderness, the study found. Most of this wilderness can be found in North Asia, North Africa, Australia, and North America (primarily the northern parts of Canada). South America has experienced the greatest loss, with a 30 percent decrease since the '90s, and Africa follows with 14 percent.

"The wilderness decline around the world is most in the tropical biomes​, the tropical rain forests​ have lost a lot of wilderness," study co-author Oscar Venter, of the University of Northern British Columbia, told CBS News. "A lot of the Amazon has been lost, the mangrove ecosystems, which are really important wilderness areas have been hit. They are a nursery ground for a lot of the world’s wildlife – young fish are reared in these mangrove ecosystems​, they are a base for a lot of the fisheries. Now, there is almost no wilderness left in the mangroves."

Other things from the '90s we have less of: golf visors and light up sneakers, so it isn't all bad.

Notable Replies

  1. decimated

    Thank you for using the word correctly!

  2. jlw says:

    @xeni and I had this discussion a few weeks ago and I was gleeful to have the opportunity.

  3. Yes but....

    "Decimation" in the original Latin had nothing to do with destruction: it originally meant "to tithe: to give (remove) one tenth of." Then later it came to mean "to kill (remove) every tenth man*." Both of these senses were originally in use in English by 1600 or thereabouts, but over time it came to mean almost exclusively "to destroy or remove the larger part of," and this didn't take long: it had expanded to that meaning by the 1660s. Like it or not, that's the most usual – in fact, almost invariable — meaning of the word today, so to say Weisberger used it "correctly" is untrue if you go back to the word's origins or if you use the commonest meaning. He certainly used it in one historically correct sense, and I applaud that: but it isn't the one true meaning.

    • And it was worse than you think: the cohort of usually 480 men was divided into groups of ten, each drew lots, and the loser in each group was killed by the other nine, generally by being beaten to death.
  4. team building!

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