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Birds fly past a smoking chimney in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Image Credit: AP

One more alarm has been sounded on the dire state of the planet’s ecosystem. This one too is loud and clear. A United Nations assessment of the state of the earth has come to a conclusion that the pace at which unique life forms on the planet are disappearing — which is a hundred times faster than what’s happened over the last ten million years — could tip Earth into the first mass extinction since non-avian dinosaurs died out 66 million ago.

If the sceptics are wondering whether this will happen today or tomorrow, the answer is, obviously not. But as progenitors of the human race, it should escape only the most impenetrable minds that the survival of mankind depends on the survival of the planet and that if we continue to eat, grow, build, pollute, discard and destroy with the abandon and impunity over the last century in particular, the generations to come will pay the price for our sins.

The truth is, there is nothing complicated about why the planet is ailing. The reasons are to be found in our everyday actions, beginning with the kinds of foods we make and eat, the animal farming we do to keep our plates full, and half eaten, the homes we build by encroaching on other species’ habitats, the industries we set up to cater to our excesses and the pollution these cause to land and water that kill thousands of species every year.

The human autocracy of appropriation, consumption and destruction has reached its apogee over the last century. The number of species threatened, endangered or extinct in the wild amount to 27,159 out of nearly 100,000 species that biologists examined in depth.

True, there are all those international treaties and accords on environmental resuscitation signed in 20th and 21st centuries, but as has been observed, they might as well be hand-maidens to powerful international lobbies.

So, is it too late to save the planet?

Not if each one of us embraces a “transformative change”, as the UN report says, in what and how we consume. And this change is possible. Ask the many UAE residents who are swearing by sustainability — minimalists, eat local, buy local warriors, recycling enthusiasts, keep beach and desert clean volunteers, anti-food waste campaigners. They are all proof of how simple changes can give the planet a new lease of life.

As people of the planet, this is our fundamental duty and it’s time we all undertook it.