Category Archives: Life on Earth

A Life on Our Planet

Since Life on Earth was first broadcasted, I’ve loved David Attenborough’s work – a fascinating and beautifully produced narrative of natural history. No doubt Attenborough in part also inspired me to study the life sciences.

I enjoyed his latest book too: A Life on Our Planet.  He puts forward his witness statement and a vision for the future: how to rewild the world. It’s a compelling account of the impact of humans on our planet and what we need to do to create a sustainable future.

Biodiversity?

As a biologist I was shocked to learn this:

  • There are currently about 9,000,000 different species inhabiting our planet, one of which is of course Homo sapiens.
  • Today our farmland covers 5 billion hectares: more than half of the habitable land on the planet.
  • Nearly 80% of that land, 4 billion hectares, equivalent to the whole of North and South America is used for meat and dairy production.
  • Beef represents only 2% of the calories we consume but we dedicate 60% of our farmland to raising it!
  • Our population continues to grow and is forecasted to peak at between 9-11 billion people, up from almost 8 billion today
  • As we get richer, we continue to eat more meat.  The average meat consumption in the USA today is 120kg per person annually.  In Europe it’s 60-80kg. In Kenya, 16kg and in India it’s 4kg (with cultural factors encouraging vegetarianism there too).

Wise human?

Billions of additional people eating more meat each year is unlikely to be a sustainable path towards a biodiverse future.

Are we eating the right things in the right proportions?

Homo sapiens means ‘wise man’.  What would a wise human do in this situation?