Wilderness Now Only Represents A Fourth Of The Planet

Within 16 years, an area of terrestrial wilderness larger than India has been lost to human activities.

(© Noppawat Tom Charoensinphon pour Getty Images)

A century ago, only 15% of the planet was exploited by mankind. Today, more than 77% of the landmass on earth and 87% of the water mass of the oceans has been altered by human activities, according to a study published by Nature magazine on the 31st of October. In the oceans, the only areas protected from fishery, pollution and human activities are almost exclusively located in the Polar Regions. The erosion of the wilderness keeps on accelerating, between 1993 and 2009, an area of terrestrial wilderness of 3,3 million square kilometres was lost to human activities. It is larger than India’s landmass.

The wilderness remains the only refuge of thousands of species directly threatens by human activities. "Of all the plant, amphibian, reptile, bird and mammal species that have gone extinct since AD 1500, 75% were harmed by overexploitation or agricultural activity or both", reminds the WWF in their annual report.

A concerning repartition of the wilderness territories

Today, 20 countries contain 94% of the world’s remaining wilderness (excluding the high seas and Antarctica). More than 70% is in just five countries — Russia, Canada, Australia, the United States and Brazil, which is a great responsibility for them. Unfortunately, three of these countries are not seeing the protection of the ecosystem as a priority, some are even making worrying political choices as far as the environment is concerned.

In the United States, some wilderness areas are protected under national legislation such as the 1964 US Wilderness Act, which protects the 37,000 km2 of federal land. In the meantime, January 2019 will mark the second year since Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Brazil just elected Jair Bolsonaro who believes that the Amazon should be industrially exploited for its mineral resources. Meanwhile, in Russia, the protection of the environment is completely absent of Vladimir Putin's political agenda, as the Russian president denies the human responsibility in global warming.

"Countries must enact and not let the industry enter what’s left of the wilderness. Nature needs a break", alerts James. E. M. Watson, lead author of the study published by Nature magazine.