Aerial View of Timber Cutting in Brazil
Timber Cutting Aerial view of timber cutting near Cachoeira Reservoir. © Scott Warren

Perspectives

Can the Earth be saved?

The answer is 'yes,' with some big 'if's. Here are 3 things we must do.

The science is in: We don’t have to accept a fate of gloom and doom for the Earth. This is a hopeful wake-up call, but only if we act with great urgency.

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In recent, published research from The Nature Conservancy and 12 peer organisations, science points us to a better path for building a more sustainable, more hopeful future for the Earth.  

A future in which catastrophic climate change is kept at bay while we still power our developing world. A future in which we can feed 10 billion people worldwide and provide cleaner, more abundant drinking water while also protecting life-giving lands, lakes and rivers. A future in which nature’s wild heart still beats strong through healthy wildlife and magnificent landscapes while our cities are strengthened by harmony with nature.  

A future in which people and nature thrive together. Science shows us this vision of the future is achievable, and we must join together and put all our effort into the big priorities that will make this vision a reality. 

A Path Forward
A Path Forward New science shows a clear path we must take to prevent irreversible damage to the lands, waters that sustain us all. It's not too late to choose a more sustainable future where nature and people thrive together. To reach it, we must transform the way we get our food, fish and energy right now. © Matt Champlin

The 3 things we must do

The stakes couldn’t be higher. If we follow the path that science shows us, we have the power to save nearly all habitat types across the world’s lands. That’s a huge win for wildlife, birds, plants, insects and the diversity of life that makes our natural world such a treasure.

Urgent action is needed. Here are three top ways we need to up-end ‘business as usual’ in the next decade and act boldly to advance conservation.

1. Produce more food on less land

Fix Agriculture
Targeted agricultural expansion Identify areas where crops grow best to avoid destroying nature.

Problem:
Today's version of large-scale agriculture is the biggest source of land conversion, drives deforestation that worsens climate change, uses 70 percent of the world’s freshwater supply and relies on fertilizer practices that pollute our waters. As the need to feed a billion more people increases, agricultural expansion could devastate habitats, release even more carbon into the atmosphere, and dry up rivers.

How to fix it:
Produce food where it's most likely to thrive, which will use less water and less land.

How we're taking action right now:
We’re analysing satellite images and local yield potential to pinpoint where soy and cattle farming can expand without destroying nature. This approach is especially vital in Brazil’s Cerrado region, where half of all natural habitat has already been converted to cropland and pasture. Cooperating with farmers on sustainable practices can help save what’s left of the Cerrado’s rich savanna.  

Amazon Wildlife
Saving a Forest Home Conversion to agriculture and cattle ranching is the greatest threat to Brazil's unique tropical habitats. The Nature Conservancy is actively working with farmers and ranchers throughout the country to identify how they can produce more while also restoring the forests and savannas wildlife rely on. © Haroldo Palo Jr.

2. Eliminate overfishing

Zero Overfishing
Targeted fishing Use technology to catch only the right species.

Problem:
Overfishing and poor fisheries management is not only devastating to the fish species being pushed to the brink of collapse. It endangers food webs and ocean ecosystems by disrupting the balance of all sea life. And it threatens billions of people who rely on seafood as an important source of livelihood and animal protein. Without serious changes, 84 percent of the world’s fish stocks will be in peril in our lifetime. 

How to fix it:
Refine our fishing methods to only take what the fish populations can tolerate now, so our oceans can be more abundant and healtheir in the future.

How we’re taking action right now:
We’re making it fast, easy and affordable for fishers to use data to manage their catches more sustainably. Like image recognition software, FishFace technology we’re pioneering in Indonesia uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify fish species and track their numbers so fishers can avoid catching too many or the wrong kind.

School of Yellowstripe Scad
Fishing for More Data One of the biggest challenges in managing vital fisheries in developing countries is lack of data on which species are being caught and in what quantities. The Nature Conservancy is pioneering innovative technology and data tools that have the power to help bring back oceans teeming with fish. © Jeff Yonover

3. Increase clean energy

Ramp Up Clean Energy
Targeted energy siting Use already degraded land for energy development.

Problem:
Climate change is the single most serious threat facing our planet today. We must reduce carbon emissions to, or below, levels agreed to in the Paris Climate Agreement to prevent catastrophic harm. And with global energy demand expected to increase 56 percent over the next couple decades, it will be impossible to meet those emissions targets if we stick primarily with traditional fossil fuels. 

How to fix it:
Shift 85 percent of the world’s energy supply to non-fossil fuel sources and invest in strategies like reforestation that capture carbon dioxide.

How we’re taking action right now:
We’re championing regulations that allow former mining lands to be repurposed for solar and wind energy. Tens of thousands of acres of degraded mine sites in Nevada’s Great Basin are now available for renewable energy development. By targeting already-disturbed land, new turbines and solar panels won’t need to destroy more natural habitat.

Solar Panels
Mining the Sun A single utility-scale solar facility can be as large as downtown San Francisco. To preserve fragile desert habitat, The Nature Conservancy's goal is to encourage the development of clean energy by repurposing already degraded former mine sites. © Dave Lauridsen for The Nature Conservancy

We truly do have the power to build a future in which nature and people can thrive together.