There are now more than 7 billion people on Earth. We’ve doubled our numbers over the past four decades, and at this rate we’ll be at 9.2 billion by 2050. It is impossible to understate the intensity of what we are headed into. We’re going to have 2 billion more people in the middle class, and we’re going to double our need for energy, food, and water — the very resources we’re already squandering. Fossil fuel consumption will go up during this period by 70 percent, and sadly we will go through the U.N. CO2 targets like a freight train.
We have entered the age of adaptation. This is our new reality — and ignoring it would be as naïve as it is dangerous.
We need to be smart. Nature’s bounty and resiliency are astonishing, but we need to consider how nature can provide a stable climate, fresh water, food, health, culture, biodiversity and prosperity for all 7 billion of us who are here today and the 80 million who join us each year. That’s why Conservation International (CI) has made it our mission not only to restore and maintain the ecosystems that provide essential services to people, but to ensure that nature’s enduring value is considered at every turn.
We’re not alone in recognizing the need to value nature. Norway is providing millions of dollars to protect distant forests in Madagascar and Peru, because they understand that a stable climate is vital to their nation’s interests. We are working with leading global consumer goods manufacturers and retailers to support their efforts to eliminate deforestation throughout their supply chains, thereby supporting the successful implementation of the Consumer Goods Forum’s 2010 commitment to zero net deforestation by 2020. Several Conservation International board members, including Rob Walton, chairman of Walmart; Harrison Ford; and Wes Bush, chairman, CEO and President of Northrop Grumman, have joined me on Capitol Hill to speak with members of Congress about the importance of international conservation and its direct connection to America’s economic and national security interests.
This population milestone is a wake-up call, and we must choose a new path if we are to survive. Today there is unprecedented awareness, engagement, exploration and innovation globally. Enlightened self-interest is perhaps the most powerful motivator. It is in our self-interest to safeguard our natural capital: the ecosystems that sustain us and provide our economies and our citizens with food, water, soil, pollinators and so many other goods and services.
I have the greatest hope that, by valuing and conserving nature, we can protect nature, the treasury of the poor and support the well-being of the billions of people who share this earth.
Peter Seligmann is the chairman and CEO of Conservation International.