Humans cannot keep destroying nature and species, Higgins says

Humans cannot keep destroying nature and species, Higgins says

‘If we were coal miners, we would be up to our knees in dead canaries,’ forum told

Human beings “have been living an incredible contradiction” in believing their modern existence can continue unchanged, separate to destruction of nature and species loss, President Michael D Higgins has said.

“What is now rightly referred to as the ‘extinction crisis’ is due to us,” he told the National Biodiversity Conference in Dublin Castle on Thursday. Confronting the threat, he suggested, required “a respect for wisdom”; all stakeholders talking and listening to each other, and an end to hubris.

“The strides we have made over the past 100 years in the provision of healthcare, education, transport and information technology have not prevented us from, at the same time, wreaking havoc in the natural world, a world on which we rely for water, for food, for wellbeing,” Mr Higgins said.

Over the past half century, humanity had witnessed the destruction of 60 per cent of mammal, bird, fish and reptile populations around the world, he said. “The examples of how Ireland’s biodiversity is suffering are also many and vivid. Our raised and blanket bogs have been systematically degraded through peat extraction, drainage and inappropriate tree planting.”

The European eel, which once arrived from the Sargasso Sea to Irish rivers in numbers vast enough to support an industry, was now critically endangered, he observed. The “beautiful pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly”, one of the symbols of the Burren, was now endangered.

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