As species disappear and ecosystems are destroyed, our health, peace and security, jobs and economic prosperity are also hurt. Saving species means a better world for all of us.
Protecting Species and Ecosystems is a Critical Challenge for All Countries
Forests, fisheries, fresh water, soils, coral reefs, wildlife and other natural resources provide hundreds of billions of dollars of value to the world economy—and the U.S. economy—every year. And more than a billion of the world’s poorest people directly depend on these natural resources for food, fresh water, and the means to make a living. But less than a fifth of the world’s original forest cover remains in unfragmented tracts. More than 80,000 acres of rainforest are destroyed every day. Thirty percent of the world’s coral reefs are already lost. Water scarcity is expected to lead to less drinking water and less food production.
As these ecosystems disappear, so does the wildlife that calls them home. Tiger populations are hanging on by a thread. Poachers kill hundreds of great apes each year. Every sea turtle species is endangered or threatened by extinction. Ninety percent of the world’s large fish have been eliminated from the world’s oceans. And more than half of all species could be severely endangered by the end of this century.
Why Global Conservation Matters to You
Jobs and the Economy
The U.S. economy increasingly depends on developing countries. Trade with developing countries constitutes 48 percent of all U.S exports and supports a significant number of American jobs. But with 54 percent of the developing world’s workforce employed in agriculture, fisheries and forestry, developing country economies require a healthy natural resource base to grow. Learn More »
Across the world, illegal logging, fishing and mining flood the market with low-cost products that harm the local environment and threaten the diverse wildlife species that live there. These unsustainable illegal products have unfairly low prices and compete with responsible businesses from the U.S. and other countries. Unfair competition from illegally harvested timber in developing countries costs U.S. businesses about $1 billion annually. Learn More »
Peace and Security
Security experts are finding that increased competition for fresh water, forests, arable land, fish and other natural resources is leading to instability, mass migrations and conflict around the world. The National Intelligence Council has concluded that resource scarcities will increasingly define security challenges this century. The U.S. and its allies have lost lives and spent billions trying to stabilize regions where environmental degradation undermines stability and security. In Afghanistan, deforestation and the spread of desertification affect 75 percent of the country’s land and limit economic growth and stability. In Somalia, desperate local fishermen were driven to piracy after massive illegal fishing operations by numerous countries and international companies nearly emptied Somolia’s oceans. Learn More »
One in three Americans has a chronic health condition like cancer, diabetes, heart disease or HIV/AIDS that may be treated with pharmaceuticals derived from a compound found in nature. Up to half of all prescription medications and seventy percent of all cancer drugs are based on compounds found in plants and animals around the world. New compounds are continuously being discovered in remarkable places. The saliva of the Gila monster lizard contains a compound that is now synthesized to treat diabetes, Caribbean sea sponges are the source of an HIV treatment, and a flower native to Madagascar has enables millions of children to survive childhood leukemia. Once discovered, these compounds can generally be grown or produced in laboratories, which protects the species in their natural habitats. The loss of natural areas is estimated to eliminate one prescription drug from entering the market every two years. Learn More »
Inspiration and Stewardship
Millions of American tourists travel each year to be inspired by the world’s natural landscapes and iconic wildlife. Many other Americans who do not directly experience these places and species still value them and often feel a moral or religious commitment to act as good stewards of the earth.
Human Health and Welfare Depends on Natural Resources
Everyone needs fresh, clean water. Healthy wetlands, forests and soils filter water and prevent run-off. Conserving these watersheds and natural filtering systems is critical for people to have adequate supplies of clean water for drinking, cooking and washing. One-third of the developing world’s 66 largest cities (500 million people) obtain a significant proportion of their drinking water directly from protected natural watersheds. Learn More »
Wild animal species eat pests that damage crops, and pollinate important agricultural crops like grains and fruit. These pest control and pollination services provided by local wildlife is worth $300 billion to world agriculture every year. Wild plant species are used in plant breeding programs that have helped feed billions of people around the world. Native fish species provide a main source of protein for 2 billion people. Learn More »
In addition to providing sources of medicines, natural ecosystems serve as a buffer between wildlife and human populations, minimizing the transmission of animal-borne infectious diseases—such as avian flu, SARS and malaria—which have caused millions of deaths and cost the world economy tens of billions of dollars annually. A recent study in the Amazon found that a four percent loss of tropical forests led to a 47 percent increase in malaria incidence. Learn More »
Poverty Alleviation and Local Jobs
Sustainably managed wildlife and natural ecosystems generate tens of billions of dollars a year and maintain thousands of jobs from activities like ecotourism, and sustainable natural products. Products we use every day, such as fish, coffee, chocolate, paper, timber, and many fruits come exclusively from marine habitats and tropical forests in the developing world. When sustainably and responsibly managed (for example when certified sustainable by independent organizations like Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance), these natural products can provide incomes and economic growth to local communities while protecting habitats and species. Learn More »
Empowering Women and Girls
Throughout the developing world, women and girls are usually the ones responsible for collecting fuelwood and water. But as forests and fresh water sources are destroyed, millions of women must travel many hours each day to gather these items. This limits their time to attend school, start a business, take care of children, or play a role in leading their communities. Learn More »
Preventing Natural Disasters
Forests hold water, preventing catastrophic flooding, mudslides and droughts. Healthy coral reefs and mangroves reduce the impact of large storms on coastal populations, saving lives and preventing $9 billion of losses every year.