Wilderness areas around the world are declining in alarming rates. South America and Central Africa experience the largest losses. South America is home to the Amazon, an ecosystem consisting of the world’s largest diversity of species, and the most deforestation. Today, only 20% of Earth’s surface is covered in wilderness.
It is important to note that the loss of most ecosystems and their essential services are irreversible. Some ecosystems services are reproducible, but only at a great cost. The loss of ecosystems includes the extinction of species, many of which had yet to be discovered. Thus, their loss may never fully be realized. On a larger scale, the destruction of wilderness contributes to global warming. Deforestation results in less carbon dioxide filtration and production of oxygen. Thus, the loss of wilderness will eventually erode the health of the entire planet.
The destruction of wilderness raises both issues of environmental justice and international law. The majority of wilderness destruction occurs in third world countries for the benefit of first world countries. Essentially, the resources of the poor are used for the benefit of the rich. Furthermore, communities near the destruction of ecosystems experience harm disproportionately to those who ultimately benefit from it. Often, the pressure of economic development overrides concern for the environment or human health.
Therefore, international cooperation and policies are needed to overcome the problem of wilderness destruction before it is too late. First, it must be acknowledged that wilderness destruction is a global issue that spans national boundaries. Further, loss of wilderness must be closely monitored to prevent unacceptable wilderness destruction. Last, enforcement should be aim to be preventive, not reactive. In all, our planet’s remaining wilderness requires protection more now than ever.
Christopher Klapperich, 2nd Year Law Student