The World Wildlife Fund's Living Planet Report released Thursday signals a possible sixth mass extinction with two-thirds of wildlife gone by 2020. Despite this dire forecast, Virginia Tech wildlife expert Kathleen Alexander stressed the importance of the global community developing a vision of hope and opportunity.
“The Living Planet report provides a sobering vision of Earth's future if we fail to take action to turn the tide. But, we can strive to address these current challenges, creating a future where life can be sustained and even flourish. We have already demonstrated humanity's ability to invoke change,” said Alexander, a professor of fisheries and wildlife conservation.
Alexander on learning from the HIV/AIDS battle:
“Successful change hinges upon a positive perception and message. With the HIV/AIDS battle in sub-saharan, African countries that built their strategy around a vision of hope were much more effective in confronting the epidemic early. However, when action was framed with fear and threat of survival, many people became overwhelmed and gave up, causing the epidemic to worsen. The results of this can still be seen today in the battle against HIV across the continent.”
Alexander on looking to the future:
“It is important monitor the demise of wildlife but also identify areas of hope and opportunity. We need to understand where we are, but still remember what we can do to pull ourselves up. Our charge is to ensure that the Earth's systems remain functional and resilient and that we protect and conserve the world's biodiversity. At times, this goal can seem overwhelming and our trajectory terrifying. But we can do this by incentivizing diverse collaborations between communities, government and business while harnessing the power of smart technology, and developing new approaches that minimize human impacts while encouraging sustainability.”
Background on Alexander
Kathleen Alexander is a veterinarian and wildlife professor who studies community-wildlife interactions, infectious diseases, water quality, and natural resources sustainability at Virginia Tech and in northern Botswana. Her work was showcased on Capitol Hill earlier this year.
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