Humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively in the last 50 years than in any other period, some 60 per cent of ecosystem elements supporting life on Earth, such as fresh water, clean air or a relatively stable climate, are being degraded or used unsustainably, and the situation could become significantly worse during the first half of this century, according to the study.
"Only by valuing all our precious natural and human resources can we hope to build a sustainable future," Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a message launching the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) Synthesis Report compiled by 1,300 scientists in 95 countries. "The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is an unprecedented contribution to our global mission for development, sustainability and peace."
The four-year assessment was designed by a partnership of UN agencies, international scientific organizations and development agencies, with private sector and civil society input, in response to Mr. Annan's call for global support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which seek to slash a host of socio-economic ills such as extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.
"The overriding conclusion of this assessment is that it lies within the power of human societies to ease the strains we are putting on the nature services of the planet, while continuing to use them to bring better living standards to all," the MA board of directors said in a statement, "Living beyond Our Means: Natural Assets and Human Well-being."
"Achieving this, however, will require radical changes in the way nature is treated at every level of decision-making and new