This press release from WWF is rather pathetic:
“To prevent a new mass extinction of the world’s animal and plant life, we need to understand the threats to biodiversity, where they occur and how quickly change is happening. For this to happen, we need reliable and accessible data. A new study reveals those data are largely missing. We are lacking key information on important threats to biodiversity such as invasive species, logging, bush meat harvesting, and illegal wildlife trade”
In fact we have known enough for a very long time. Warnings go back decades. Before 1914, William Hornaday, for example was documenting the destruction of biodiversity. In the 1930s Paul Sears drew attention to what he called “deserts on the march”. In the 1940s there were prescient studies from William Vogt and Fairfield Osborn. In the 1950s, Californian newspapers were speculating abut the danger from global warming. In the early 1960s Jacques Cousteau, Rachel Carson and others were spotlighting the scale of pollution. In the early 1970s, the ‘Limits to Growth’ Report and the ‘Blueprint for Survival’ out the general danger of ‘overshoot’. The picture they painted has been confirmed by study after study (eg http://www.theguardian.com/…/limits-to-growth-was-right-new…)
In most specific cases, it is obvious what to do to halt further damage and destruction. At a general level, we simply (!) need to curtail total human pressure on environmental systems and reduce it to sustainable levels. There are already models of how to calculate what needs to be done eg http://www.vspop.org/ The problem is that constellation of forces variously deny problems, block due action and drag feet, not a dearth of information.
Actually I once gave a talk at the very plush HQ of WWF-UK at Godalming to an audience of big wigs from firms such as Sainsbury’s, the Nat West Bank and Guinness. It was a critique of so-called ‘green consumerism’ and I like to think that I didn’t pull any punches. But the WWF-UK officials present added new depths to the meaning of the word ‘obsequious’. All they wanted was more funding, some more crumbs off the table of big business. Still, I should not have been surprised if this study is any guide: http://www.pandaleaks.org/operation-lock/.
The key is not more data. It is a sound framework for making sense of all the information we already have and good values by which to steer policy-making and grassroots activity. Indeed calls for more data may be a good job creation scheme for a few people but, all too often, it is means of obfuscation, diversion and delay.
If we wait until all the facts are in, it will be too late.