The world map is peppered with patches of protected land, ostensibly ringed by clear borders that seem to safely shield our few remaining wild areas from human encroachment. But the reality on the ground is much messier. New satellite data show that across huge swaths of the planet—including America—the neatly cordoned “protected” areas are so exposed to pollution, industrial exploitation, and land degradation that they are virtually unprotected from anything.
|The Valley of the Gods at the Bears Ears |
National Monument in southeastern Utah.
An international team of researchers parsed global satellite data to reveal that many legally designated “protected” natural areas are directly threatened by expanding habitat destruction, displacement and destruction of local biodiversity. Researchers found that, worldwide, “6 million square kilometers (32.8%) of protected land is under intense human pressure.” Western Europe and Southern Asia were particularly under threat; satellite imaging revealed that “[o]nly 42 percent of protected land was found to be free of measurable human pressure.” That means in many of the world’s most densely populated and fastest developing regions, the majority of supposedly protected lands are besieged by the march of human progress—through our farming increasingly depleted terrains, hunting their endangered wildlife, or extracting resources from the ground.
Read the story by Michelle Chen from The Nation - “A Third of the World’s ‘Protected’ Areas Are Under Threat.”