Today a new royal baby was born. Congrats to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, for the incredible gift of bringing new life into the world.
More importantly, in a truly poetic representation of the duality of our media ecosystem, the baby was born mere hours after the UN released findings from a landmark report on the state of the Earth’s environment. The result? As many as one million plant and animal species are at risk of going extinct—of disappearing forever, leaving a planet that is dramatically less healthy, less productive, and prone to collapse.
Because that might sound abstract, it’s worth reminding that this planet is indeed our home, the only place we know of that can sustain our lives. And it is dying. We didn’t need yet another report to tell us that, not after decades of decline. The new UN report is about as comprehensive as a report can get, however, and it stands as a stark reminder that we humans are still intrinsically reliant on the environment for our wellbeing.
When we’re talking about extinction, we’re not just talking about losing some cute monkeys bopping about in some forest somewhere, although they are important too. We’re talking about everything we rely on to survive—our air, our water, our food, our medicines, the basic underpinnings of life itself—being eroded away at such a rapid clip that without fundamentally reshaping the way we interact with our world, we face a genuine death spiral.
That might sound hyperbolic, but it’s not. It also might sound hyperbolic to say this is the most important story, not just of today, not of this week or year or decade, but of our lives, but it’s really not. (Bet against it if you want, but try collecting when we’re all dead.) How short our lives are, anyway; it was just three years ago that the world signed the Paris Agreement at a big old to-do at the United Nations, signaling that maybe, just maybe, we might start making progress to bring back balance to our world. And then US President Donald Trump rescinded the US’s signature, neutering the agreement—the UN should really implement a “no take-backsies” rule when all our lives are at stake—and since then we’ve hit carbon dioxide record after record. And now we are reminded, again, that the very underpinnings of life on Earth have been dramatically weakened.
In the 15 minutes or so it took to write, news outlets have probably already sent out push alerts replacing the royal baby with some new, vastly important storyline to think about (until the next one). But, royal baby aside, the most important news of the day, the decade, our lives, is this: We have pushed the planet far past its limits, and we ignore that at our existential peril.