May 6, 2019

Axios PM

1 big thing: The story of our time

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The greatest period of human prosperity on Earth was built on the natural world and is now bringing catastrophe to it — and potentially us.

  • There are an estimated 8 million species of plants and animals on Earth.
  • As many as 1 million could go extinct in coming decades, a new U.N. report says.

Why it matters: Human activity is accelerating this crisis, as habitat loss and climate change exert unprecedented pressure on wildlife.

  • Biodiversity is declining at the fastest rate in human history, the report finds.
  • "Losses of intact ecosystems have occurred primarily in the tropics, home to the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet."
  • "100 million hectares of tropical forest were lost from 1980 to 2000, resulting mainly from cattle ranching in Latin America (about 42 million hectares) and plantations in South-East Asia (about 7.5 million hectares, of which 80% is for palm oil, used mostly in food, cosmetics, cleaning products and fuel) among others."

The big picture: Biodiversity loss directly threatens human well-being by reducing the number of crops and livestock available to produce food, Axios Science editor Andrew Freedman reports.

  • It will also limit the availability and development of new drug treatments for human diseases, among other ramifications.
  • “'Most of nature’s contributions are not fully replaceable,' the report said. Biodiversity loss 'can permanently reduce future options, such as wild species that might be domesticated as new crops and be used for genetic improvement,'" the NYTimes notes.

The bottom line: We're well past the point of just needing to stop habitat loss. More than 500,000 species lack enough habitat right now for long-term survival.

  • But as the U.N. report repeatedly notes, it is not too late for the types of change that could make this happen.
  • For example, nearly 100 groups worldwide are working to designate 30% of the Earth's surface for protection by 2030, and 50% by 2050, in an effort to avert the extinction of many marine species.

Go deeper:

Bonus: Pic du jour
The official notice of the birth of a baby boy to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on display outside Buckingham Palace. Photo: Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, gave birth to a baby boy on Monday, per the official royal Instagram she shares with her husband, Prince Harry.

2. What you missed
  1. President Trump hit a 46% approval rating in Gallup's tracking poll, the highest thus far in his presidency. By the numbers.
  2. More than 400 former federal prosecutors have signed onto a statement asserting that if the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) did not prohibit a sitting president from being indicted, Trump would be charged with obstruction of justice. Go deeper.
  3. The House Judiciary Committee plans to begin contempt proceedings against Attorney General Bill Barr. Details.
  4. Israel passed information on an alleged Iranian plot to attack U.S. interests in the Gulf to the U.S., senior Israeli officials told Axios contributor Barak Ravid. Go deeper.
  5. Cory Booker announced a sweeping 14-part gun control plan as part of his 2020 platform, including a national gun licensing program. Details.
  6. CBS News has named Norah O'Donnell as the anchor and managing editor of "CBS Evening News" as John Dickerson shifts to a role at "60 Minutes." Gayle King will be flanked by Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil on "CBS Morning News." Go deeper.
3. 1 "hypebeast" thing

There's a new trend for man's best friend, especially the ones that are Instagram-famous: "canine streetwear," writes the Wall Street Journal's Jacob Gallagher (subscription):

  • "Hoodies that accommodate pointy ears, sneaker-shaped chew toys and even designer turtlenecks echo the styles found in human hypebeasts’ closets."
  • One owner of a canine streetwear brand, whose puffer jackets sell for $425, told the WSJ: "Nowadays dogs are more and more an essential and important part of the family and therefore they deserve to be taken care of."

Why it matters: "According to the American Pet Products Association, we spent over $72.5 billion on supplies for our furry friends in 2018."