A group of international scientists including Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Elizabeth Hadly is warning that population pressures may be pushing Earth toward a crucial tipping point. If this planetary transition takes place, some plant and animal species we depend on could disappear and major crop disruptions could occur, leading to widespread political instability, according to a study published June 7 in the journal Nature

"We may already be past these tipping points in particular regions of the world," Hadly said. "I just returned from a trip to the high Himalayas in Nepal, where I witnessed families fighting each other with machetes for wood - wood that they would burn to cook their food in one evening. In places where governments are lacking basic infrastructure, people fend for themselves, and biodiversity suffers. We desperately need global leadership for planet Earth." 

 The sobering study comes just in time for the June 20-22 U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. The U.N. issued a report earlier this month showing that the world has made significant progress on only four of the 90 most important environmental objectives - such as protecting plant and animal species - agreed on through the U.N. process. 

 Read more about this story at the Stanford News Service

 Rob Jordan is the communications writer for the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Elizabeth Hadly.