The Biodiversity Crisis: Environmental, Social And Economic Impacts

Co-presented with the Balanced Enterprise Research Network (BERN) at the Sydney Environment Institute

7 October, 2014

Humans are having an extraordinary impact on the life of the planet with species extinction rates now 100-1000 times the background rate. From a largely local phenomenon of habitat-loss and over-exploitation, biodiversity decline has now become systemic, driven by our increasingly globalized economy, expanding consumerism and accelerating climatic change driven by human activities. Indeed, many scientists believe we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event in the Earth’s history, and that the impacts on biodiversity, our life support system, will accelerate over the next century. In this Sydney Ideas event, two of the country’s leading researchers on biodiversity decline will explore this critical topic from environmental and economic perspectives.

Professor Lesley Hughes from the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University and the Climate Council poses the question ‘Can Biodiversity Survive the Human Race?’. In her talk she will explore how we let things get this bad, whether we still have a chance to save the Earth, and what we can all do to avert catastrophe.

Our second speaker, Manfred Lenzen, Professor of Sustainability Research at the University of Sydney, will explore how globalization and international trade are key drivers of biodiversity decline. He will outline his research which charts how demand for consumer commodities in developed economies drives species extinction in developing countries.


Professor Lesley Hughes

Professor Lesley Hughes is an ecologist in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University who studies the impact of climate change on Australian species and ecosystems. In addition to teaching and research at Macquarie, Lesley is active in a number of different conservation and climate-change associated organisations, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), WWF Australia, the Climate Council of Australia, and the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists. At Macquarie University she also is the co-director of the Climate Futures Research Centre, the Director of the Biodiversity Node of the NSW Climate Adaptation Hub and the Acting Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Science.

Professor Manfred Lenzen

Professor Manfred Lenzen is Professor of Sustainability Research in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney. He has a PhD in Nuclear Physics and 15 years of experience in renewable energy technologies, life-cycle assessment, and carbon footprinting. His current research interests revolve around the application of input-output analysis to global environmental problems and he has recently published an article about international trade driving global species threats in the journal Nature. He currently leads two research initiatives aimed at developing a collaborative research platform to building large-scale physically-extended global multi-region input-output frameworks, employing advanced computation and a cloud environment. He is Associate Editor for the Journal of Industrial Ecology, and is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Economic Systems Research.