Paolo Rossi Castelli 27 November 2018 4 min read

Only 23% of planet earth remains unspoilt

Bad news for our planet: only 23% of the earth’s surface (excluding Antarctica) can still be considered wild and unspoilt, i.e. without strong signs of human activity. This percentage goes down to as low as 13% if we take the seas into consideration. The alarming data emerged from a broad international study published by the journal Nature, with a title that gets straight to the point: Protect the last of the wild. From 1993 to 2009 alone, write researchers, more than 3.3 million square meters (an area larger than India) was lost to human settlement, farming, mining and other economic activities. And this trend shows no signs of stopping.

A small number of countries – 20 – contain 94% of the terrestrial and marine wildernesses that remain unspoilt and this fact, in itself, could make interventions to “protect” these areas easier (as efforts would therefore not be fragmented in too many different corners of the world), if there was the political will to do so. In fact, five countries (Russia, the United States, Brazil, Canada and Australia) alone contain 70% of the ecosystems that are still intact. However, only Australia and Canada currently seem intent on implementing a decisive environmental protection program. And yet, it is highly important to protect the last unspoilt areas of our planet, because they act as reservoirs of the biodiversity that is also fundamental for developed areas, as well as extraordinary “disposers” of excess carbon dioxide, which is released into the atmosphere as a result of industrial activities in the remaining parts of the world.

The study by the international team was published just a few days before a significant event: the fourteenth world gathering on biodiversity – the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – to be held in Sharm-el Sheikh, Egypt, from November 17 to 20, with the participation of representatives from many countries and intra-governmental organizations, such as the Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Another event to keep in mind is the climate change conference sponsored by the United Nations, which will be held in Katowice, Poland, from December 2 to 14.

The authors of the study published in Nature launched an appeal for all those that hold any authority in these matters to participate in the meetings and to unite forces in order to fully conserve the areas that remain unspoilt. Like we have said, these areas are becoming increasingly smaller: if we take the seas into account, for example, the polar areas are almost the only areas free from industrial fishing and widespread pollution.


Paolo Rossi Castelli

Journalist since 1983, Paolo has been dealing with scientific divulgation for years, especially in the fields of medicine and biology. He is the creator of Sportello Cancro, the site created by on oncology in collaboration with the Umberto Veronesi Foundation. He collaborated with the pages of the Science of Corriere della Sera for several years. He is the founder and director of PRC-Comunicare la scienza.