Wall Street economists are anxiously awaiting Wednesday's FOMC meeting.Marketsread more
Normally, when the Fed starts loosening policy it does so amid clear-cut signs of economic weakness.Economyread more
With bold and targeted steps, economists say, government can increase opportunity and incomes for many more people in ways that strengthen, not weaken, American capitalism.Politicsread more
More and more American firms are calling for the Trump administration to resolve its conflict with China.World Economyread more
CNBC's Jim Cramer connects the dots by reasoning that if the president were to act, he would pick a successor to Powell that would do his bidding.Economyread more
Judy Shelton said in an interview that, if appointed to the Fed, she would want to lower interest rates all the way down to 0%.The Fedread more
Shoppers are "very nuanced in their expectations," Ron Johnson, the former CEO of J.C. Penney and the former senior vice president of Apple's retail division, said at CNBC's...Evolveread more
The winner will live in a centrally located apartment, receive a "salary" and explore the city to find what makes people there so happy.Liferead more
Beyond Meat has blown up. The plant-based meat company is now larger than 80 S&P 500 companies, including Macy's, Xerox and Mylan.Trading Nationread more
We've been given plenty of reasons to quit Facebook, including a new report that alleges disgusting working conditions at a company, Cognizant, it uses to employ contractors....Technologyread more
This just might be Fed Chair Jerome Powell's toughest meeting yet, because whatever the outcome, odds are high that it will disappoint a large group.Market Insiderread more
In Disney's live-action remake of "The Jungle Book," young human Mowgli is still palling around with bears and panthers. In reality, however, the world has changed since Rudyard Kipling's tales first hit shelves more than a century ago.
Speaking figuratively, biodiversity's bag of Skittles has not only gotten smaller, it now has fewer flavors.
Just how different are things? One expert puts it this way: If Mowgli were around today, he would most likely be raised by cows, goats and chickens instead of wolves and panthers and orangutans. If he were really unfortunate, his compatriots could be even worse.
"Maybe even rats and cockroaches, if things go badly," said Charles Barber, former forest chief at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, in an interview with CNBC.
The problem, according to some scientific experts, is that humans have changed the world so dramatically that it has also altered the diversity of life on Earth. "Most of these changes represent a loss of biodiversity," analysts wrote in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005, a report that chronicled the effects of human activity on nature produced by the United Nations and the World Resources Institute, where Barber now works.
Among the Millennium Assessment's findings were that humans have "changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period in human history," due to food, fresh water and fuel needs. The spillover from those changes has contributed to big gains in humanity's development, but "have been achieved at growing costs in the form of the degradation of many ecosystem services," researchers wrote at the time.
This means that "plants and animals are now sharing the planet with a whole lot of people," Barber said, adding that "we're dealing with a fantastically different world."
One measure of biodiversity loss is just how fast certain species are now disappearing. Organizations like the Center for Biological Diversity state that an "extinction crisis" is underway that is wiping out plants and animals at a breathtaking pace.
The last few hundred years have borne witness to mass extinctions that occur much quicker than the so-called natural "background rate" of one to five species per year. The CBD estimates that "literally dozens" of species are dying every day, which could see 30-50 percent of endangered populations being wiped out by midcentury.
Today, scientists say nearly a quarter of all mammals and coniferous trees are threatened with extinction. Saving them is a costly endeavor that would require around $5 billion per year and perhaps as much as $76 billion annually to be spent on conservation efforts, a team of British researchers estimated a few years ago.
Animal populations are also taking a hit. A recent report by the World Wildlife Fund found that between 1970 (the year Earth Day was born) and 2010, the number of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish fell by more than 50 percent. It further found that biodiversity loss not only disproportionately occurs in developing countries, but also correlates with the growing use of resources by higher-income countries.
"We're gradually destroying our planet's ability to support our way of life," said WWF CEO Carter Roberts, at the time the report was published.
Supporting that way of life has promoted the perpetuation of certain crops and domestic animals, which makes the most economic sense for a swelling human population. That said, experts point to a troubling side-effect: It has driven down genetic diversity around the world.
In addition to habitat changes, scientists believe other drivers impacting biodiversity include climate change, species that prey on other forms of life, over-exploitation and pollution. Each has a different degree of impact on regions that range from tropical forests and deserts to coastal and inland waters.
Experts find that the loss of all this "natural capital" has already begun to have an adverse effect on local and global economies.
The World Bank states that "the loss of biodiversity has negative effects on livelihoods, water supply, food security and resilience to extreme events." Governments, for example, are already spending millions of dollars to control invasive species on land and in the waters. Meanwhile, for those along coastlines, flood insurance rates are on the rise.
For nearly the past 70 years, the World Bank has provided loans to more than 12,500 projects in 173 countries aimed at ecosystem rebuilding in diverse places like China, Iceland and India. This year, it has committed more than $30 billion in lending, or 33 percent more than it did a decade ago.
"One of the first things you see when an ecosystem collapses is that the apex animals collapse," said WRI's Barber. "They're not exactly the canary in the coal mine."
The good news is that experts believe there is still time to taper and even reverse some of these changes. The bad news is that some of them see that the policies and practices required for that to happen are "substantial and not currently underway."
The end result means that come next century, a fictional Mowgli could face a very real set of problems — namely deforestation and the loss of animal life — that require substantial international political action.