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Humans are appropriating 20% more resources than Earth can provide

Humans are appropriating 20% more resources than Earth can provide

Humans are appropriating 20% more resources than Earth can provide
March 10, 2008

Mankind is appropriating 20 percent more resources each year than Earth can produce, according to a report from environmental group WWF.

The “Living Planet Report” — which examines the environmental impact of humanity — shows that man’s “ecological footprint” grew by 150 per cent between 1961 and 2000, resulting in depleted groudwater, collapsed fisheries, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, deforestation, and a 40 percent decline in wildlife populations.

“It is possible to exceed ecological limits for a while, but this over-spend leads to the destruction of ecological assets, on which the world’s economy depends,” said the report.

“We are spending nature’s capital faster than it can regenerate,” added WWF Director-General Dr Claude Martin.

Earth as viewed from Apollo 17.

The reprt is built around two indicators: the Living Planet Index, which reflects the health of the planet’s terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems by measuring the population of hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish; and the Ecological Footprint (EF), which shows the extent of human demand on these ecosystems. Overall the Living Planet Index declined by 35 pecent between 1970 and 2000, while the Ecological Footprint reached 2.3 hectares per person, or about 20 percent above Earth’s biological capacity of 1.90 hectares per person. WWF says there are large differnces in the Ecological Footprint between North Americans and people in developing countries.

“While the EF of the average African or Asian consumer was less than 1.4 hectares per person in 1999, the average Western European’s footprint was about 5.0 hectares, and the average North American’s was about 9.6 hectares,” it said.

The report says it’s up to the world’s governments to change course and move towards greater sustainability. Martin adds that international agreements on climate, biodiversity, and othe environmental issues can play an important part.

“Some might argue that governments are wasting their time talking about goals and targets, and should just get on with the job. But such public commitments to address these critical issues provide a golden opportunity,” he explained. “For the first time, the public can hold its leaders accountable for their success or failure in meeting measurable and quantifiable objectives on these critically important issues.”

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