November 5, 2010

Living Beyond Our Planet’s Resources

Populations of tropical species are plummeting and humanity’s demands on natural resources are sky-rocketing to 50 per cent more than the earth can sustain, claims the WWF in the 2010 edition of its Living Planet Report – arguably the leading contemporary survey of our planet’s health.

Produced in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network, the Living Planet Report uses the global Living Planet Index (LPI) as a measure of the health of almost 8,000 populations of more than 2,500 species alongside indicators of ecological and water footprints.

The report claims that our demand on natural resources has doubled since 1966 and, globally, we’re using the equivalent resources of 1.5 planets to support our activities.

Although the UK finds itself 31st in the report’s table of Ecological Footprint per country, per person, it certainly falls within the group of countries consuming way beyond the Earth’s resources. If the rest of the world consumed as we do in the UK, we’d be using the equivalent resources of 2.75 planets to sustain our lifestyles. A continuation of current trends on a global scale would mean that by 2030 we’d need the equivalent of two planets’ productive capacity to meet our annual demands.

“In the UK, all of us – government, businesses and individuals – need fundamentally to re-think our relationship with the planet” said David Nussbaum, CEO of WWF-UK.

The Living Earth Report states that the the loss of biodiversity and habitats undermines the natural systems upon which we depend for the food we eat, the air we breathe and the stable climate we need need. It also suggests the need for a new green economy which assigns genuine value to the benefits we get from nature: biodiversity, the natural systems which provide goods and services like water, and ultimately our own well-being.

Dr. Sybille Lenzendorf, MD of WWF’s Species Conservation Program, points out that the loss of natural ecosystems is not just impacting on tigers, rhinos and elephants, but more worryingly on the services from nature that we all depend on, such as freshwater, rainfall, pollination, food production, soil protection and flood control.

“Rich nations must find a way to live much more lightly on the Earth”

James P. Leape, Director General of WFF International.

Another high level study, released last month by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and others outlined the overall threat levels after analysing some 7,000 of the world’s estimated 380,000 plant species. Their conclusions warned that the world is experiencing mass extinction with over 20% of the world’s known plants now threatened with extinction. There are similar concerns for the planet’s animal and fish species.


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