Overconsumption in Rich Nations Leading Humanity From a Living Planet to a Dead One

Not Another Nature Film from WWF on Vimeo.

The latest installment of the biennial Living Planet Report, produced by WWF in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network, has been released; and as you might expect following the daily updates on TreeHugger, the growing burden that human consumption of natural resources places upon the planet means having a living planet is not fully assured. Here's the picture painted by the report:Some of this may seem familiar, as it builds on work done regarding ecological overshoot, biodiversity loss, and both ecological and carbon footprinting.

living planet report image

images: WWF
We Will Need Two Earth's Resources by 2030...
Current levels of natural resource consumption, averaged over the entire growing human population, means that we are using resources 50% in excess of Earth's ability to sustainably regenerate them. We effectively need 1.5 planets to support us. By 2030, at current economic and population growth rates, we will need two Earths.

...But 4.5 If Everyone Consumes Like the US & Rich Nations
But that's what things look like from a distance, getting closer to the image reveals that there are great inequities in resource consumption--which I hope is no surprise to regular TreeHugger readers. If everyone on the planet consumed resources like the average US citizen, we'd need 4.5 planets.

On average, high-income nations have five times the ecological footprint of low-income ones, "which suggest unsustainable consumption in wealthier nations rests largely on depleting the natural resources of poorer, often still resource-rich tropical nations."

Overall the OECD nations account for 40% of humanity's ecological footprint, with the top 10 nations with the biggest footprint breaking down like this: United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Denmark, Belgium, United States, Estonia, Canada, Australia, Kuwait, and Ireland.

Keep in mind that this is ecological footprint, not just carbon footprint, so nations like Denmark which has just half the carbon footprint per capita as does the United States has a higher ecological footprint as it has to import so much of what it consumes; ditto the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait, which have relatively high carbon footprint, but being largely desert are dependent on imported goods.

The report notes that the Brazil, Russia, India and China are on trajectories to solidly overtake the 31 OECD nations in terms of ecological footprint, should they continue on the same development path.

Overall, humanity's ecological footprint has doubled since the mid-1960s, driven by an 11-fold increase in carbon footprint.

30% Species Lost in Past 40 Years - 60% in Tropics
In terms of biodiversity loss, the report reminds us that of 2500 species tracked as measures of planetary health, since 1970 there's been a global loss of 30% of them, with 60% losses seen in the tropics. Shockingly, 70% of freshwater tropical species have been lost, the highest level of species decline measure on land or in oceans. Breaking down biodiversity loss along nation income lines, the greatest declines are seen in low-income nations, with 60% lost in the past 40 years.

How to stop this on the personal level? WWF has a number of resources to target the biggest culprits, your diet and your energy use.

There's also a cool interactive map comparing nations' ecological footprint.

As well as, of course, the full Living Planet Report 2010 [24 MB PDF, you've been warned...]

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More on Ecological Footprint:
Next Saturday We All Start Going Into Ecological Debt - Earth Overshoot Day 2010 is August 21st
Treading Heavily on the Environment: China's Growing Eco-Footprint Highlighted in New Report
Your Ecological Footprint: Defining, Calculating and Reducing Your Environmental Footprint
Foodprint: The Surprising Ecological Footprint Of A Little Meat

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