Humans have run up a hefty overdraft, says WWF

The human race has run up a massive overdraft in its use of natural resources, according to a report released on Tuesday by the World Wildlife Fund.

The Living Planet Report 2002 said humans were using over 20 percent more natural resources each year than could be regenerated — and that this figure was growing.

Projections based on likely scenarios of population growth, economic development and technological change, showed that by 2050, humans would be consuming between 180 and 220% of the Earth’s annual biological capacity.

This meant that unless governments took urgent action, by 2030, human welfare, as measured by average life expectancy, education level and world economic product, would go into decline.

”The fact that we live on a bountiful planet, but not a limitless one, presents world leaders at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) with a clear challenge,” said Dr Claude Martin, director general of WWF International.

”Ensuring access to basic resources and improving the health and livelihoods of the world’s poorest people can not be tackled separately from maintaining the integrity of natural ecosystems.”

The report said the Earth had about 11,4-billion hectares of productive land and sea space — or 1,9 ha for each of the six billion people on the planet.

The global ecological footprint — or consumption of natural resources –was 2,3 ha per person.

However, while the footprint of the average African or Asian consumer was less than 1,4 ha in 1999, the average Western European footprint was about five ha, and the average North American’s was about 9,6.

WWF said it believed governments could put humanity back on a path to sustainable development if they addressed some key issues.

These include improving the efficiency with which goods and services were produced — in particular, moving energy supplies away from fossil fuels and promoting energy-efficient technologies; encouraging and sustainable consumption; and conserving and restoring natural ecosystems.

The WSSD, which takes place in Johannesburg in August and September, offered a platform to make these commitments. – Sapa

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Ben Maclennan
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