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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

HUMAN FOOTPRINT TOO BIG FOR NATURE

BEIJING, China/GLAND, Switzerland, October 24, 2006 --/WORLD-WIRE/-- A new report released today by WWF and Global Footprint Network shows that by 2050 humanity will demand twice as much as our planet can supply - but that we don't have to follow this path.

"How can we live well and live within the means of one planet? This is the main research question of the 21st century," says Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, Executive Director of Global Footprint Network, an international NGO working to make ecological limits central to decision making. This question is a primary focus of the Living Planet Report 2006, the sixth in a series of WWF biennial reports on the state of the natural world.

Already resources are depleting, with the report's Living Planet Index showing that vertebrate species populations have declined by about one-third from 1970 to 2003. At the same time, humanity's Ecological Footprint - the demand people place upon the natural world - has increased to the point where the Earth is unable to keep up in the struggle to regenerate the renewable resources we are using.

Global Footprint Network, which co-authored the report, calculates that in 2003 humanity's Ecological Footprint was 25 per cent larger than the planet's capacity to produce these resources. This ecological 'overshoot' means that it now takes about one year and three months for the Earth to regenerate what we use in a single year. Overshoot has increased by 4 per cent since the last Living Planet Report, which was based on 2001 data, and is projected to rise to 30 per cent in 2006. The carbon dioxide Footprint, which accounts for the use of fossil fuels, is almost half the total global Footprint, and is its fastest growing component, increasing more than nine fold from 1961 to 2003.

"Humanity is living off its ecological credit card," said Dr. Wackernagel. "While this can be done for a short while, overshoot ultimately leads to liquidation of the planet's ecological assets, and the depletion of resources, such as the forests, oceans and agricultural land upon which our economy depends."

Looking at individual nations, the report finds that almost no country today meets the sustainable development challenge-to have both a high quality of life, defined here by the United Nations Human Development Index, and an average Footprint that doesn't exceed the biological capacity available per person on the planet. But the report goes on to suggest that meeting this challenge may be possible, using scenarios to show two future paths that, in contrast to business-as-usual, could end overshoot and help restore depleted ecosystems and support a healthy biodiversity.

Getting out of overshoot will require political negotiations to support the necessary Footprint reductions; the report explores three ways these Footprint reductions might be allocated among the world's regions. Ending overshoot will also take economic, social and technological innovations as we learn to live well on a smaller Footprint. One key to this, according to the report, is to avoid building long-lasting infrastructure that requires a large throughput of resources to operate. "The cities, power plants and homes we build today," says WWF's Director General James Leape, "will either lock society into damaging over-consumption beyond our lifetimes, or begin to propel this and future generations towards sustainable living."

Notes to editors:

1. For more information, for photos to accompany your article, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Global Footprint Network:
Brooking Gatewood, Communications Coordinator
510 839 8879 x 102
314 550 6559 (cell)
brooking@footprintnetwork.org

2. Global Footprint Network and its more than 70 government, academic and business partners support the shift toward a sustainable economy by advancing the Ecological Footprint, a measurement and management tool that makes the reality of planetary limits central to decision-making.

3. WWF is a global network covering more than 90 countries. It works to protect endangered species and habitats, and to address global threats to people and nature such as climate change, unsustainable consumption of the world's natural resources, and the use of toxic chemicals. It does this by influencing attitudes and behaviour through education, fieldwork, advocacy and partnerships. WWF should be named simply by its initials, or as WWF, the global conservation organization.

4. The Living Planet Report 2006 is the sixth in a series of Living Planet publications. The report can be downloaded at www.panda.org/livingplanet .

5. See also www.footprintnetwork.org/overshoot for more information on overshoot and on World Overshoot Day which occurred on October 9. A detailed explanation of the Ecological Footprint and the most recent set of global Footprint accounts can be found at: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/gfn_sub.php?content=footprint_overview.

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