How Many Planets?
.Ecological Deficit Means Ecological Disaster
According to Global Footprint Network’s calculations, our global demand for renewable ecological resources and the services they provide is now equivalent to that of more than 1.5 Earths. The data shows us on track to require the resources of two planets well before mid-century.
This problem – using resources faster than they can regenerate and creating waste faster than it can be absorbed – is called ecological overshoot. We currently maintain this overshoot by liquidating the planet’s natural resources. For example, we can cut trees faster than they re-grow, and catch fish at a rate faster than they repopulate. While this can be done for a short while, overshoot ultimately leads to the depletion of resources on which our economy depends.
We Live As If We Have More than One Earth
In 1961, humanity used only about two-thirds of Earth’s available ecological resources. Back then, most countries had ecological reserves. But both global demand and population are continually increasing, In the early 1970s, increased carbon emissions and human demand for resources began outstripping what the planet could renewably produce, and we went into ecological overshoot.
In planetary terms, the costs of our ecological overspending are becoming more evident by the day. Climate change—a result of greenhouse gases being emitted faster than they can be absorbed by forests and oceans—is the most obvious and arguably pressing result. But there are others—shrinking forests, species loss, fisheries collapse, higher commodity prices and civil unrest, to name a few. The environmental and economic crises we are experiencing are symptoms of looming catastrophe. Humanity is simply using more than what the planet can provide. -Source: Global Footprint Network
What’s Our Impact? Substantial!
Did you know that the United States consumes up to 30% of the world’s resources and generates nearly 30% of the world’s wastes? All this with less than 5% of the world’s population!
Out of approximately 150 countries evaluated by the Global Footprint Network, the United States ranks number five in the global area of land and sea area required per capita (behind the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, three oil-rich nations and Denmark). The ecological footprint of the U.S. is approximately four times the available global capacity per person. Stated another way, it would take nearly four planets to sustain life on earth, if everyone lived as we do! At this level of ecological deficit, exhaustion of ecological assets and large-scale ecosystem collapse become increasingly likely.
While the global recession that began in October 2008 slowed humanity’s demand for resources, our consumption continues to rise. To avoid economic hardship, resource limits must be at the core of decision-making. Current resource trends already cannot meet the needs of the planet’s 7 billion — and growing — population. About two billion people lack access to the resources required to meet their basic needs.
Interested in Knowing More?
Visit the Global Footprint Network’s website for more information and analysis. You can also download the Living Planet Report produced by The World Wildlife Federation in conjunction with the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network. This report highlights an alarming rate of biodiversity loss – in total a 28 per cent global reduction between 1970 and 2008. It also includes a special Rio+20 supplement of the ninth edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report (LPR) – a biennial publication that documents the “state of the planet”. The publication:
- Highlights changing state of biodiversity, ecosystems and humanity’s demand on natural resources.
- Explores the implications of these changes for biodiversity and humanity.
by Earth Communications Office