Living Far Beyond
By Ben Blanchard
25 October, 2006
BEIJING - Humans are stripping nature at an unprecedented
rate and will need two planets' worth of natural resources every year
by 2050 on current trends, the WWF conservation group said on Tuesday.
Populations of many species, from fish to mammals, had fallen by about
a third from 1970 to 2003 largely because of human threats such as pollution,
clearing of forests and overfishing, the group also said in a two-yearly
"For more than 20 years
we have exceeded the earth's ability to support a consumptive lifestyle
that is unsustainable and we cannot afford to continue down this path,"
WWF Director-General James Leape said, launching the WWF's 2006 Living
"If everyone around
the world lived as those in America, we would need five planets to support
us," Leape, an American, said in Beijing.
People in the United Arab
Emirates were placing most stress per capita on the planet ahead of
those in the United States, Finland and Canada, the report said.
Australia was also living
well beyond its means.
The average Australian used
6.6 "global" hectares to support their developed lifestyle,
ranking behind the United States and Canada, but ahead of the United
Kingdom, Russia, China and Japan. "If
the rest of the world led the kind of lifestyles we do here in Australia,
we would require three-and-a-half planets to provide the resources we
use and to absorb the waste," said Greg Bourne, WWF-Australia chief
Everyone would have to change
lifestyles -- cutting use of fossil fuels and improving management of
everything from farming to fisheries.
"As countries work to
improve the well-being of their people, they risk bypassing the goal
of sustainability," said Leape, speaking in an energy-efficient
building at Beijing's prestigous TsinghuaUniversity.
"It is inevitable that
this disconnect will eventually limit the abilities of poor countries
to develop and rich countries to maintain their prosperity," he
The report said humans' "ecological
footprint" -- the demand people place on the natural world -- was
25 percent greater than the planet's annual ability to provide everything
from food to energy and recycle all human waste in 2003.
In the previous report, the
2001 overshoot was 21 percent.
"On current projections
humanity, will be using two planets' worth of natural resources by 2050
-- if those resources have not run out by then," the latest report
"People are turning
resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources."
has more than tripled between 1961 and 2003," it said. Consumption
has outpaced a surge in the world's population, to 6.5 billion from
3 billion in 1960. U.N. projections show a surge to 9 billion people
It said that the footprint
from use of fossil fuels, whose heat-trapping emissions are widely blamed
for pushing up world temperatures, was the fastest-growing cause of
Leape said China, home to
a fifth of the world's population and whose economy is booming, was
making the right move in pledging to reduce its energy consumption by
20 percent over the next five years.
"Much will depend on
the decisions made by China, India and other rapidly developing countries,"
The WWF report also said
that an index tracking 1,300 vetebrate species -- birds, fish, amphibians,
reptiles and mammals -- showed that populations had fallen for most
by about 30 percent because of factors including a loss of habitats
Among species most under
pressure included the swordfish and the South African Cape vulture.
Those bucking the trend included rising populations of the Javan rhinoceros
and the northern hairy-nosed wombat in Australia.
Additional reporting by Alister
Doyle in Helsinki
© Copyright 2006 Reuters
Share Your Insights