Humans are currently using the equivalent of one and a half Earths to support our activities. This and other startling findings were revealed today with the release of World Wildlife Fund's 2012 Living Planet Report.
The report, a biennial survey of "the ecological state of the planet," combines an appraisal of "the health of 9,014 populations of more than 2,600 species" with ecological and water footprint data, according to a press release.
Among other things, the report found that global biodiversity has declined globally by about 30 percent since 1970, with a 60 percent loss in the tropics. Global natural resource demand has doubled since 1966.
Humans may be using 50 percent more resources than the Earth can provide, but resource demand in the U.S. is higher than much of the world. According to the 2012 report, the U.S. has the fifth highest ecological footprint per capita. In fact, if the entire world lived like Americans, the report claims, over four Earths-worth of resources and carbon absorption would be needed to meet our demands. (The four countries with larger ecological footprints are Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Denmark.)
Colby Loucks, WWF's director of conservation science, explained that using the resources of one and a half planets is "akin to buying on credit." He noted that by "rapidly eating into our capital" we continue to increase our "ecological debt."
Loucks stressed the importance of using resources more efficiently and protecting nature. He said, "nature can no longer be seen as an object of luxury." Rather, it must be viewed as an object of "necessity."
The report's release comes just over a month before the start of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20. WWF International Director General Jim Leape said in a statement, “Rio+20 can and must be the moment for governments to set a new course towards sustainability. The meeting is a unique opportunity for coalitions of the committed – of governments, cities and businesses – to join forces and play a crucial role in keeping this a living planet."
Concerns have already been raised, however, that the conference may not produce a resolute agreement. Daniel Mittler, the leader of Greenpeace's 11-person Rio+20 delegation said, "This meeting should be delivering transformational change. What is on the table is business as usual — completely inadequate goals and a total lack of urgency," according to AP. Although he has not officially declined his invitation, the news organization reports that it is unlikely that U.S. President Obama will be in attendance.
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