footprint-biocapacity-e1355415565855Chart credit World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

The natural world can’t keep up with humans’ demands for land use, resource consumption and creation of pollution.  In fact, we overshot nature’s biocapacity in the early 70s, as the above WWF chart illustrates.

Instead of being able to support life, our Earth itself is on life support.

A new report from the WWF measured our “ecological footprint” in terms of the number of global hectares (gha) in the area people use to produce the renewable resources they consume, in the area taken up by infrastructure and in the area of forest required to absorb CO2 emissions not absorbed by the ocean.

The report then compared the number of gha in the area of our “ecological footprint” to the amount of available gha in the area needed to absorb the fallout from our enormous footprint.

Quite simply, there isn’t enough restorative area on Earth to compensate for our appetite for resources, etc.  We so far outpace nature’s ability to heal from our impact that it would take 1.5 Earths to sustain our continuing demands.

And the gap continues to widen.

The report reads:  “In 2008, the Earth’s total biocapacity was 12.0 billion gha, or 1.8 gha per person, while humanity’s Ecological Footprint was 18.2 billion gha, or 2.7 gha per person.  This discrepancy means it would take 1.5 years for the Earth to fully regenerate the renewable resources that people used in one year, or in other words, we used up the equivalent of 1.5 Earths to support our consumption.

“Just as it is possible to withdraw money from a bank account more quickly than the interest that accrues, biocapacity can be reused more quickly than it regenerates.”

From 1961 to 2008, global population growth accounted for the increased demands on nature’s resources.  But growth in footprint per capita also contributed significantly to the increase, specifically from the developing countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China and in the developed western nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The report continues to suggest that the per capita footprint lends itself to reform through shifting to renewable energy sources, upgrading to energy efficient infrastructure, implementing smart land and water use while protecting and respecting a population’s quality of life.

Source:   ThinkProgress, December 15, 2012       WWF Global, December 2012


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