Planet Report 2002
The Living Planet Report is WWF's periodic update on the state of
the world's ecosystems - as measured by the Living Planet Index
- and the human pressures on them through the consumption of renewable
natural resources - as measured by the Ecological Footprint. There
is a cause-effect linkage between the two measures.
1 - Living Planet Index The Living Planet Index (LPI) is derived
from trends over the past 30 years in populations of hundreds of
species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Between
1970 and 2000, it declined by about 35%. The LPI is the average
of three ecosystem-based indices. The forest species population
index declined by about 15%, the marine species population index
fell by about 35%, while the freshwater species population index
dropped 55% over the 30-year period. The stark trends indicated
by the LPI are a quantitative confirmation that the world is currently
undergoing a very rapid loss of biodiversity comparable with the
great mass extinction events that have previously occurred only
five or six times in the Earth's history.
2 - World Ecological Footprint The Ecological Footprint (EF) is
a measure of the consumption of renewable natural resources by a
human population, be it that of a country, a region or the whole
world. A population's EF is the total area of productive land or
sea required to produce all the crops, meat, seafood, wood and fibre
it consumes, to sustain its energy consumption and to give space
for its infrastructure. The EF can be compared with the biologically
productive capacity of the land and sea available to that population.
The Earth has
about 11.4 billion hectares of productive land and sea space, after
all unproductive areas of icecaps, desert and open ocean are discounted,
or about a quarter of its surface area. Divided between the global
population of six billion people, this total equates to just 1.9
hectares per person. While the EF of the average African or Asian
consumer was less than 1.4 hectares per person in 1999, the average
Western European's footprint was about 5.0 hectares, and the average
North American's was about 9.6 hectares.
The EF of the
world average consumer in 1999 was 2.3 hectares per person, or 20%
above the earth's biological capacity of 1.90 hectares per person.
In other words, humanity now exceeds the planet's capacity to sustain
its consumption of renewable resources. We are able to maintain
this global overdraft on a temporary basis by eating into the earth's
capital stocks of forest, fish and fertile soils. We also dump our
excess carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Neither of
these two activities are sustainable in the long-term - the only
sustainable solution is to live within the biological productive
capacity of the earth.
trends are moving humanity away from achieving this minimum requirement
for sustainability, not towards it. The global ecological footprint
has grown from about 70% of the planet's biological capacity in
1961 to about 120% of its biological capacity in 1999. Furthermore,
future projections based on likely scenarios of population growth,
economic development and technological change, show that humanity's
footprint is likely to grow to about 180% to 220% of the Earth's
biological capacity by the year 2050.
report 2002: collaborating organisations Of course, it is very unlikely
that the Earth would be able to run an ecological overdraft for
another 50 years without some severe ecological backlashes undermining
future population and economic growth. But it would be far better
to control our own destiny than to leave it to nature. If we are
to return to a sustainable development pathway, it means making
changes in four fundamental ways. First, it is necessary to improve
the resource-efficiency with which goods and services are produced.
Second, we must consume resources more efficiently, and redress
the disparity in consumption between high and low income countries.
Third, population growth must be controlled through promoting universal
education and health care. And, finally, it is imperative that we
protect, manage and restore natural ecosystems in order to conserve
biodiversity and maintain ecological services, and so conserve and
enhance the planet's biological productivity, for the benefit of
present and future generations.