WWF’s The Living Planet Report is the world’s leading, science-based analysis on the health of our planet and the impact of human activity. Its key findings? Humanity’s demands exceed our planet’s capacity to sustain us. That is, we ask for more than what we have.
Since the industrial revolution began in the 1800s, the world has been on an unprecedented consumption binge. Since 1950 alone, the world’s people have consumed more goods and services than the combined total of all humans who ever walked the planet before us.
Humanity’s Ecological Footprint the global consumption of food, lumber, and textiles, and our release of carbon dioxide pollution increased almost 2 percent from 2007 to 2008, with more than 83 percent of humanity living in countries where the residents’ demand on nature exceeds what the respective country’s ecosystems can renew, access to these resources will become a determining factor for each nation’s economic success.
“We’ve entered the era of the global auction,” said Global Footprint Network President Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, where nations are forced to compete fiercely for more expensive and less abundant resources. It’s in their own self-interest to preserve and restore the natural assets they have within their borders and avoid ecological deficit spending. In a resource‐constrained world, such spending will become an ever‐more challenging economic burden.”
News was widespread as the global economic crisis set in throughout 2008 and national governments saw their debts balloon. What was missing in the public discourse was that countries’ ecological deficits were rising at the same time even faster.
This model of growth has been devastating. Twentieth century consumption patterns sparked overwhelming levels of environmental deterioration. If allowed to continue unchecked, the dismantling of the natural world will have catastrophic effects. It will almost certainly negate the material gains derived from accelerated consumerism, and may undermine our ability to survive on the planet
As a whole, humanity extracted resources more than 52 percent faster than they could be regenerated, eating into the planet’s existing stock of forests, fisheries, grasslands, and other assets. Meanwhile, prices for many of those assets nearly doubled to tripled in the last 10 years, according to World Bank data.
New trends indicate that global players are putting pressure on their supply chain, which extends into developing countries like India and also their local counterparts and partners. Retailers are evaluating their direct store, distribution center, and supply chain operations to uncover cost-saving and workforce-enhancing opportunities. Companies may rightly ask whether cultivating green consumers is worth all the trouble. We believe that it is not only worth the trouble, but also imperative for success.
Once businesses remove the obstacles between consumers’ desire to buy green and the actual follow-through of those sentiments, green products could experience explosive sales growth. What’s more, building a reputation as an Earth-friendly corporation can do much more than generate increased revenues from green products. The better a company’s reputation, the more talented the employees it can attract, the more loyalty it can inspire in its customers, and the more it can charge for its products. The Green Imperative is becoming increasingly obvious.
We do have a choice. We can create a prosperous future that provides food, water and energy for the 9 or perhaps 10 billion people who will be sharing the planet in 2050. We can produce the food we need. Solutions lie in such areas as reducing waste; using better seeds and better cultivation techniques; bringing degraded lands back into production; and changing diets – particularly by lowering meat consumption in high income countries. We can ensure there is enough water for our needs and also conserve the healthy rivers, lakes and wetlands from which it comes.
Smarter irrigation techniques and better resource planning, for example, can help us use water more efficiently. We can meet all of our energy needs from sources like wind and sunlight that are clean and abundant. The first imperative is to get much more out of the energy we use – increasing the efficiency of our buildings, cars and factories can cut our total energy use in half.
Within the vast immensity of the universe, a thin layer of life encircles a planet. Bound by rock below and space above, millions of diverse species thrive. Together, they form the ecosystems and habitats that we so readily recognize as planet Earth – and which, in turn, supply a multitude of ecosystem services upon which people, and all life, depend.
Ever-growing human demand for resources, however, is putting tremendous pressure on biodiversity. This threatens the continued provision of ecosystem services, which not only further threatens biodiversity, but also our own future security, health and well-being.
-Bhavna Prasad and Neha Simlai, Sustainable Business, WWF-India
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