View Full Version : Human Demand Outstripping Earth's Supply

Johannes de León
Saturday, October 23rd, 2004, 09:46 AM
The world's population is consuming about 20 percent more natural resources than the planet can produce, the environmental organization WWF International warned Thursday in its "Living Planet" report. "We are spending nature's capital faster than it can regenerate," WWF's Director General Claude Martin said. "We are running up an ecological debt which we won't be able to pay off unless governments restore the balance between our consumption of natural resources and the earth's ability to renew them," he added.

The two-yearly balance sheet of the world's environment showed a continuing growth in demand on the earth's capacity to clean air, provide food, energy and raw materials.

Each person occupies an "ecological footprint" equivalent to 2.2 hectares (5.4 acres) in terms of their capacity to pollute or consume energy and other resources including food, while the planet can only offer them 1.8 hectares each, the 2004 report said.

"That means we are eating into the biological capital of our only planet," Martin told journalists.

WWF said it was particularly alarmed at the continuing growth in the use of polluting fossil fuels — oil, gas and coal — for industrial and personal consumption, which increased by 700 percent between 1961 and 2000.

The country with the largest overall footprint in 2001 was the United Arab Emirates, with just below ten hectares per person, mainly due to energy consumption that accounted for more than 70 percent of the size.

It was followed by the United States and Kuwait, with scores above nine hectares. The Gulf state also had the world's highest energy consumption per person, about 80 percent of the total footprint.

Australia was the fourth-largest burden on the world's resources (7.7 hectares), followed by Sweden and Finland (seven hectares), according to WWF.

The Nordic countries have relatively low energy consumption, about 15 percent of their footprint, but have the highest demand for "food and fiber" — five hectares — mainly due to the timber industry's use of their forests.

China's 1.2 billion people had an average footprint of 1.5 hectares, just within the sustainable global average, but population controls have partly restrained the full impact of the Asian giant's recent industrial growth, WWF officials said.

Compared with the last report two years ago, which measured the environmental balance up to 1999, the latest edition also estimated that animal, fish and bird populations had continued to decline into this century.