"Footprint" of humans overwhelmed earth

WWF publishes "Living Planet Report 2006" on the state of the planet

The ecological footprint - too big for the earth? © WWF Canon / Chris Martin BAHR
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The Earth's natural habitats are being destroyed at unprecedented speed. As natural resource use continues, we will need two planets by 2050 to meet our needs for food, energy and infrastructure. This is the result of the new report on the situation of the earth "Living Planet Report 2006", which the environmental organization WWF presented yesterday.

The WWF study presents the "Living Planet Index", which examines the condition of 3600 populations of 1, 300 species worldwide. In total, data on 695 land-living species and 344 freshwater species and 274 marine species were analyzed. Land-living species are down 31 percent, freshwater 28 percent and marine species 27 percent. In addition, the study analyzes the ecological footprint, ie the biologically productive area needed to sustainably meet all resource needs, including energy supply.

In the period from 1961 to 2003, the ecological footprint of mankind has more than tripled. Carbon dioxide emissions from the use of fossil fuels are the fastest growing factor in the ecological footprint, having increased nine-fold between 1961-2003. Human consumption thus exceeds the natural capacity of the earth by 25 percent. With a total population of 6.4 billion people, 1.8 hectares of productive land is available on average to each inhabitant of the earth to meet its needs on a sustainable basis. In fact, the current demand is 2.23 hectares per person.

Germany ranks 23rd in the world in comparison with 4.5 hectares per person. The countries with the largest footprint measured per hectare per person are: the United Arab Emirates (11.9 ha), the USA (9.6 ha), Finland, Canada, Kuwait, Australia, Estonia, Sweden, New Zealand and Norway. China is 69th, but with its fast-growing economy, China has a key role to play in the sustainable use of resources.

"We behave as if we have two planets at our disposal, destroying our livelihood in the long run!" warned WWF expert Christoph Heinrich. "We are clearly living beyond our means and it is high time to move from the former consumer and disposable society to a sustainable way of life." display

(WWF, 25.10.2006 - NPO)