WWF's Living Planet Report 2006 (1), the group's biennial statement on the state of the natural world, shows that we are currently using the planet's resources far faster than they can be renewed. On current projections, this means that as a whole, humanity will need at least two planets' worth of natural resources by 2050.
In the UK alone, we are currently living a 'three planet lifestyle' and the report indicates that the world's Ecological footprint - the demand people place upon the natural world - has more than tripled since 1961 and that rising carbon dioxide emissions are the biggest cause of our ecological impact on the planet.
The UK has also risen from 15th to 14th place in the world's ecological footprint league table (2) with an increased footprint of 4 per cent to 5.6 global hectares per capita since 2004. This means that each person in the UK uses the equivalent of 6 football pitches worth of natural resources to support their lifestyles.
Paul King, WWF Director of Campaigns said: We urgently have to face the fact that we are all running up a serious ecological debt and that we cannot continue to exhaust the Earth's natural reserves without putting something back.
"It is time to make some vital choices, to enable people to enjoy a one planet lifestyle. The cities, power plants and homes we build today will either lock society into damaging over-consumption beyond our lifetimes, or begin to propel this and future generations towards sustainable, One Planet Living.
"WWF and our partners BioRegional have developed a framework for One Planet Living ® (3) based on ten guiding principles that are accessible and easy for anyone to understand. The good news is that the language of One Planet Living is being rapidly and widely taken up by people including David Miliband, Secretary of State for the Environment. However a commitment to One Planet Living must include a commitment by the UK government to adopt Ecological Footprint as a sustainable development indicator and set targets for year on year reduction. Otherwise One Planet Living is at risk of becoming just another over-used sound bite, with no teeth".
Humanity's over consumption has been increasing year on year since WWF and partners started to collate this report, with demand exceeding supply by about 25 per cent in 2003. This means that it took approximately a year and three months for the Earth to produce the ecological resources we used in that year.
The report has shown that between 1970 and 2003 terrestrial species have declined by 31 per cent, freshwater species by 28 per cent, and marine species by 27 per cent. The Living Planet Report 2006, pulls together various data to compile two indicators of the Earth's well-being.
The first, the Living Planet Index, measures biodiversity, based on trends in more than 3600 populations of 1300 vertebrate species around the world. In all, data for 695 terrestrial, 344 freshwater and 274 marine species were analyzed.
"Jonathan Loh (Zoological Society of London), one of the editors of the report, said "The Living Planet Index is a stark indication of the rapid and ongoing loss of biodiversity worldwide. Populations of species in terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems have declined by more than 30 per cent since 1970, a rate that is unprecedented in human history. In the tropics the declines are even more dramatic, as natural resources are being intensively exploited for human use."
The second index, the Ecological Footprint, measures humanity's demand on the biosphere. Significantly the carbon dioxide footprint, from the use of fossil fuels, was the fastest growing component of our global footprint, increasing more than nine fold from 1961 to 2003.
1. Living Planet Report 2006 is the sixth in a series of Living Planet publications. It is co-produced by WWF, Global Footprint Network (GFN) www.footprintnetwork.org and Zoological Society of London (ZSL) www.zsl.org.
The report can be downloaded at www.panda.org/livingplanet
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2. Ecological Footprint - page 14 & 15 of the Living Planet Report, calculated per person by country.
3. One Planet Living ®
WWF has shown that if everyone around the world lived as we do in the UK we would actually need three planets to support us. As it is, globally we are consuming more of the Earth's natural resources than it can replace, and emitting more carbon dioxide than it can absorb, each year - about 20 per cent more.
One Planet Living ® is a joint initiative of BioRegional and WWF based on 10 guiding principles of sustainability. The vision of One Planet Living ® is a world in which people everywhere can lead happy, healthy lives within their fair share of the Earth's resources. To find out more visit www.wwf.org.uk/oneplanetliving.
4. WWF has been working with ITV to produce a series called 'Extinct' which aims to raise awareness and funds about species that are seriously endangered, like the polar bear and mountain gorilla that are two of the species that make up the living planet indices.
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