The ecological footprint of humans are larger than ever before

An African lion at the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photo credit: naturepl.com / Anup Shah / WWF-Canon. 
By Anders Lorenzen

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has in its annually released report, The Living Planet Index (LPI), again this year warned that humans’ ecological footprint is far larger than our planet can sustain. In fact it would take 1.5 earths to sustain the current demands we are making on nature.

In the reports foreword Director General at WWF International, Marco Lambertini writes that the report is not for the faint hearted: ‘’A range of indicators reflecting humanity’s heavy demand upon the planet shows that we are using nature’s gifts as if we had more than just one Earth at our disposal. By taking more from our ecosystems and natural processes than can be replenished, we are jeopardizing our future.’’

Most startling is the sharp decline in biodiversity. Since 1970 we have lost 52% of all species, with the biggest decline having occurred in South America. This puts future generations at great risk and we are eating into our natural capital, the report argues.

The report also found that the ecological footprint is not evenly divided. In high income countries the footprints is five times as high as in low income countries. While many high income countries are experiencing a growth in biodiversity, due to their high imports of resources, they are effectively offsetting biodiversity losses to low income countries.

Climate change is at the heart of the overall ecological footprint as the carbon footprint alone represents half of the ecological footprint. Humans growing water needs, of which 92% is used in agriculture, is having a dramatic impact on water resources and increases water scarcity.

The combined effect of a high per capita footprint and an increasing global population will multiply the pressure we place on our ecological resources the report states.

The case for acting goes beyond environmental concerns. Natural resources such as water,
arable land, fish and wood are crucial for the wellbeing of humans as well as ecosystem services such as pollination, nutrient cycling and erosion control.
The report calls on individuals, communities, businesses, cities and governments to make better choices to protect our natural capital and reduce their natural footprints. While they admit it won’t be easy, it would have environmental, social and economic benefits.

Sub edited by Charlotte Paton

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