The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kerry Zobor

Living Planet Report Details Dangers Of Living Beyond The Environment's Means

New WWF Analysis Warns of "Ecological Credit Crunch" and Offers Solutions For Avoiding A "Natural Resources Meltdown" As U.S. Scores Among Nations With Largest Ecological Footprint


As global financial markets learn difficult lessons on the
consequences of unregulated spending, a new report issued by the World
Wildlife Fund (WWF) warns of the danger to future prosperity if the
reckless over-consumption of the Earth's natural capital is left

WWF's Living Planet Report 2008, produced with
the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network
(GFN), shows more than three quarters of the world's people now living
in nations that are ecological debtors, where national consumption has
outstripped their country's biological capacity. Presently, human
demands on the world's natural capital measure nearly a third more than
earth can sustain. In addition, global natural wealth and diversity
continue to decline, and more and more countries are slipping into a
state of permanent or seasonal water stress.

The findings of the Living Planet Report 2008
reinforce WWF-US's "Greenprint" agenda, a policy road map for the next
U.S. administration, which was provided in mid-October to Senators John
McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill) and their U.S. presidential
campaign staffs. Commenting on the "Greenprint" at its release, Carter
Roberts, president and CEO of WWF-US noted "Global consumption of
natural resources far exceeds the Earth's regenerative capacity. We are
borrowing from our natural capital at an entirely unsustainable rate.
And, as is evidenced from the current economic crisis, unsustainable
borrowing is not without profound consequences. To raise the stakes
even further, there can be no bailout if the Earth's systems collapse."

world is currently struggling with the consequences of over-valuing its
financial assets, but a more fundamental crisis looms ahead - an
ecological credit crunch caused by under-valuing the environmental
assets that are the basis of all life and prosperity," said WWF
International Director-General James Leape, in the foreword to the new
report. "Most of us are propping up our current lifestyles, and our
economic growth, by drawing - and increasingly overdrawing - on the
ecological capital of other parts of the world," Leape said.

According to the Living Planet Report 2008,
the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Kuwait have the
largest national ecological footprints per person. On the other end of
the scale are countries such as Haiti and the Congo, with a low
ecological footprint per person, but facing a future of degrading
biocapacity from deforestation and increased demands from a rising
population and export pressures.

The Living Planet Report,
published by WWF every two years since 1998, has become widely accepted
as an accurate analysis of the earth's ability to remain a "living
planet". In 2008, it adds for the first time, new measures of global,
national and individual water footprints to existing measures of the
Ecological Footprint of human demand on natural resources and the
Living Planet Index, a measure of the state of nature.

The Living
Planet Index, compiled by ZSL, shows a nearly 30 per cent decline since
1970 in nearly 5000 measured populations of 1,686 species. These
dramatic losses in our natural wealth are being driven by deforestation
and land conversion in the tropics and the impact of dams, diversions
and climate change on freshwater species. Pollution, over-fishing and
destructive fishing in marine and coastal environments are also taking
a considerable toll.

The Living Planet Report 2008
includes a new water footprint measurement which illustrates the
significance of water traded in the form of commodities; for example,
the production of a cotton T-shirt requires 765 gallons of water. On
average, each person consumes 327,177 gallons (about half an Olympic
swimming pool) of water a year, but this varies from 654,354 gallons
per person a year (USA) to 163,325 gallons per capita annually
(Yemen). Approximately 50 countries are currently facing moderate or
severe water stress and the number of people suffering from year-round
or seasonal water shortages is expected to increase as a result of
climate change, the report finds.

For the single most important
challenge - climate change - the report shows that a range of
efficiency, renewable and low emissions "wedges" could meet projected
energy demands to 2050 with reductions in carbon emissions of 60 to 80
percent. Bringing an ecosystems approach into consumption, development
and trade considerations would go a long way to protecting the world's
vital living resources.

"These Living Planet measures serve as
clear and robust signposts to what needs to be done," said
WWF-International's Leape. "If humanity has the will, it has the way to
live within the means of the planet, but we must recognize that the
ecological credit crunch will require even bolder action that that now
being mustered for the financial crisis."

World Wildlife Fund is the largest multinational conservation organization in the world, works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF's unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.