National Geographic Looks at Impact of Growing Human Footprint

05/14/2010 06:50 PM

No matter how we define sustainability, National Geographic says in a special issue out this month, it must reflect this simple truth: “We are a species of unlimited appetites living on a planet with limited resources.”

EarthPulse: State of the Earth 2010, which opens with a full page of Global Footprint Network data, offers the clearest endorsement yet by a mainstream publication of the idea of sustainability as living within the means of one planet. The issue reflects a growing understanding that the crisis of climate change is a symptom of a larger problem: humanity’s growing metabolism of resources, and the strain that is putting on our natural systems.

EarthPulse: State of the Earth 2010 explores how the trends driving human society such as our growing numbers, our rising consumption, urban migration and global trade are interacting with the resources upon which life depends.  It is a story told in stark statistics and even more startling images. Women in Bangladesh wade through neck-high waters as melting Himalayan glaciers cause rivers to swell. Farmland is swallowed by China’s Gobi dessert, advancing 3,900 miles a year due to over-plowing and overgrazing. In Borneo, a scarred stretch of barren earth is all that remains of an old-growth forest.

“On a planet defined by unprecedented change, perhaps our most precious resource has become knowledge,” issue sponsor Allianz writes in the introduction. “Only with access to accurate, unbiased facts can a world brimming with possibilities and perils begin to make sense.”

It is Global Footprint Network’s mission to provide the data that can quantify the scope of the challenge and identify those solutions that will provide meaningful change. With resource accounting tools that enable us to measure and understand our ecological demand, we can begin to weigh our options and chart our course toward a sustainable human future.

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