On October 21, 2004, WWF International released its fifth
Living Planet Report. The report uses new scientific analysis,
provided by Global Footprint Network, to compare the Ecological
Footprints of 150 nations.
The Living Planet Report 2004 includes more sophisticated data
and analysis, more detailed time trends, and more robust results
than years past. It confirms that ecological overshoot has become
a reality: humanity is now consuming over 20 percent more natural
resources than the Earth can produce, causing rapid declines in
wild animal populations.
Designed to track humanity's demand on the Earth, the 2004 report
illustrates how human consumption and production pressures
continue to strain ecosystem health. It also uses Ecological
Footprint analysis to highlight ways to reverse these trends and
become less dependent on liquidating the planet's resources.
- The global Ecological Footprint - humanity's consumption of
natural resources expressed in land and sea surfaces necessary
to renew them - is an average of 2.2 global hectares (5.4 global acres) per person, while
the area available to support the global population (6.3 billion)
is an average of 1.8 global hectares (4.4 global acres) per person.
- These 2.2 global hectares are 20 percent more than the global 1.8
hectares per person that exist - the latter area also needs to
accommodate all non-human species. As a consequence, humanity's
ecological overshoot exceeds Earth's regenerative capacity by at
least 20 percent.
- Furthermore, the global Ecological Footprint grew by 150
percent between 1961 and 2000.
- From 1991 to 2001, essentially the ten years after the
United Nations Rio conference in 1992, the Footprint in the 27
wealthiest countries increased on average by 8 per cent per
person, while in the rest of the world, it shrank by 8 per cent
per person. In the same time period, the biocapacity available
worldwide decreased 12 per cent per person.
- As humanity's Footprint grows, the world's wild vertebrate
populations shrink. The report's Living Planet Index shows a
40 percent decline in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine
species populations during 1970 to 2000. While freshwater
species have experienced the most dramatic decline since 1970,
50 percent, terrestrial and marine species have suffered a 30
percent population decline since the '70s. Data is based on
population trends from 555 terrestrial vertebrate species,
323 freshwater vertebrate species, and 267 marine vertebrate species.
Ecological overshoot can be eliminated by reducing humanity's
Ecological Footprint or increasing global biocapacity. The
Footprint can be reduced in three ways:
- Lowering world population;
- Reducing per capita consumption; and
- Implementing more resource efficient technologies for providing goods and services.
Biocapacity can be increased by expanding global bioproductive area,
improving resource management, and strengthening the health of ecosystems.
Choices for reducing Footprints vary with socio-economic conditions.
People consuming at a level barely adequate for survival have little
margin for reducing their Footprints. Other groups, such as more wealthy
urban dwellers with higher levels of consumption have more options
for reducing their Footprint, even while maintaining or even
increasing their quality of life.
WWF recognizes that conservation is not possible without sustainable
development. Lasting conservation depends on reducing human demand
on the biosphere, and this reduction is impossible if it is not
done in fair ways. Reduction efforts without fairness only create
more conflicts. To succeed with conservation, WWF has become a
leading advocate for sustainable development.
As exemplified in the Living Planet Report 2004, the
behind National Footprint Accounts
is highly versatile and offers
many analytical possibilities. For example, the accounts can be
used to map time trends of a particular country,
and the world as a whole.
Data sets embedded in National Footprint Accounts
are helping Footprint practitioners worldwide engage more
stakeholders and more effectively manage ecological resources.
To download the report in English, click here. For hardcopies,
please write us at LPR@footprintnetwork.org.
The report is also available in several languages on WWF national web sites.