Tell a Friend
Download the Report
About the Ecological Footprint
Data and Method
Global Footprint Network
Our mission is to promote a sustainable economy by advancing the Ecological
Footprint, a measurement tool that makes the reality of planetary limits
relevant to decision-makers.
William E. Rees
M S Swaminathan
Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker
Herman E. Daly
Living Planet Report 2006 outlines scenarios for humanity's future
A new report released On October 24, 2006 by WWF and Global Footprint Network shows that by 2050 humanity will demand twice as much as our planet can supply - but that we don't have to follow this path.
"How we can live well within the means of one planet? This is the main research question of the 21st century," says Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, Executive Director of Global Footprint Network, The question is a primary focus of this year's Living Planet Report.
The report's "Living Planet Index" shows that vertebrate species populations have declined by about one-third from 1970 to 2003. At the same time, humanity's Ecological Footprint - the demand people place upon the natural world - has increased to the point where the Earth is unable to regenerate renewable resources at the rate we are using them.
Living Beyond our Means
Global Footprint Network, which co-authored the report, calculates that in 2003 humanity's Ecological Footprint was 25 per cent larger than the planet's capacity to produce these resources. This ecological 'overshoot' means that it now takes about one year and three months for the Earth to regenerate what we use in a single year. Overshoot has increased by 4 per cent since the last Living Planet Report, which was based on 2001 data, and is projected to rise to 30 per cent in 2006. The carbon dioxide Footprint, which accounts for the use of fossil fuels, is almost half the total global Footprint, and is its fastest growing component, increasing more than nine fold from 1961 to 2003.
"Humanity is living off its ecological credit card," said Dr. Wackernagel. "While this can be done for a short while, overshoot ultimately leads to liquidation of the planet's ecological assets, and the depletion of resources, such as the forests, oceans and agricultural land upon which our economy depends."
Humanity's Ecological Footprint 1961 to 2003
Looking at individual nations, the report finds that almost no country today meets the sustainable development challenge--to have both a high quality of life, defined here by the United Nations Human Development Index, and an average Footprint that doesn't exceed the biological capacity available per person on the planet. But the report goes on to suggest that meeting this challenge may be possible, using scenarios to show two future paths that, in contrast to business-as-usual, could end overshoot and help restore depleted ecosystems and support a healthy biodiversity.
Getting out of overshoot will require political negotiations to support the necessary Footprint reductions; the report explores three ways these Footprint reductions might be allocated among the world's regions. Ending overshoot will also take economic, social and technological innovations as we learn to live well on a smaller Footprint. One key to this, according to the report, is to avoid building long-lasting infrastructure that requires a large throughput of resources to operate. "The cities, power plants and homes we build today," says WWF's Director General James Leape, "will either lock society into damaging over-consumption beyond our lifetimes, or begin to propel this and future generations towards sustainable living."