World faces “ecological crunch”

As demands on the earth's natural resources surpass by 30% what the planet can sustain, the world is heading for an "ecological credit crunch" that exceeds the current economic recession. That is the stark message of WWF's just-released "Living Planet Report 2008", the leading study of the health of the earth.

"Just as reckless spending is causing recession, so reckless consumption is depleting the world’s natural capital to a point where we are endangering our future prosperity," said James P Leape, director-general of the international environmental organisation.

The biennial report — produced with the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network — indicates that more than 75% of the world’s people are now living in countries that are ecological debtors. That means their national consumption has outstripped the capacity to replenish natural resources and to capture carbon emissions. The report also shows a continuing decline in biodiversity and increasing stress on water resources.

If demands on nature continue to increase at the current rate, said Leape, "by the mid-2030s we will need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyles". The greatest component of humanity’s footprint, according to the report, is greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fuel use and land disturbance.

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