From: Global Footprint Network
Published October 20, 2004 09:48 PM

Living Planet Report 2004 Points To Increasing Ecological Overshoot, Offers Paths To Reverse Trends

Geneva, Switzerland — October 21, 2004. WWF International releases its Living Planet Report 2004, confirming that ecological overshoot has become a reality: humanity is now consuming 20 percent more resources than the Earth can regenerate, causing rapid declines in wild animal populations. Using the Ecological Footprint, a detailed measure of human demand on the planet’s ecological assets, the report conveys vital information for reversing the trends.


The 2004 report includes more sophisticated data sets, more detailed time trends, and more robust results than years past. Data provided by Global Footprint Network show that humanity’s Ecological Footprint grew by 150 percent between 1961 and 2000, leading to an ecological overshoot starting in the 1980s. During the same time period, the report’s Living Planet Index shows a 40 percent decline in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species populations. Evidence suggests that as humanity’s Footprint grows, the world’s wild populations shrink.


Report statistics reinforce the need to address growing social discrepancies in order to keep the planet livable for all. “One of the most important findings,” says Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, a lead researcher of the report and executive director of Global Footprint Network, “is that from 1991 to 2001, essentially the ten years after the United Nations Rio conference in 1992, the Footprint in the 27 wealthiest countries increased by 8 per cent per person, while in the middle and low income countries, it shrank by 8 per cent per person. This is exactly the opposite of what Rio promised.”


By identifying the biggest impacts, the report also points to the biggest opportunities for change. For example, energy leads as the fastest growing component of global Ecological Footprint with a 180 percent increase since 1971. Claude Martin, Director General of WWF International, underscores that, “high amounts of materials and energy are not necessary to support a comfortable standard of living. We call on business leaders, governments, and civil society to promote the existing technologies and tools, and to develop innovative models, that will meet the challenges of living within the capacity of one planet.”


The report’s main objective: to begin reversing the trends. Highlights include an examination of four possible paths to the future and options for reducing human dependence on the planet’s resources. The Living Planet Report 2004 exemplifies the relevance of the Ecological Footprint tool for decision-makers and defines humanity’s challenge for the 21st century: learning to live within the means of one planet.


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