It’s no secret that humankind interacts with Earth the same way we overdraw from our bank accounts – we tend to take more out than we put back in. Unfortunately, our recklessness has finally caught up with us.
According to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world has lost half its number of wild animals within the past 40 years. Although the WWF notes that climate change is partially responsible, it primarily blames humans for the decrease in numbers, as increased habitat destruction, over-fishing and hunting and pollution have plagued ecosystems for decades.
The report’s findings, which are based on the Living Planet Index, show that over 10,000 animal populations covering 3,000 species have fallen by 52 percent between 1970 and 2010. The report also notes that included in its findings is the disappearance of 39% of ocean and 76%of freshwater wildlife. South America has experienced the most precipitous decline in its wildlife, where populations have fallen 83%.
That’s one hell of a withdrawal.
The report also evaluates Earth’s Ecological Footprint, which measures the area required to supply Earth’s goods that people use and the land actually available to provide those goods. That calculation shows that the world would need 1.5 Earths to, “meet the demands humanity currently makes on nature.” If we were to sustain America’s average rate of consumption, we would need 4 planet Earths.
Currently, 5 countries now account for almost half the global Ecological Footprint, with China and the United States alone accounting for 31 percent.
Although there has been a push to promote sustainable development across the world, many nations’ Ecological Footprints still operate at a deficit. That means as a whole we are extracting resources from our environment faster than we can redevelop our ecosystems. The report states that 91 out of 152 countries have overshot their biological capacity.
There are over 7.2 billion people on Earth and only a finite amount of resources available. As the world’s population increases and demand for resources grows, our Footprint deficit can be expected to greatly increase.