The tenth edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report, launched at the United Nations in Geneva, is a stark call to action for a world living beyond its means.
The report reveals that humanity’s demand on the planet is more than 50 per cent greater than what nature can sustain, with dramatic declines in biodiversity since 1970.
With the theme Species and Spaces, People and Places, the report tracks over 10,000 vertebrate species populations from 1970 to 2010 through the Living Planet Index – a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London. The report’s measure of humanity’s Ecological Footprint is provided by the Global Footprint Network.
According to the Living Planet Index, representative populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have declined by 52 per cent since 1970. Freshwater species have suffered a 76 per cent decline, almost double that of land and marine species.
In the Indo-Pacific, the picture is even worse with a 67 per cent decline over the same period.
As the leading biennial survey of the Earth’s health, the report also ranks the Ecological Footprints of 152 countries.
Australians on average have the 13th largest Ecological Footprint per capita in the world.
While this is a slight improvement on where we were in 2012, when we ranked 7th, it still means we are using more natural resources than most other countries.
The report measures Australia’s footprint as being made up mostly of carbon emissions, followed by the biologically productive area required for cropland and grazing. If the rest of the world lived like we do in Australia, we’d need 3.6 Earths to sustain our demands on nature.
This means we are eating into our natural capital, making it more difficult to sustain the needs of future generations. Humanity’s well-being and very existence depends on healthy ecosystems and the services they supply, from clean water and a liveable climate, to food, fuel, fibre and fertile soils.
While the Living Planet Report clearly shows that we are living beyond our means, it does showcase how, in Australia, we are pioneering models to reduce marine pollution. Queensland farmers provide a positive example of how to tackle one of the world’s biggest threats to marine life.
Read the full report (PDF) here