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Sustainable living

Humans using Earth's resources at unsustainable rate, conservation group claims

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 by: Jessica Fraser
Tags: sustainable living, environmental protection, health news


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(NewsTarget) Human populations are using up Earth's natural resources at a rapid rate that will require two planets' worth of supplies in the next 40 years, according to a recent report by conservation group WWF.

The WWF's bi-annual "Living Planet Report" claims that human activities on the planet have caused the populations of most species -- including mammals and fish -- to drop by roughly a third from 1970 to 2003. Pollution, overfishing and forestry activities have caused severe harm to Earth's natural environments, the report says.

"For more than 20 years we have exceeded the earth's ability to support a consumptive lifestyle that is unsustainable and we cannot afford to continue down this path," said WWF director-general James Leape at a conference at Beijing's Tsinghua University. "If everyone around the world lived as those in America, we would need five planets to support us."

The report found that the only country ahead of the United States in placing the most stress on the planet per capita was the United Arab Emirates. Finland, Canada, Australia, the UK, Russia, China and Japan also overly stressed the planet.

An average Australian citizen used 6.6 global hectares (16.3 acres) to support his or her developed lifestyle, the report claimed.

"If the rest of the world led the kind of lifestyles we do here in Australia, we would require three and a half planets to provide the resources we use and to absorb the waste," said WWF-Australia CEO Greg Bourne.

Leape said for current trends to be reversed, everyone on the planet -- especially those in large, developed countries -- would have to work to reduce use of fossil fuels and improve the management of natural resources, farms and fisheries.

The report said humans' demand on planet Earth was 25 percent greater than the planet's yearly ability to provide food, energy and waste recycling in 2003. That number was four percent higher than the group's 2001 projected overshoot.

In addition, rising worldwide populations have contributed to problems such as global warming and fossil fuel use. The world population more than doubled from 3 billion to 6.5 billion between 1960 and 2003, and the United Nations predicts it will grow to 9 billion by 2050.

Leape applauded efforts from countries such as China, which recently pledged to reduce its energy consumption by 20 percent in the next five years, and called on other large and developing countries to follow suit.

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