How can that be possible? It's easy. We turn
World Wildlife Fund International, Global Footprint Network and the Zoological Society of London have released a report, "The Living Planet Report", that's especially tough on people like Canadians, the heavy-hitters of resource consumption. The report notes that, for all the people of the world to live at Canadian standards, would require 3.5-planet Earth's worth of resources.
"Clearly, the current system of human development, based on increased consumption and a reliance on fossil fuels, combined with a growing human population and poor overall management and governance of natural resources, is unsustainable," said the report, now in its ninth edition.
"Many countries and populations already face a number of risks from biodiversity loss, degraded ecosystem services and climate change."
The Global Footprint Network has for several years tracked "overshoot", a term that means consumption of resources at rates greater than Earth's replenishment rate. In 2011, they pegged "Earth Overshoot Day" at 27 September. That's when, had we been limited to the resources actually renewed annually, we would have been out of stuff. And each passing year sees Overshoot Day arrive earlier. The rate at which we're consuming our seed corn is accelerating.
"Swelling population, mass migration to cities, increasing energy use and soaring carbon dioxide emissions mean humanity is putting a greater squeeze on the planet's resources then ever before. Particularly hard hit is the diversity of animals and plants, upon which many natural resources such as clean water are based.
"The latest Living Planet report, published on Tuesday, estimates that global demand for natural resources has doubled since 1996 and that it now takes 1.5 years to regenerate the renewable resources used in one year by humans. By 2030, the report predicts it will take the equivalent of two planets to meet the current demand for resources.
"Most alarming, says the report, is that many of these changes have accelerated in the past decade, despite the plethora of international conventions signed since the initial Rio Summit in 1992. Climate-warming carbon emissions have increased 40% in the past 20 years, but two-thirds of that rise occurred in the past decade."
Unfortunately we are all firmly tied to a growth-driven civilization. It's as though we figure the answer to emphysema is to smoke an extra 20 a day. Sort of like the "Cancer cures cigarette smoking" line.
And there's a compelling reason our leaders won't reject our growth-driven civilization. That motivation is fear of what would follow in its wake. Without adherence to the growth-model, pretty much everything goes out the window. All our economic, social and even political models become obsolete, more or less irrelevant. That's what happens when everybody's bottom has to find a place at the table. You squeeze in. Those who found a spacious spot at the outset now have to settle for the cramped conditions everyone else has to live with. Dinner for six really can be transformed into dinner for twelve only nobody will be leaving the table bloated.
Somewhere, I'm convinced, lies the moment of change - the conditions or instrument of enlightenment necessary for change of the magnitude necessary. Unfortunately, on the timeline of change, intervening and decidedly unenlightened events may happen first. Two possibilities are environmental collapse on a regional, continental or almost hemispheric scale and, the second, war on a currently unforeseeable scale. And it is along those paths, collapse and war, that today's political leadership is taking us. Individually and collectively, they're just not up to challenges of this magnitude.