The WWF's Living Planet Report, 2010 has just been released and it really is enough to make you wonder if mankind has taken leave of its collective senses.
The good news is that the extinction of animals seems to have stabilized. The not so good news is just about everything else. By the WWF's assessment, we're now consuming resources at 1.5 times the rate our planet can replenish them. Think about that.
We're drawing down resources, particularly freshwater, far faster than Spaceship Earth is capable of generating more. In fact we've created societies dependent on resources we simply don't have. How have we managed so well so far? By raiding nature's reserves.
You know those fancy fountains and artificial lakes in Las Vegas? Where does all that rapidly-evaporating water come from? Here's a hint, it's not rainwater. No, it's ancient water pumped out of aquifers deep underground. But where is the water going to come from to refill ("recharge") those aquifers? Here's another hint, nowhere. Desert resorts and shopping centres actually mist the air along the sidewalks to keep the public comfortable. So what happens when those aquifers run empty? Here's your third hint, don't invest all your money in real estate in Nevada, Arizona or New Mexico. Bad idea.
The LPI reveals a stark distinction between southern and northern hemisphere countries. Between 1970 and 2007, animal and marine life populations actually rebounded in the north but suffered devastating declines in the southern hemisphere. The southern hemisphere losses resulted in a global decline of 29% in animal and marine life since 1970.
The Index was compiled by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). From The Guardian:'
"Healthy ecosystems form the basis of all we have - lose them and we destroy our life support system," said Jonathan Baillie, ZSL's conservation programme director.
"This is like spending the savings: we're spending the natural capital we have on this planet," said Jim Leape, WWF's director, at the launch of the report in Bristol. "That's an economic crisis in the making."
Measurements of the "ecological footprint" of different countries – the area required to provide the resources consumed by the population or average person in a year, compiled by the Global Footprint Network, shows the richest countries consume, on average, five times the quantity of natural resources as the poorest countries. At the extremes are the United Arab Emirates, with an average footprint of more than 10 hectares, and Timor-Leste at less than one hectare. The global average is about three hectares, and the UK figure is around five.
Just in case you're curious, Canada scored an even seven on the global footprint index. This truly is a truly global economic, humanitarian, environmental and security crisis in the making. Nobody is immune from the fallout from this, even us. Why then does this looming, multi-faceted crisis not even appear on our leaders' radar screens?