Oct 13

On Wednesday 13th October, at the Wildscreen Film Festival, WWF launched their Living Planet Report 2010, an analysis on the health of the planet and the impact of human activity, with the key finding that humanity’s demand is currently exceeding our planet’s capacity to sustain us.

As human well-being is directly connected to the way we treat our planet’s natural resources, it is imperative that we understand how to live sustainably, and learn how to use nature more wisely. The Living Planet Report aims to do just this by describing the changing state of biodiversity and the pressure on the planet from our consumption of natural resources. The report uses two indicators: The Living Planet Index, which reflects the health of the planet’s ecosystems; and the Ecological Footprint, which shows the accumulative impact of human demand on these ecosystems.

Bornean orang-utanPalm oil is a widely-used commodity, but its demand comes with a terrible cost to the environment. As forests are cleared to make room for palm oil plantations, many species, such as the Bornean orang-utan, are pushed closer to extinction.

These indices produced some alarming results. Compared to levels in 1970, global biodiversity has declined by 30 percent, with species loss being greatest in the tropics, where biodiversity has declined by 60 percent. We are using 50 percent more natural resources than we should, with the degradation of our environment most affecting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Our carbon footprint has increased 11-fold since 1961 meaning that, for the first time, carbon emissions exceed our planet’s ability to absorb this waste.

Mangroves provide food, shelter, jobs and protection, but we are replacing them with fish farms, destroying them for timber and reclaimed land, and polluting them. Already we have lost more than half of the planet’s mangroves.

If we are to continue at current levels of consumption, by 2030 we will need two Earths to absorb our carbon dioxide waste and keep up with resource use. Developing countries bear the brunt of the misuse of the planet, with many people left without access to clean water, land, enough food, fuel and materials.

Yet, while the outlook appears bleak, the report makes it clear that conserving nature is in humanity’s own interest, and that destroying it only serves to make life harder for all of us. By setting aside areas for nature to conserve species, ending our addiction of fossil fuels, and changing our levels of food and resource consumption, we can save the ecosystems and species on which we depend.

To read the Living Planet Report 2010 and find out more about WWF’s conservation projects, visit:

Find out more about threatened species by exploring ARKive.