Market News

 October 26, 2006
Canada is depleting world's resources: WWF

 London, UK (GLOBE-Net) -- Humanity is consuming the Earth's natural resources 25 percent faster than the planet can renew them, and industrialized countries like Canada are among those exhausting the world's natural capital, says a report from the World Wildlife Fund.

The WWF's biannual "Living Planet Report" or "(PDF Report Here)" uses data on croplands, grazing lands, greenhouse gas emissions, forest use, land development and fishing grounds to determine the 'ecological footprint' of persons in each country. The footprint measures the land area required to produce enough natural resources -- clean water, clean air, food -- and to absorb enough waste to sustain an individual's lifestyle.

The average footprint of the human population has more than tripled since 1961 and has exceeded the regeneration capacity of the earth for the past two decades, the WWF reports. On average, each person on earth requires 2.2 global hectares (a hectare with a world-average ability to produce resources), while the earth can only replenish 1.8 hectares worth per year. By 2050, current trends will see human consumption double the world's ability to regenerate.

Canada ranked poorly on the scale, with the fourth largest ecological impact per person, behind the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Finland. The average Canadian uses 7.6 hectares, while the United States uses 9.6 ha per person.

However, because of Canada's vast size and natural resources, the country is an 'eco-creditor', possessing fifty percent more biological capacity than ecological footprint per capita. Experts point out that because of a relatively small population in a large land area, Canada possesses more than enough natural resources to sustain our current rates of consumption. In the case of China and India, despite a per capita ecological impact that is less than Canada's, these countries are exceeding their natural carrying capacity.

Carbon dioxide emissions are the single biggest factor within the analysis, accounting for almost half of the human impacts on the planet. It was also the fastest-growing indicator, increasing by nine times between 1961 and 2003.

The amount of resources being consumed has accelerated a decline in biodiversity to an unprecedented rate, indicates the WWF analysis. Data on over one-thousand species of vertebrates around the world shows a thirty percent drop in wildlife since 1970. Tropical species declined by an average of 55 percent, while populations of temperate creatures have remained stable during that time.

Global fisheries were of concern, as declines in species such as cod, tuna, and turtles point to over-fishing in many regions. Land habitats that are in decline were tropical grassland, flooded grasslands and savannas, and tropical dry forests, replaced by either cropland or grazing areas for livestock.

In order to close the gap between resource use and regeneration by 2080, the world needs to reduce carbon emissions and fish catches by fifty percent, says the WWF. Action must be taken now, says the group, to avoid a potential 'large-scale ecological collapse' by mid-century.

"We are using the planet's resources faster than they can be renewed. We need to stop. We must balance our consumption with the natural world's capacity to regenerate and absorb our wastes. If we do not, we risk irreversible damage. As countries improve the wellbeing of their people they are bypassing the goal of sustainability and going into what we call 'overshoot' --- using far more resources than the planet can sustain," said James Leape, WWF's director-general.