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Hefty global footprint figures released

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Earth under pressure

Under pressure: we're consuming resources and producing emissions too fast for our planet to keep up, according to the latest figures.

Credit: Clipart

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The gap between human demands and the Earth's supply is continuing to widen, with humanity now requiring the resources of almost one and a half planets to sustainably produce what we consume.

Released today, new data from the Global Footprint Network has shown that, due to a growing population and rising consumption per capita, we are now using resources and creating CO2 emissions at a rate 47 per cent faster than what nature can regenerate and reabsorb.

This means it takes the Earth just under 18 months to produce the ecological services humanity needs in one year.

The Network calculated that humanity's ecological footprint (which measures the amount of land and sea area needed to produce what a population consumes and absorb its emissions), was 2.6 global hectares per person in 2006, the latest figure available, a growth of almost two per cent from 2005 and 22 per cent from the decade previous. At the same time, the Earth's biocapacity (the amount of resources able to be generated), was just 1.8 gha per person.

The Executive Secretary of the United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity, Ahmed Djoghlaf, said the growing ecological footprint of humanity was driven by urbanisation, which encourages over-consumption and unsustainable production levels, while also breaking the connections between humans and nature.

The Network's findings have also shown an extending disparity between the countries who consume and waste the most, and countries that consume and waste the least.

President of the Global Footprint Network, Mathis Wackernagel, said that developing nations were likely to be most affected by the excessive lifestyles of wealthier nations:

"Development that ignores the limits of our natural resources ultimately ends up imposing disproportionate costs on the most vulnerable."

The US was targeted as a major offender when it comes to unsustainable living in particular. If the world's population consumed as much as the average American and created a similar amount of waste, we would need the resources of five planets to sustain ourselves.

The sobering findings point towards the needs for individual countries to take action, regardless of whether an agreement at the Copenhagen conference in December can be reached, Wackernagel said.

"They show it is in the self-interest of each government to act now to succeed in a resource-constrained world, no matter what happens on the world stage."