WWF’s 2006 Living Planet Report is out. Written in partnership with the Global Footprint Network, the LPR is one of WWF’s flagship publications and highlights two major indicators of the health of the biosphere: the Living Planet Index and the Ecological Footprint.
The first, the Living Planet Index, measures biodiversity, based on trends in more than 3,600 populations of 1,300 vertebrate species around the world. In all, data for 695 terrestrial, 344 freshwater and 274 marine species were analysed. Terrestrial species declined by 31 per cent, freshwater species by 28 per cent and marine species by 27 per cent.
The second index, the Ecological Footprint, measures humanity’s demand on the biosphere. Humanity’s footprint has more than tripled between 1961 and 2003. This report shows that our footprint exceeded biocapacity by 25 per cent in 2003. In the previous report (based on data to 2001), this figure was 21 per cent. The carbon dioxide footprint, from the use of fossil fuels, was the fastest growing component of our global footprint, increasing more than ninefold from 1961 to 2003.
The report launched in Beijing last week and has already generated more media coverage than any other report in WWF’s history. Everyone from Al-Jazeera to Fox News has picked it up. And everywhere from Japan to South Africa has too, no doubt aided by its release in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian and summaries in Chinese, Hindi, German, and Swahili. Particularly encouraging is its appearance in mainstream financial outlets like Bloomberg.
Any document about evaporating biodiversity and global overshoot is bound to cast a gloomy aura, but the LPR delivers a healthy dose of optimism too. Although the bad news may not be new news in a report that comes out every two years, the LPR's hopeful solutions are a welcome rejoinder to its dire diagnosis every time.
This time around the standout solution to living equitably within the limits of the biosphere is the idea of ‘shrink and share’. The proposal is basically an extension of the concept of ‘contraction and convergence’, which sets a future limit to global carbon emissions and the eventual goal of equal per capita emission rights for everyone. Shrink and share does the same thing but with ecological footprints.
If the global community agrees in principle, decisions are then needed on how much to shrink its footprint, and how this reduction in aggregate human demand is to be shared between individuals and populations.
Possible allocation strategies could include an absolute allotment of footprint shares, or an initial distribution of rights or permits to consume, which could then be traded between individuals, nations, or regions.
Shrink and share may be a radical idea but perhaps no less radical than business as usual. The Living Planet Report’s strength is this very bluntness: Robust sustainability = robust equity.
Have you run across the information that hundreds if not thousands of species are migrating towards the poles.
Humans have thermostats to adjust living conditions. All other animals must move, evolve or perish.
Now, how do we get this info. out past "preaching to the choir" ?