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Deeper in Debt: Two-Planet Lifestyle by Mid-2030s
Julia Levitt, 29 Oct 08
Article Photo

New figures show that we are barreling toward a two-planet global society. Simply put, the worldwide demand for resources will soon require the equivalent of two Earths to sustain.

Earlier today, our allies at the Global Footprint Network released newly updated research that indicates we are accelerating toward a completely unsustainable way of life much more quickly than originally anticipated. Earlier studies by the Network predicted a two-planet demand by 2050. The mark is now the mid-2030s.

This unprecedented level of pressure on resources would put nations and people at risk, as well as wreak havoc on the environment. In the words of Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, executive director of the Global Footprint Network:

Continued ecological deficit spending will have severe economic consequences. Resource limitations and ecosystem collapses would cause food and energy costs to skyrocket, while the value of long-term investments would plummet.

To be clear: In some parts of the world, most notably the United States, consumption already greatly exceeds two planets' worth of resources. This demand has been balanced by vastly lower consumption in the developing world. As more nations are becoming industrialized, average global consumption is approaching an all-time high that cannot be sustained.

As James Leape, director general of the World Wildlife Fund, said an interview this morning on KCRW's To The Point, it is still possible to create a one-planet, sustainable society in our lifetime. And understanding our global footprint and the causes of the ecological deficit are important steps toward ultimately living within our means.

Leape also stated that preserving the planet and its resources is in the national interest of every country on Earth, but that our efforts will be effective only if all nations work together. He urged the next U.S. administration to take decisive action to reduce the footprint of the United States and to set an international example of leadership in the fight against climate change.

We thank the Global Footprint Network for their excellent work. And we agree with James Leape: the United States must lead, and we must act now.

For related news, see Sarah Kuck's post on Earth Overshoot Day.

Photo credit: flickr/Valter Jacinto, Creative Commons license.

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The ecological footprint (EF) is, and increasingly will be, a key tool for measuring sustainable development on our planet. This 'planetary accounting' is hugely important - chiefly as it represents a way of systematically measuring sustainability in all its relevant dimensions (C02 and otherwise). For governments, the EF is becoming a tangible tool to evaluate policy decisions. Between governments, the EF-derived relationship of 'ecological creditors' and 'ecological debtors' will emerge as a main driver of cross-national trade and other cooperation. Also for businesses, and particularly investors, the EF represents a strategic tool enabling a fresh look at 'value' and competitive positioning. Great KUDOS to Mathis and the team! Wiitär so! :-)

Posted by: Nick Beglinger on 1 Nov 08

The last century had seen an unprcedented move towards discovery of new material resources across the world and also a thinking - supported by various economic and political leaders that the focalpoint of a human society's success was to be able to produce and consume more.Unknowingly most of us did not realize the consequences of moving towards a 'shopping mall' culture. But yeah, we still have a chance to turn the tide towards a more sustained development. Some tips from the pre-industrial era would infact help - localized production & localized consumption, re-cycling, reduce 'external' energy usage in your lifestyle.
Again it will be in the interests of the advanced industrial world to quickly transfer the 'green' technology and techniques to the 'neo-industrial' economies to accelerate the move towards a sustained world.

Posted by: Kapil Ashar on 9 Nov 08



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