Needed: two more planets

provided by World Wildlife Federation

f every human alive today consumed natural resources and emitted carbon dioxide at the same rate as the average American, German or Frenchman1, we would need at least another two earths, WWF, the conservation organization, revealed at the recent launch of its Living Planet Report 2000. The Living Planet Report 2000 shows that the natural wealth of the earth's forests, freshwater and marine ecosystems has declined by one third since 1970.2

The Report highlights that the area required to produce the natural resources consumed and absorb the carbon dioxide emitted by mankind has doubled since 1961, and by 1996 was 30 per cent larger than the area actually available -- leading to a serious depletion of nature's "capital stock."

The Report uses, for the first time, a measure of human pressure on global ecosystems known as the "Ecological Footprint." It shows the biologically productive area needed to produce the food and wood each country consumes: for towns, roads and other infrastructure, and to absorb carbon dioxide emisisons from burning fossil fuels.

"The only way to reverse these dangerous trends is to start considering the planet's natural resources seriously," said Professor Ruud Lubbers, President of WWF International. "Mankind cannot afford to keep drawing so heavily on the world's natural resources. The Ecological Footprint shows us the limits of nature's productivity. It provides a useful tool for measuring and monitoring sustainability. WWF urges European Union leaders drawing up their Sustainability Strategy for the Gotenberg Summit in 2001, and world leaders meeting in the Rio +10 Conference in 2002, to use the Ecological Footprint to agree specific actions to limit the burden we place on nature. We have to think long term. We have borrowed this planet from our children and grandchildren."

The area needed to produce the natural resources consumed and absorb the carbon dioxide emitted by the average North American is almost twice the area required by the average Western European, and some five times greater than required by the average Asian, African and Latin American. "It is the consumers of the rich nations of the temperate northern regions of the world who are primarily responsible for the ongoing loss of natural wealth in the tropics," said Jonathan Loh, editor of the Living Planet Report.

For further information: Julian Scola, Press Officer, WWF European Policy Office, tel +32 2 743 8806, email:


  1.  The same applies to the amount consumed by the average person in many of the world's richest coutnries including Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Estonia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, Denmark, Kuwait, Singapore and United Arab Emirates.
  2. The Living Planet Index, WWF's measure of the state of natural ecosystems, produced in collaboration with UNEP-WCMC, is based on populations of animal species in the world's forests, freshwater and marine ecosystems. Between 1970 and 1999, these declined, on average, by 12%, 50% and 35% respectively, with the most severe deterioration occurring in the tropical and southern temperate regions of the world.