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One month before RIO, WWF pointed out alarming facts. Has the warning been heard?

WWF’s fifth report “Living Planet” was published in early may, and focuses on “highlighting man’s impact on a planet with limited resources”, and “measuring the progress in regards to sustainable development and biodiversity preservation.” Made public a month before Rio’s Earth Summit – which just happened this week – this study points out alarming facts in regards to biodiversity, based on two key indicators: the Living Planet Index and the Ecological Footprint.

First Indicator: The Living Planet Index

This first indicator follows the abundance of 9014 populations of 2700 different species (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes) throughout time, in order to define the state of our planet’s current biodiversity.

That is how WWF noticed a global decline of the overall health of our Planet's biodiversity by 28% between 1970 and 2008, and by over 60% for tropical species only. The organization listed 5 major factors that influence evolution:

1. Habitat loss, alteration and fragmentation
2. The overexploitation of wild species
3. Pollution
4. Climate Change
5. Invasive species, the true competitors or predators of native species

This worrying - not to call it alarming – loss of biodiversity is an extremely important factor to be taken into account, not only in regards to the planet, but also and most of all the human race’s survival. It turns out such loss of biological diversity triggers a dramatic decline of what is called “Ecosystem Services" supply, meaning services provided by nature for humans: food, wood or medicinal substances supply; regulation by water filtration; waste decomposition or cultivations pollination; support services like photosynthesis and finally, cultural services. What will we do when a new global disease breaks out and our medicinal stocks are too weak for us to face it? What will happen when bees are not numerous enough to pollinate our cultivations? In China, hundreds of agricultural workers already have to pollinate fields that have been deserted by bees because of pesticides, by hand. As shown in {{LNK|this article|}}, even McDonald’s started to take the issue seriously…

Second Indicator: The Ecological Footprint

The Ecological footprint estimates “the area required to produce the resources people consume, the area occupied by infrastructure, and the area of forest required for sequestering CO2 not absorbed by the ocean”. For instance, we currently consume a planet and a half to accomplish our activities, and we will consume about two by 2030 if our consumption and production habits don’t change. More concretely, this also means the Earth needs a year and a half to produce and renew natural resources consumed by humans within a unique year, and absorb CO2 waste produced.

We are therefore living on credits… in debts, not only economically but also ecologically. This persistent tendency of overconsumption is taking us straight to a situation WWF called “ecological overshoot”, in which we start eating into our natural capital: “Just as it is possible to withdraw money from a bank account faster than to wait for the interest this money generates, renewable resources can be harvested faster than they can be re-grown. But just like overdrawing from a bank account, eventually the resource will be depleted. At current consumption rates, these sources will eventually run out of resources too – and some ecosystems will collapse even before the resource is completely gone.”
Then again, what will we do once the time is up, once the Planet does not have sufficient resources to sustain us just because we consume too much? I know it may sound a bit cliché, but a famous Indian proverb was already addressing the issue a few centuries ago, in another context:

“When the Last Tree Is Cut Down, the Last Fish Eaten, and the Last Stream Poisoned, You Will Realize That You Cannot Eat Money”

Are there any solutions? Fortunately, yes!

Here are several recommendations proposed by WWF to do so:
>Strongly Develop the world’s protected area network, so to preserve natural capital
>Measuring success going beyond GDP
>Significantly reduce the volume of input location & waste in the production process
>Modify energetic consumption habits and spread low ecological footprint lifestyles

Do you think our leaders finally did take these remarks into account at the Earth Summit?

What did you think of the negotiations? Leave us your opinion in the comments section, and meanwhile, don’t hesitate to download the study right below.

Download the attached file: WWF Living Planet.pdf

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