The index for the world as a whole shows a decline of 30 per cent since 1970, while the Ecological Footprint, another of the indicators used in the report, shows that human demand on natural resources has doubled since 1966, and that humans are now using the equivalent of 1.5 sustainable planets to support our activities.
If we continue with “business as usual”, the report says, humanity will need the capacity of two Earths to absorb greenhouse gas emissions and keep up with natural resource consumption by 2030.
“The indicators clearly demonstrate that the unprecedented drive for wealth and wellbeing of the past 40 years is putting unsustainable pressures on our planet,” said James Leape, the director-general of WWF International. “The Ecological Footprint shows a doubling of our demands on the natural world since the 1960s, while the Living Planet Index tracks a fall of 30 per cent in the health of species that are the foundation of the ecosystem services on which we all depend.”
The report, published every two years, documents the changing state of biodiversity and humanity’s consumption of natural resources. For the first time, the current, eighth edition looks at trends in biodiversity by countries’ income – which highlights, it says, “an alarming rate of biodiversity loss in low-income countries”.
The report notes: “This has serious implications for people in these countries. Although all depend on ecosystem services for their wellbeing, the impact of environmental degradation is felt most directly by the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”
It also calculates a second measure of human demand on natural resources, the Water Footprint, which shows that 71 countries are currently experiencing water stress.
But perhaps the most notable aspect of the report is its revelation of the astonishingly rapid rate of biodiversity loss in the tropics, and in poorer tropical countries in particular. This is mainly a reflection of the enormous levels of deforestation across the tropical belt in nations such as Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia – although the declines are not just due to logging, but also to land use change, development, pollution, overuse of resources and overfishing.