'will expire by 2050'
is running out of room and resources. Modern man has plundered
so much, a damning report claims this week, that outer
space will have to be colonised
ecosystems have declined 55% in 30 years
Townsend and Jason Burke
Sunday July 7, 2002
Earth's population will be forced to colonise
two planets within 50 years if natural resources continue
to be exploited at the current rate, according to a report
out this week.
by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), to be released on Tuesday,
warns that the human race is plundering the planet at
a pace that outstrips its capacity to support life.
In a damning
condemnation of Western society's high consumption levels,
it adds that the extra planets (the equivalent size of
Earth) will be required by the year 2050 as existing resources
based on scientific data from across the world, reveals
that more than a third of the natural world has been destroyed
by humans over the past three decades.
image of the need for mankind to colonise space as a stark
illustration of the problems facing Earth, the report
warns that either consumption rates are dramatically and
rapidly lowered or the planet will no longer be able to
sustain its growing population.
say that seas will become emptied of fish while forests
- which absorb carbon dioxide emissions - are completely
destroyed and freshwater supplies become scarce and polluted.
offers a vivid warning that either people curb their extravagant
lifestyles or risk leaving the onus on scientists to locate
another planet that can sustain human life. Since this
is unlikely to happen, the only option is to cut consumption
overexploitation of the planet's oceans has meant the
North Atlantic's cod stocks have collapsed from an estimated
spawning stock of 264,000 tonnes in 1970 to under 60,000
will also reveal a sharp fall in the planet's ecosystems
between 1970 and 2002 with the Earth's forest cover shrinking
by about 12 per cent, the ocean's biodiversity by a third
and freshwater ecosystems in the region of 55 per cent.
Planet report uses an index to illustrate the shocking
level of deterioration in the world's forests as well
as marine and freshwater ecosystems. Using 1970 as a baseline
year and giving it a value of 100, the index has dropped
to a new low of around 65 in the space of a single generation.
It is not
just humans who are at risk. Scientists, who examined
data for 350 kinds of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish,
also found the numbers of many species have more than
Jenkins, senior adviser for the World Conservation Monitoring
Centre in Cambridge, which helped compile the report,
said: 'It seems things are getting worse faster than possibly
ever before. Never has one single species had such an
overwhelming influence. We are entering uncharted territory.'
from the centre reveal that black rhino numbers have fallen
from 65,000 in 1970 to around 3,100 now. Numbers of African
elephants have fallen from around 1.2 million in 1980
to just over half a million while the population of tigers
has fallen by 95 per cent during the past century.
birdsong population has also seen a drastic fall with
the corn bunting population declining by 92 per cent between
1970 and 2000, the tree sparrow by 90 per cent and the
spotted flycatcher by 70 per cent.
however, say it is difficult to ascertain how many species
have vanished for ever because a species has to disappear
for 50 years before it can be declared extinct.
is now focused on next month's Earth Summit in Johannesburg,
the most important environmental negotiations for a decade.
the talks remain bedevilled with claims that no agreements
will be reached and that US President George W. Bush will
fail to attend.
Spencer, a spokesman for Greenpeace, said: 'There will
have to be concessions from the richer nations to the
poorer ones or there will be fireworks.'
conference for the summit, held in Bali last month, was
marred by disputes between developed nations and poorer
states and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), despite
efforts by British politicians to broker compromises on
which sent 300 delegates to the conference, is accused
of blocking many of the key initiatives on energy use,
biodiversity and corporate responsibility.
report shames the US for placing the greatest pressure
on the environment. It found the average US resident consumes
almost double the resources as that of a UK citizen and
more than 24 times that of some Africans.
factors such as a nation's consumption of grain, fish,
wood and fresh water along with its emissions of carbon
dioxide from industry and cars, the report provides an
ecological 'footprint' for each country by showing how
much land is required to support each resident.
consumption 'footprint' is 12.2 hectares per head of population
compared to the UK's 6.29ha while Western Europe as a
whole stands at 6.28ha. In Ethiopia the figure is 2ha,
falling to just half a hectare for Burundi, the country
that consumes least resources.
which will be unveiled in Geneva, warns that the wasteful
lifestyles of the rich nations are mainly responsible
for the exploitation and depletion of natural wealth.
Human consumption has doubled over the last 30 years and
continues to accelerate by 1.5 per cent a year.
wants world leaders to use its findings to agree on specific
actions to curb the population's impact on the planet.
for WWF UK, said: 'If all the people consumed natural
resources at the same rate as the average US and UK citizen
we would require at least two extra planets like Earth.'
world's ticking timebomb
North Atlantic cod stocks have collapsed from an estimated
264,000 tonnes in 1970 to under 60,000 in 1995.
The United States places the greatest pressure on the
environment, with its carbon dioxide emissions and over-consumption.
It takes 12.2 hectares of land to support each American
citizen and 6.29 for each Briton, while the figure for
Burundi is just half a hectare.
Between 1970 and 2002 forest cover has dwindled by 12
African elephant numbers have fallen from 1.2 million
in 1980 to half a million now. In the UK the songbird
population has fallen dramatically, with the corn bunting
declining by 92 per cent in the past 30 years.