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2014/09/30: Humanity’s Demand on Nature Climbs as Biodiversity Suffers Major Decline, Living Planet Report 2014 Finds

Oakland, Calif. – Humanity’s demand on the planet is more than 50 percent larger than what nature can renew, jeopardizing the well-being of humans as well as populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, according to data released today by Global Footprint Network, WWF and the Zoological Society of London.

For more than 40 years, humanity’s demand on nature has exceeded what our planet can replenish, according to the Living Planet Report 2014. At the same time, vertebrate wildlife populations have declined, on average, by more than half in just 40 years, as measured by the Living Planet Index.

"It is no coincidence that our Ecological Footprint has climbed while biodiversity has plummeted. Overshoot is a core pressure on biodiversity, and WWF is the leading conservation organization recognizing and addressing this link," said Mathis Wackernagel, President and Co-founder of Global Footprint Network. "Humanity must learn to live within the budget of nature, not just for our own welfare and resilience but also for the well-being of countless other species on our planet."

Living Planet Report 2014 Facts

Published every two years, the Living Planet Report provides a comprehensive assessment of the planet's health, relating key indicators of biodiversity and human demand on ecological resources. Global Footprint Network calculates the Ecological Footprint, a resource accounting system that tracks human pressure on resources against nature's capacity to regenerate these resources.

The latest Ecological Footprint figures -- based upon UN source data from 2010 (latest available) -- provide us with a data-driven look at how much nature we have, how much we use and who uses what.

Hymne à la bio-diversité:


Concernés ? Agissez, Keep the oil in the ground !


Key Terms

The Ecological Footprint measures how much biologically productive land and water area an individual, a population or an activity occupies, given prevailing technology. This area including the space to produce the resources consumed and to absorb the waste that has been created, Limited by global data sets, current national Footprint assessments only include CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning on the waste side.

Biocapacity is the regenerative capacity available to serve the Footprint demand.

Global Ecological Overshoot is the gap between the rate of humanity’s demand (Footprint) and nature's capacity to regenerate (planet’s biocapacity).

Biocapacity Deficit is the difference between a country’s Footprint and its biocapacity. This difference can come from either overusing domestic biocapacity, net-importing biocapacity or using the global commons (through carbon emissions into the atmosphere or fishing international waters). At the global level, biocapacity deficit and ecological overshoot are the same.

Global Hectares/Acres are biologically productive hectares/acres with world-average productivity.

Humanity's Footprint by the Numbers

2.6 global hectares The average Ecological Footprint per person worldwide
1.7 global hectares The amount of productive land and sea area available (biocapacity) in the world per person in 2010
1.5 years The amount of time it takes the planet to regenerate humanity’s Footprint
50 percent The amount by which humanity’s Footprint exceeds the planet's regenerative capacity
1.5 Earths The number of planets we would need to regenerate humanity’s current demand on the planet
3.9 Earths The number of planets we would need if everyone lived like average Americans
X2.5 The size of the global Ecological Footprint in 2010 compared to 1961
one-half The amount of biocapacity available per person in 2010 compared to 1961
53% The percentage of humanity's Ecological Footprint which is accounted for by carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 (its carbon Footprint)
36% The percentage of humanity's Ecological Footprint which is accounted for by carbon dioxide emissions in 1961 (its carbon Footprint)
91 The number of countries with a biocapacity deficit, i.e., in which per capita Ecological Footprint exceeded per capita biocapacity (out of 152 countries included)
85% Percentage of world population living in a country running a biocapacity deficit


How much we have and how much we use: recognizing nature’s budget constraints

The Footprint accounts for all demands on the biosphere, including carbon emissions from fossil fuel, demand on food sources, the quantity of living resources required to make the goods we consume, and the amount of land we take out of production when we pave it over to build cities and roads. The data since 1961 show one consistent trend: continuous expansion.

Humanity's Ecological Footprint has more than doubled since 1961. This growth is largely attributable to the carbon Footprint, which has increased to comprise 53 percent of our Footprint in 2010 from 36 percent in 1961. Carbon emissions (in particular) and food demand are the major drivers of the escalating Footprint. In addition, from 1961 to 201, the global human population increased from 3.1 billion to 6.9 billion, and per capita Ecological Footprint increased from 2.5 to 2.6 global hectares.

At the same time human demand has gone up, the biocapacity available per person has gone down as the number of people on the planet has increased. Growing per capita consumption coupled with declining per capita biocapacity amounts to a growing gap between ecological supply and demand. This overshoot becomes apparent in the form of climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, soil erosion, food scarcity and other problems.

Who uses what?

Not everybody has an equal Footprint; there are significant differences among countries. High-income countries have maintained high levels of consumption, but this trend fluctuates with the global economy. Events such as oil crises (in the 1970s) and recessions in the 1980s and 2000s shocked economies – and significantly reduced resource demands. However, with subsequent economic recovery came increasing consumption. Demands on resources – which increased during the hyper-growth period of the early 2000s – dropped when the world’s economies started to contract in 2007.

On a per capita basis, the countries with the biggest Ecological Footprints are Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Belgium, Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore, United States of America, Bahrain and Sweden.

Middle- and low-income nations typically have smaller per capita Footprints. Nearly half of the middle- and low-income nations live on per capita Footprints lower than 1.7 gha. This is the amount of biocapacity per person available on the planet, or the maximum per capita Footprint that could be replicated worldwide without resulting in global overshoot. Even a Footprint of this size would mean that humanity claims the entire biocapacity of the planet, leaving little space for wild species.

Ranking countries by total and per capita Ecological Footprint produces very different results. The Ecological Footprint of the top five countries makes up about half the global total. Analysis of the 2014 National Footprint Accounts reveals that just two countries generated 31 percent of the world’s total carbon Footprint: China (16 percent) and the USA (15 percent).

Taking Action: What Can We Do To Change the Curve?

The Living Planet Report provides strategies to preserve, produce and consume more wisely. It also includes examples of how communities are already making better choices to reduce footprint and biodiversity loss.

In Asia, the report shows how cities are innovating ways to reduce carbon emissions, integrate renewable energy and promote sustainable consumption. In Africa, the report profiles how government can work with industry to protect natural areas. In other examples from around the world, the report highlights initiatives to control pollution, transform markets and improve lives.

Global Footprint Network provides the Living Planet Report’s measure of humanity's Ecological Footprint, which calculates the amount of biologically productive land and sea required to produce all the resources a population consumes and to absorb its waste, with prevailing technology.

According to the report, it would take 1.5 Earths to produce the resources necessary to support humanity’s current Ecological Footprint. This global overshoot means, for example, that we are cutting timber more quickly than trees regrow, pumping freshwater faster than groundwater restocks, and releasing CO2 faster than nature can sequester it.

The 10 countries with the largest Ecological Footprints per person are: Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Belgium, Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore, United States of America, Bahrain and Sweden.

Other key findings in the report include: The average person’s Ecological Footprint in the United States is 7 global hectares (17.5 acres). By comparison, the world average Footprint is 2.6 global hectares per person, with even less biocapacity per person in the world, at 1.7 global hectares.

The country with the largest Footprint per person is Kuwait, at 10.4 global hectares (26 acres). Conversely, Haiti, Eritrea, and Timor-Leste are among the countries with the smallest Ecological Footprints, under 0.6 global hectares (1½ acres) and, in most cases, too small to meet basic requirements for food, shelter, infrastructure and sanitation.

"Nearly three-quarters of the world's population lives in countries struggling with both ecological deficits and low incomes," noted Dr. Wackernagel. "Growing ecological constraints demand that we focus on how to improve human welfare by a means other than sheer expansion."

Delinking the relationship between Footprint and development is fundamental to human success, the report indicates. While per person Ecological Footprint of high-income countries is five times that of low-income countries, research demonstrates that it is possible to increase living standards while restraining resource use. The report includes examples of how communities are already making better choices to reduce Footprint and biodiversity loss.

Links to Additional Information:

Key Ecological Footprint Findings Factsheet:

The full report (PDF):

Report summary (PDF):

Data by country:

About Global Footprint Network Global Footprint Network promotes the science of sustainability by advancing the Ecological Footprint, a resource accounting tool that makes sustainability measurable. Together with its partners, the Network works to further improve and implement this science by coordinating research, developing methodological standards, and providing decision-makers with robust resource accounts to help the human economy operate within the Earth’s ecological limits.

About WWF WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

About Zoological Society of London Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. Our mission is realised through our groundbreaking science, our active conservation projects in more than 50 countries and our two zoos, ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.