Exploitation of natural resources up 50% since 1970: WWF

HONG KONG, Oct. 20 Kyodo

The world’s ecosystems have deteriorated by about 33% over the last 30 years as human exploitation of natural resources has surged by 50% in the same period, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said Friday.

If all people in the world continue to consume resources and emit carbon dioxide at such a rapid rate, at least two planets would be needed to support the Earth’s population, officers of the international conservation group said.

”This is not borrowing, but stealing the Earth from our children and grandchildren,” said Karen Woo, a conservation officer of WWF Hong Kong, in disclosing the findings of the ”Living Planet Report 2000.”

The report, the third of its kind, was produced by the Switzerland-based WWF International in collaboration with the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Center, Redefining Progress and the Center for Sustainability Studies.

The study found that the changes of species in freshwater ecosystems were ”most alarming,” with the index declining by about 50% between 1970 and 1999.

The indices for the forest and marine ecosystems also showed decays of about 12% and 35% respectively over the same period.

”These figures show that the health of our natural ecosystems is rapidly deteriorating, especially the freshwater habitats,” said Alex Yau, WWF Hong Kong conservation manager.

In 1997, the ”ecological footprint” of the global population was already at least 30% larger than the planet’s biological productive capacity, the report found.

The ”ecological footprint” measurement covers the biologically productive land and water area required to produce the food and wood people consume, to allow room for infrastructure and to absorb the carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels, which is the primary cause of climate change.

Based on 1996 statistics, North America had the highest per capita ”ecological footprint,” followed by Western Europe, and then Central and Eastern Europe.

The Asia-Pacific region was the second lowest in the ranking, while Africa was bottom of the list.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Kyodo News International, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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