WWF 2012 Report – Can you believe we are using 50 per cent more resources than the Earth can provide?

According to the 2012 World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report, we are using 50 per cent more resources than the Earth can provide, and unless we change course that number will grow very fast – by 2030, even two planets will not be enough.

According to the study:

  • biodiversity has declined globally by around 30 per cent between 1970 and 2008; and by 60 per cent in the tropics
  • demand on natural resources has doubled since 1966 and we are currently using the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support our activities
  • high-income countries have a footprint five times greater than that of low-income countries, and
  • “business as usual” projections estimate that we will need the equivalent of two planets by 2030 to meet our annual demands.

The study notes that areas of high biodiversity provide important ecosystem services such as carbon storage, fuel wood, freshwater flow and marine fish stocks and the loss of biodiversity and related ecosystem services particularly impacts the world’s poorest peoples who rely most directly on these services to survive.  The study makes a plea that natural capital – biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services – be preserved and, where necessary, restored as the foundation of human economies and societies.

Is this Report “Fear Mongering”?

I posted the link to the report on several of my Linkedin Groups.  And although I do recognize that my personal worldview is validated by this report, I was surprised by the number of people in the environmental field that believed the report to be an “…  exaggeration that discredited its worthwhile message”,  “fear-mongering aimed at gaining donations” and departing from the human role of stewardship which is “… developing resources in a responsible way and cleaning up our messes as they happen..”.

I appreciate these comments.  They help me to think critically and honestly about the information presented.  They help me to see things from a new perspective.  They bring into focus the paradoxes that I have conveniently pushed aside.  I am learning to “hold” multiple perspectives through our “Facilitating Transformational Change for Sustainability” course.  I am grateful for that.

Even more so, a comment about technological innovation connected me to another WWF report released in 2011 entitled: Green Game Changers – 50 innovations to inspire business transformation.  It highlights solutions with the following themes:

1. Dematerialisation – business products, services or processes that dramatically cut the use of natural resources.

2. Restorative Processes -  innovations that relate to net positive environmental impacts and the restoration of biodiversity, forests, fresh water systems and marine environments.

3. Open loop -  where one company’s waste is turned into another’s resource.

4. Renewable energy and low carbon -  innovations are supportive of a move towards WWF’s call for 100% renewable energy future by 2050.

I have heard that humans tend to believe the information that supports their world-view.  We would rather disbelieve contrary evidence than change our world-view.   Change is hard.  Humans once thought that the earth was flat, and more than a few people suffered torture and death for trying to tell explain that the earth revolved around the sun and not the sun around the earth.

Alan AtKisson’s Hope Curve

Alan Atkisson’s Hope Curve

For me, these 50 innovations (and the many others coming to accelerate transformation toward sustainability) are the source of my optimism and hope for the future.  Some of my Linkedin colleagues go a step further suggesting that “technology is the answer” to the resource  and biodiversity depletion problem.  I don’t agree.  Anyone who thinks that we can more efficiently produce clean air, water and soil than nature needs a lesson in the complexity and interrelated nature of these processes.  I just don’t think we are that smart (and you might argue the careless manner in which we have destroyed these systems is an endorsement of this belief).

However, these innovations, and the people driving them are a source of hope.  They seem to be part of Alan AtKisson’s Hope Curve.  A transformation point in innovative solutions and worldview.  AtKisson notes when faced with pessimistic predictions, “you also have to give your mind, or soul, or whatever you  like to call it, the time and space to just feel what it feels, and  think what it thinks” and I would add “to absorb the grief and fear”  that these reports bring (another thing I learned from our Facilitating Transformational Change for Sustainability Workshops).

And that last point may be the source of disbelief that some feel when confronted with the stark and disturbing results emanating from WWF’s 2012 study (and others like it).  Perhaps it is compassion that we need to feel for those who challenge the results.  Not anger or frustration.

And once we have paused and taken stock; we need to get back to work.  All of us need to return to the job of making a difference.  The clock is ticking.  What we each do now - has never mattered more.

Learn More About Practical Methods for Implementing Sustainability at Alan AtKisson’s June 7th Webinar.

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About Kathryn Cooper

Kathryn Cooper is a committed sustainability practitioner and educator moving companies toward “green” profitability and sustainable competitive advantage by unlocking human creativity and technical innovation. Over the last two years she has had the privilege to work with companies like Dupont, Zerofootprint, WWF Canada, and Partners in Project Green on sustainability issues, best practices and renewable energy. Kathryn is a graduate of York University with a Master of Education specializing on Sustainability and the Environment. She holds an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph.
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