Rich nations gobbling resources at an unsustainable rate

OAKLAND, California, March 30, 2004 (ENS): Excessive consumption by the world’s richest nations is making life even more difficult for the world’s least fortunate, according to a new report by Redefining Progress. The U.S. based research group says the wealthiest nations are depleting global resources at an unprecedented rate – with the United States leading the way – and are mortgaging the future at the expense of today’s children, the poor and the long term health of the planet.

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The 2004 Footprint of Nations analyzes the ecological impact of more than 130 countries, demonstrating to what extent a nation can support its resource consumption with its available ecological capacity.

Redefining Progress's prior reports have focused on the dangers of overusing our natural resources and the effect on future generations. For the first time, this year's report documents the current impact of overconsumption on the world's most vulnerable populations.

"This measure speaks for those with the least power in today's world: children, the poor, the environment, and future generations," said Michel Gelobter, executive director of Redefining Progress. "These are groups with little or no voice in the political system or the economy, but whose resources are being compromised. When we ignore their plight, we undermine our collective future."

The report uses ecological footprint accounts to provide a measurable estimate of humanity’s pressure on global ecosystems – to determine an ecological footprint, the organization measures the biologically productive area required to produce the food and wood people consume, to supply space for infrastructure, and to absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels.

The accounts are composed of six factors: energy use, grazing land, pastureland, fisheries, built land and forests.

Redefining Progress expresses ecological footprint in terms of global acres, with each global acre corresponding to one acre of biologically productive space with world average productivity.

Previous reports found that consumption exceeds the Earth’s biological capacity by some 15 to 20 percent – the 2004 update “indicates that the situation has remained fundamentally unchanged except for one notable exception in the case of the United States.”

“In 2000, the United States became the country with the largest per capita ecological footprint on the planet,” according to the report.

The U.S. footprint is 23.7 acres per capita – a sustainable footprint would be 4.6 acres.

The organization measures the global ecological footprint at 5.6 global acres per capita.

The United Arab Emirates ranks second with 22.2 acres per capita and Canada third with 21.1 acres.

Developing countries such as Bangladesh and Mozambique represent the other end of the scale – these nations have footprints of 1.3 acres per capita.

On a per capita basis the average footprint has declined by 1.2 acres over the past 20 years – largely because many areas of production have become more efficient - but this decrease is offset by population growth.

Even a developing nation with a small per capita footprint can have a very large overall footprint when its population grows rapidly.

These problems are compounded as wealthy nations continue to grow their economies by exploiting the resources and economic potential of their impoverished neighbors, the report finds.

Unsustainable consumption and population play a big part in the size of a nation's footprint - much of an industrialized nation's ecological impact is due to the use of fossil fuels. The report details that shifting to renewable energy can dramatically lessen a country's footprint.

Sustainable modes of production and consumption and attention to social equity can help decrease national footprints and improve quality of life around the world, according to the public policy organization.

Redefining Progress has calculated ecological footprints for more than 130 countries and numerous regions as well as an increasing number of municipalities and businesses. Individuals can calculate their own footprint in seven languages at: http://www.myfootprint.org.

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2004/2004-03-30-10.asp


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