environment growth

The Living Planet Index 2012

 The Living Planet Report is one of the things that inspired this blog in the first place. Produced every two years by WWF and the Footprint Network, it aims to show the state of the world’s biodiversity and how well we are living within the planet’s biocapacity. If you’ve never read it, take a look. It is well presented, simple to understand, and striking. You can read the whole thing here, or a summary.

Here’s the headline graph. It shows the earth’s biocapacity as the horizontal line – the sum total of the planet’s ecological services (timber, fish, land, water, carbon absorption, etc). Our demand on the earth’s biocapacity is the orange line. For around 40 years, we have been using more of the earth’s natural resources than can be replenished in any given year.

You can use more than the earth’s capacity, but you push that horizontal line lower when you do – like living off your capital rather than your income, or eating your chickens rather than their eggs.

So far there are a billion of us living in developed, consumer societies. If we have overshot the earth’s capacity to deliver that lifestyle for one billion, where will the resources come from for the other six? Either the world must remain unequal, or we need to reduce our consumption and make the consumer vision of wealth history.


  1. At this rate, can either offer a realistic solution? Even if we learn how to make more from less, could it be enough?

  2. Have you Jeremy, Had anything to say yet on the Natural Capital Declaration – commitment of the financial sector at the Rio=20 Summit? I thought this worth noting from them:
    Our Commitment at the Rio +20 Earth Summit
    Anticipating that such a framework will emerge, and noting that no methodology yet exists to adequately report or account for Natural Capital in the global financial system, we the endorsing Financial Institutions wish to demonstrate leadership by undertaking to collaborate globally through working groups and engagement with our customers, investee companies, suppliers, civil society, and other stakeholders as appropriate to:

  3. And, just in case anyone else is interested to see more, they say this as well:
    The Natural Capital Declaration is a global statement demonstrating the commitment of financial sector towards integrating natural capita criteria into products and services
    Why Government Action is Essential Now
    Because Natural Capital is a part of the ‘global commons’ and is treated largely as a free ‘good’, governments must act to create a framework regulating and incentivizing the private sector – including the financial sector – to operate responsibly regarding its sustainable use. We therefore call upon governments to develop clear, credible, and long-term policy frameworks that support and incentivize organizations – including financial institutions – to value and report on their use of Natural Capital and thereby working towards internalizing environmental costs.

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