Last week I mentioned the Living Planet Index and the earth’s declining biocapacity. Here’s a little more detail from that report, showing what is happening to wildlife in different parts of the world.
As the graph shows, biodiversity is recovering gently in Eurasian half of the Northern hemisphere. It is in decline everywhere else, and the steepest declines are in the poorest parts of the world.
Some will look at this sort of data and hastily conclude that rich countries are better at conservation than poor countries. If we want poorer countries to be more environmentally aware then what they need is growth and development.
That’s a simplistic reading of these graphs. For one thing, Europe starts from a low base. We already cut our native forests generations ago, so the damage is already done. More importantly, much of the environmental damage occurring in other parts of the world is to supply consumers in developed countries. As Greenpeace highlighted last year, if you bought a Barbie doll or a Lego set last year, chances are the box contained a tiny part of Indonesia’ rainforest. It is European fleets overfishing West African waters, to supply European markets – an issue raised recently as Senegal took back fishing rights this month.
The Living Planet Index also shows the changing ecological footprints of high, medium and low income countries. The impact of high income countries has increased in the last fifty years, but has declined in the world’s poorest countries.
Of course the world’s poorest countries need growth, but that will not make them sustainable. To turn around those declining biodiversity stats, we need to cut consumption here first.