[enviro-vlc] WWF: Living Planet Report and the Greater Mekong
vern.weitzel at gmail.com
Wed Oct 29 23:50:08 EST 2008
Subject: Living Planet Report and the Greater Mekong
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2008 21:59:46 -0700 (PDT)
From: julianne becker <juliannebecker at yahoo.com>
We have a press release that has been slightly modified
to include more info about the greater Mekong.
Media Release Embargoed to 00.01 GMT 29 October 2008
Living Planet analysis shows looming ecological credit crunch
The world is heading for an ecological credit crunch as human demands on the
world's natural capital reach nearly a third more than earth can sustain.
That is the stark warning contained in the latest edition of WWF’s Living Planet
Report, the leading statement of the planet’s health. In addition, global
natural wealth and diversity continues to decline, and more and more countries
are slipping into a state of permanent or seasonal water stress.
“The world is currently struggling with the consequences of over-valuing its
financial assets,” said WWF International Director-General James Leape, “but a
more fundamental crisis looms ahead -- an ecological credit crunch caused by
under-valuing the environmental assets that are the basis of all life and
The report, produced with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global
Footprint Network (GFN), shows more than three quarters of the world’s people
are now living in nations that are ecological debtors, where national
consumption has outstripped their country’s biological capacity.
“Most of us are propping up our current lifestyles, and our economic growth, by
drawing - and increasingly overdrawing - on the ecological capital of other
parts of the world,” Mr Leape said.
“If our demands on the planet continue to increase at the same rate, by the
mid-2030s we would need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyles.”
The report, published every two years, has since 1998 become widely accepted as
a statement of earth's ability to remain a “living planet”. In 2008, it adds
for the first time new measures of global, national and individual water
footprint to existing measures of the Ecological Footprint of human demand on
natural resources and the Living Planet Index, a measure of the state of nature.
The Living Planet Index (LPI), compiled by ZSL, shows a nearly 30 per cent
decline since 1970 in nearly 5,000 measured populations of 1,686 species. These
dramatic losses in our natural wealth are being driven by deforestation and land
conversion in the tropics (50% decline in Tropical LPI) and the impact of dams,
diversions and climate change on freshwater species (35% decline). Pollution,
over-fishing and destructive fishing in marine and coastal environments are also
taking a considerable toll.
The effects of this loss can be seen very vividly in the Greater Mekong.
Although this region is a veritable bounty of biodiversity, “the pace of
development is moving much faster than the capacity of its shock absorbers –
consumption is growing everywhere and the demand for resources and land is
almost insatiable, particularly in places like the Greater Mekong,” says WWF
Greater Mekong Programme Representative Eric Coull.
“We are acting ecologically in the same way as financial institutions have been
behaving economically - seeking immediate gratification without due regard for
the consequences,” said ZSL co-editor Jonathan Loh. “The consequences of a
global ecological crisis are even graver than the current economic meltdown.”
Carbon emissions from fossil fuel use and land disturbance are the greatest
component of humanity’s footprint, underlining the key threat of climate change.
The ecological footprint analysis, produced by GFN, shows that while global
biocapacity – the area available to produce our resources and capture our
emissions – is 2.1 average or “global” hectares per person, the per person
footprint is 2.7 global ha.
The USA and China have the largest national footprints, each in total about 21
per cent of global biocapacity, but US citizens each require an average of 9.4
global ha (or nearly 4.5 Planet Earths if the global population had US
consumption patterns) while Chinese citizens use on average 2.1 global ha per
person (one Planet Earth).
Biocapacity is unevenly distributed, with eight nations – the United States,
Brazil, Russia, China, India, Canada, Argentina and Australia - containing more
than half the world total. Population and consumption patterns make three of
these countries ecological debtors, with footprints greater than their national
biocapacity - the United States (footprint 1.8 times national biocapacity),
China (2.3 times) and India ( 2.2 times). In the Greater Mekong, Lao PDR is the
only country with a per person biocapacity greater than its ecological footprint.
“The huge stock of natural resources in the Greater Mekong region has not gone
unnoticed by the rest of the world,” said Mr Coull. “These resources underpin
local livelihoods and regional sustainable development and puts this region on
the world map of conservation priorities. These resources are also what could
help the countries of this region buffer against the effects of climate change,
which we now know have great potential to be economically substantial and
A recent World Bank study puts Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam at the top of the
list of countries to be affected by rising sea levels.
The new water footprint measures show up the significance of water traded in the
form of commodities with, for example, a cotton T-shirt requiring 2,900 litres
of water in its production. On average, each person consumes 1.24 million litres
(about half an Olympic swimming pool) of water a year, but this varies from 2.48
million litres per person a year (USA) to 619,000 litres per capita annually
“Around 50 countries are currently facing moderate or severe water stress and
the number of people suffering from year-round or seasonal water shortages is
expected to increase as a result of climate change,” the report finds.
“These Living Planet measures serve as clear and robust signposts to what needs
to be done,” said Mr Leape. “It is our hope that in years to come we will be
reporting increases in the Living Planet Index, an ecological footprint coming
down in shoe sizes and water becoming more rather than less available in more
“If humanity has the will, it has the ways to live within the means of the
planet, but we must recognize that the ecological credit crunch will require
even bolder action than that now being mustered for the financial crisis,” Mr
Notes for editors:
The 2008 Living Planet Report can be downloaded from www.panda.org/lpr/08
The report and additional multimedia materials including broadcast quality video
can be found at wwf.extranet.largeblue.net, using the password mA1aGb73
The global ecological footprint is worsening at an increasing rate. The 2006
WWF Living Planet Report revealed an excess ecological footprint of 25 per cent
in 2003 (2008 LPR - 30 per cent on global data for 2005), with a projection
that the two planet requirement would be reached around 2050 (2008 LPR – 2030s).
For further information:
WWF Greater Mekong: Hoang Thi Minh Hong, Communications Manager, +(84 4) 3719
3111 - ext 126, hong.hoangminh at wwfgreatermekong.org
GFN: Nicole Freeling, + (415) 577-9282, nicole at footprintnetwork.org
ZSL: Alice Henchley, Senior Press Officer, +44 7790 301596, alice.henchley at zsl.org
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation
organizations, with almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in
over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's
natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with
nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of
renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of
pollution and wasteful consumption.
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international
scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the
conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL runs ZSL London Zoo and ZSL
Whipsnade Zoo, carries out scientific research in the Institute of Zoology and
is actively involved in field conservation in over forty countries worldwide.
The Global Footprint Network promotes a sustainable economy by advancing the
Ecological Footprint, a tool that makes sustainability measurable. Together
with its partners, the network coordinates research, develops methodological
standards, and provides decision makers with robust resource accounts to help
the human economy operate within the Earth’s ecological limits.
www.panda.org/media for latest news and media resources
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