Magazine article World Watch

Earth's Stocks Down by One-Third

Magazine article World Watch

Earth's Stocks Down by One-Third

Article excerpt

While economic assessments show a doubling of global wealth between 1970 and 1995, a new report estimates that in the same period, the Earth has lost one-third of its natural capital - as measured by the health of its forest, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. The Living Planet Report, a joint project of the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), the New Economics Foundation, and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, concludes that "over consumption is driving [this] rapid decline" in the natural world's ability to sustain life.

The study notes that freshwater ecosystems suffered exceptionally in the 25 year period analyzed. Populations of 102 freshwater species (those for which time-series data were available) fell by 45 percent, with amphibians declining more sharply than any other species. Marine species declined by 35 percent in the same period. And 10 percent of the world's forest cover was destroyed between 1970 and 1995 - an annual loss of an area about the size of Bangladesh.

This "environmental Dow Jones index" adds to a growing body of research that attempts to quantify the burden that resource consumption places on the natural world. Ranking nations based on their carbon emissions and their intake of grain, marine fish, freshwater, fertilizer, wood, and cement, the study finds - not surprisingly - that the three most populous nations - China, the United States, and India - are also the top resource consumers.

Per person, however, the results are less predictable: environmentally conscious Norway leads the list, followed by two developing nations, Taiwan and Chile. …

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