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Consumption of resources alarming: report

Associated Press
Thursday, Oct 21, 2004

Gland, Switzerland — People are plundering the world's resources at a pace that outstrips the planet's capacity to sustain life, the environmental group WWF said Thursday.

In its annual Living Planet Report, the World Wide Fund for Nature said humans currently consume 20 per cent more natural resources than Earth can produce, and that populations of terrestrial, freshwater and marine species fell by an average of 40 per cent between 1970 and 2000.

"We are spending nature's capital faster than it can regenerate," WWF chief Claude Martin said. "We are running up an ecological debt which we won't be able to pay off unless governments restore the balance between our consumption of natural resources and the Earth's ability to renew them."

Consumption of fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil increased by almost 700 per cent between 1961 and 2001, the conservation body said.

"It is of pressing importance that governments, industry and the public switch to renewable energies and promote energy-efficient technologies, buildings and transport systems," it said.

The "ecological footprint" — or environmental impact — of the planet's 6.1 billion-strong population is alarming, with people in the West the worst culprits, said WWF in its 40-page report.

The footprint of an average North American is double that of a European but seven times that of the average Asian or African. The report warned of increasing pressure on the planet's resources amid spiralling consumption in Asia.

"Sustainable living and a high quality of life are not incompatible," said Jonathan Loh, one of the authors of the report.

"However, we need to stop wasting natural resources and to redress the imbalance in consumption between the developing and industrialized worlds."

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