Why change how we grow stuff?

Paper, sugar, fish nuggets, frying oil, t-shirts... all these common purchases may seem harmless. But their production comes at a price that can find its expression in news headlines reading something like this: forest destruction, overfishing and a considerable loss of biodiversity.

Surprised?

The fact is, we’re consuming much more than the Earth can naturally provide for us.

And part of the problem is that what we consume is often produced in an unsustainable and wasteful way.

What is happening?

  • Global consumption of wood is expected to triple by 2050
  • Meat consumption in East Asia will double to 80 kg per person per year by 2050
  • Biofuels could increase by 50% the amount of land in agriculture and forest plantations by 2050
  • 85% of all global fisheries are already fished at, or beyond capacity.
Think of an orange that is being squeezed for its very last drops of juice. This is what is happening to Earth.

And this pressure is only likely to grow in the future as incomes and population increase...

HOW YOU CAN HELP US

  1. Buy certified sustainable goods when these are available, from seafood to timber products, and products that contain palm oil.
  2. Alternatively, ask your retailer or brand owner for them.
  3. Support the work of WWF – from donating money to becoming a member to joining one of the volunteer groups WWF has in many countries.
  4. Check out our Live Green guide.

Excessive freshwater consumption

Irrigation equipment pumps water over a corn field.   / ©: Istockphoto.com / WWF-Canada
Irrigation equipment pumps water over a corn field.
© Istockphoto.com / WWF-Canada
About 69% of the planet´s fresh water is used by the agricultural sector. In addition to public health risks from not having access to safe water, there are many other problems such as higher energy prices and political instability.

Clearing forests

 / ©: WWF-Canon / John E. NEWBY
Forest being burnt to create new agricultural land. Madagascar.
© WWF-Canon / John E. NEWBY
Pasture and cropland account for 50% of the Earth’s habitable land. Cutting down forests and clearing land for growing food, biofuels and/or cattle grazing destroys wildlife’s natural homes in fragile places such as the Heart of Borneo and the Greater Mekong region.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions intensifying climate change

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Tantyo Bangun
Newly planted oil plam trees in smoke from forest fires, Sumatra, Indonesia.
© WWF-Canon / Tantyo Bangun
Farming practices are significantly building up greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the livestock sector alone is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas production. Additionally, clearing land for agricultural production sends ever higher amounts of such gases into the atmosphere too.

Overfishing

 / ©: WWF Canon
Overfishing
© WWF Canon
More than 85% of the world's fisheries are fully exploited or overfished. Fishing of commercially important fish stocks such as tuna or white fish damages marine environments, undermines legal fisheries, threatens livelihoods and erodes food security around the world. In the EU alone, yearly illegal fisheries imports amount to approximately 500,000 tonnes, for a value of 1.1 billion euros.

Unsustainable aquaculture

Aquaculture can threaten wild species and coastal habitats. Forty five percent of the shrimp we consume is produced by aquaculture, and more and more space is taken by this industry to the detriment of important natural ecosystems such as mangroves.

Increasing land area for livestock

Grazing animals, like grey cattle, have been restored on Tataru Island. Without them the floodplain ... / ©: WWF DCP Ukraine
Grazing animals, like grey cattle, have been restored on Tataru Island. Without them the floodplain forest ran wild due to lack of grazing.
© WWF DCP Ukraine
Farm animals take up 70% of all agricultural land, and over 40% of the world’s grain harvest is fed to livestock. Farming animals for meat and dairy requires huge inputs of land and water for growing animal feed.

Pollution

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Michel Gunther
New chemicals regulations in the EU will lead to safer products around the world.
© WWF-Canon / Michel Gunther
To boost outputs and reduce losses, farmers turn to intensive pesticide and fertiliser use. Such practices can poison fresh water, marine ecosystems, the air and the soil, where chemicals can accumulate and persist for generations.

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