The alarming state of the world...

The Living Planet Report is WWF's periodic update on the state of the world's ecosystems - as measured by the Living Planet Index - and the human pressures on them through the consumption of renewable natural resources - as measured by the Ecological Footprint.

The Living Planet Report 2004 (pdf 816KB) confirms that humanity is now consuming over 20% more natural resources than the Earth can produce, causing rapid declines in wild animal populations.

It is possible to exceed ecological limits for a while, but this over-spend leads to the destruction of ecological assets, on which our economy depends. These are assets such as

  • depleted groundwater,
  • collapsing fisheries,
  • CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere, and
  • deforestation.

The confirmation comes in the 2004 report which includes more sophisticated data sets, more detailed time trends, and more robust results and shows that humanity's Ecological Footprint grew by 150% between 1961 and 2000.

During the same time period, the report's Living Planet Index shows a 40% decline in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species populations. This evidence suggests that as humanity's Footprint grows, the world's myriad populations of wildlife shrink.

"From 1991 to 2001, essentially the ten years after the United Nations Rio conference in 1992, the Footprint in the 27 wealthiest countries increased by 8% per person, while in the middle and low income countries, it shrank by 8% per person… exactly the opposite of what Rio promised." says Dr. Mathis Wackernagel of the Global Footprint Network and a lead researcher of the report.

By identifying the biggest impacts, the report also points to the biggest opportunities for change. For example, energy leads as the fastest growing component of global Ecological Footprint with a 180% increase since 1971. Claude Martin says that "high amounts of materials and energy are not necessary to support a comfortable standard of living. We [must] develop innovative models that will meet the challenges of living within the capacity of one planet."

The Living Planet Report 2004 (pdf 816KB) clearly defines humanity's challenge for the 21st century: to learn to live within the means of the one and only planet that we have. View our changing footprint over time:

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View our changing footprint over time in Quicktime (3MB .mov) or as Flash (152KB .swf) 
© Global Footprint Network
View our changing footprint over time in Quicktime (3MB .mov) or as Flash (152KB .swf)
© Global Footprint Network

View our changing footprint over time in Quicktime (3MB .mov) or as Flash (152KB .swf)