The Living Planet report, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) >http://www.observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,750783,00.html > >Earth 'will expire by 2050' > >Our planet is running out of room and resources. Modern man has plundered >so >much, a damning report claims this week, that outer space will have to be >colonised > >Mark Townsend and Jason Burke Sunday July 7, 2002 The Observer > >Earth's population will be forced to colonise two planets within 50 years >if >natural resources continue to be exploited at the current rate, according >to >a report out this week. > >A study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), to be released on Tuesday, warns >that the human race is plundering the planet at a pace that outstrips its >capacity to support life. > >In a damning condemnation of Western society's high consumption levels, it >adds that the extra planets (the equivalent size of Earth) will be required >by the year 2050 as existing resources are exhausted. > >The report, based on scientific data from across the world, reveals >thatmore >than a third of the natural world has been destroyed by humans overthepast >three decades. > >Using the image of the need for mankind to colonise space as a stark >illustration of the problems facing Earth, the report warns that either >consumption rates are dramatically and rapidly lowered or the planet will >no >longer be able to sustain its growing population. > >Experts say that seas will become emptied of fish while forests - which >absorb carbon dioxide emissions - are completely destroyed and freshwater >supplies become scarce and polluted. > >The report offers a vivid warning that either people curb their extravagant >lifestyles or risk leaving the onus on scientists to locate another planet >that can sustain human life. Since this is unlikely to happen, the only >option is to cut consumption now. > >Systematic overexploitation of the planet's oceans has meant the North >Atlantic's cod stocks have collapsed from an estimated spawning stock of >264,000 tonnes in 1970 to under 60,000 in 1995. > >The study will also reveal a sharp fall in the planet's ecosystems between >1970 and 2002 with the Earth's forest cover shrinking by about 12 >percent,the ocean's biodiversity by a third and freshwater ecosystems in >the >region of 55 per cent. > >The Living Planet report uses an index to illustrate the shocking level of >deterioration in the world's forests as well as marine and freshwater >ecosystems. Using 1970 as a baseline year and giving it a value of 100,the >index has dropped to a new low of around 65 in the space of a single >generation. > >It is not just humans who are at risk. Scientists, who examined data for >350 >kinds of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish, also found the numbers of many >species have more than halved. > >Martin Jenkins, senior adviser for the World Conservation >MonitoringCentrein >Cambridge, which helped compile the report, said: 'It seems things are >getting worse faster than possibly ever before. Never has one >singlespecieshad such an overwhelming influence. We are entering uncharted >territory.' > >Figures from the centre reveal that black rhino numbers have fallen from >65,000 in 1970 to around 3,100 now. Numbers of African elephants have >fallen >from around 1.2 million in 1980 to just over half a million while >thepopulation of tigers has fallen by 95 per cent during the past century. > >The UK's birdsong population has also seen a drastic fall with the >cornbunting population declining by 92 per cent between 1970 and 2000, the >treesparrow by 90 per cent and the spotted flycatcher by 70 per cent. > >Experts, however, say it is difficult to ascertain how many species have >vanished for ever because a species has to disappear for 50 years before it >can be declared extinct. > >Attention is now focused on next month's Earth Summit in Johannesburg, >themost important environmental negotiations for a decade. > >However, the talks remain bedevilled with claims that no agreements will be >reached and that US President George W. Bush will fail to attend. > >Matthew Spencer, a spokesman for Greenpeace, said: 'There will have to be >concessions from the richer nations to the poorer ones or there will be >fireworks.' > >The preparatory conference for the summit, held in Bali last month, was >marred by disputes between developed nations and poorer states and >non-governmental organisations (NGOs), despite efforts by >Britishpoliticians >to broker compromises on key issues. > >America, which sent 300 delegates to the conference, is accused of blocking >many of the key initiatives on energy use, biodiversity and >corporateresponsibility. > >The WWF report shames the US for placing the greatest pressure on the >environment. It found the average US resident consumes almost double the >resources as that of a UK citizen and more than 24 times that of >someAfricans. > >Based on factors such as a nation's consumption of grain, fish, wood and >fresh water along with its emissions of carbon dioxide from industry >andcars, the report provides an ecological 'footprint' for each country by >showing how much land is required to support each resident. > >America's consumption 'footprint' is 12.2 hectares per head of population >compared to the UK's 6.29ha while Western Europe as a whole stands at >6.28ha. In Ethiopia the figure is 2ha, falling to just half a hectare for >Burundi, the country that consumes least resources. > >The report, which will be unveiled in Geneva, warns that the wastefullife >styles of the rich nations are mainly responsible for the exploitation and >depletion of natural wealth. Human consumption has doubled over thelast30 >years and continues to accelerate by 1.5 per cent a year. > >Now WWF wants world leaders to use its findings to agree on specificactions >to curb the population's impact on the planet. > >A spokesman for WWF UK, said: 'If all the people consumed natural resources >at the same rate as the average US and UK citizen we would require >atleasttwo extra planets like Earth.'