MAC: Mines and Communities

Earth's Resources Overused by 15%: Deepens Plight of Poorest Nations

Published by MAC on 2004-03-22

The following seems particularly timely in regard to its data on the role of fossil fuels, despite the World Bank's continued endorsement of coal, oil and gas as it struggles with the recommendation of the Extractive Industries Review.

Earth's Resources Overused by 15%: Deepens Plight of Poorest Nations

Redefining Progress Media Release

For Immediate Release

Date: March 22, 2004

Contact: Melissa Haynes (Phone: 510-444-3041 x305)
or Dahlia Chazan (Phone: 510-444-3041 x317)

San Francisco, USA - Redefining Progress today released an update of the world's leading indicator of sustainability, the Ecological Footprint(tm) Accounts. The 2004 Footprint of Nations concludes that the world's wealthiest nations are mortgaging the future at the expense of today's children, the poor, and the long-term health of the Earth. Through excessive consumption of non-renewable resources, a handful of countries are depleting global reserves at a faster rate than ever before. These problems are compounded as wealthy nations continue to grow their economies by exploiting the resources and economic potential of their impoverished neighbors.

The national Ecological Footprint Accounts measure the land area required to support a nation, providing for its needs and absorbing its wastes. The Accounts are composed of six factors energy use, grazing land, pastureland, fisheries, built land and forests.

Redefining Progress's prior reports have focused on the dangers of overusing our natural resources and the effect on future generations. For the first time, this year's report documents the current impact of over-consumption on the world's most vulnerable populations.

"This measure speaks for those with the least power in today's world: children, the poor, the environment, and future generations," said Michel Gelobter, Executive Director of Redefining Progress. "These are groups with little or no voice in the political system or the economy, but whose resources are being compromised. When we ignore their plight, we undermine our collective future."

For the first time the United States has the world's largest Footprint at 9.57 hectares (23.7 acres) per person - a sustainable Footprint would be 1.88 hectares (4.6 acres). At the other end of the scale, developing countries like Bangladesh and Mozambique have Footprints of 0.53 hectares (1.3 acres) per capita - just over 1/20th of the US Footprint. Humanities combined footprint represents an overeuse of the earth's natural resources by 15%.

Unsustainable consumption and population play a big part in the size of a nation's Footprint. Since much of an industrialized nation's ecological impact is due to the use of fossil fuels, shifting to renewable energy can dramatically lessen a country's Footprint. Even a developing nation with a small per capita Footprint can have a very large overall Footprint when its population grows rapidly. Sustainable modes of production and consumption and attention to social equity can help decrease national Footprints and improve quality of life around the world.

Another trend reported in the study is the growing number of sub-national governments that have taken action by compiling local Ecological Footprint Accounts to reduce their use of global ecological resources.

"When London, Paris, and San Francisco calculated their Footprints, they invested in the future. When they take action to reduce their impact, they see returns immediately in environmental health, economic vitality, and social equity," said Jason Venetoulis, co-director of the Sustainability Indicators Program at Redefining Progress, speaking from the 4th Conference of the Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development in Cardiff, Wales.

The full report: "2004 Footprint of Nations" can be downloaded by clicking here

Redefining Progress has calculated Ecological Footprints for over 130 countries and numerous regions as well as an increasing number of municipalities and businesses. Individuals can calculate their own Footprint (in seven languages for 60 countries) at:

Redefining Progress, a 501(c)3, non-profit organization is celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2004. RP works with a broad array of partners to shift the economy and public policy towards sustainability.

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