Thursday, 30 October 2008

Ecological Credit Crunch

Well, to get the ball rolling here I decided to post something that I have already posted on one of my other blogs - Corfu Chronicles. I think it is very appropriate.

We may be going through an economic credit crunch caused by, to put it simplistically, spending more than we have, but there is an ecological credit crunch coming up - and who is going to bail us out when that happens?

WWF publish a Living Planet Report every 2 years and the 2008 edition has just been released. And the news is not good - as if we really didn't expect it. Put simply, we are using up earth's resources so quickly that we have got ourselves "into debt" and by the mid 2030s, according to the report, we will need 2 planets to maintain our lifestyle!

Just as reckless spending causes a recession, so reckless consumption of our natural resources is "depleting the world’s natural capital to a point where we are endangering our future prosperity."

Our global 'footprint' now exceeds our capacity to regenerate by about 30%. The 5 countries with the largest footprint are the United Arab Emirates, USA, Kuwait, Denmark and Australia. The 5 with the lowest are Bangladesh, Congo, Haiti, Afghanistan and Malawi.

Just as some nations are economically in debt to other nations, so there are 'ecological debtors' - nations whose national consumption has outstripped their biocapacity. At the moment, more than three quarters of the world's population live in countries that are ecological debtors. What this means is that we are supporting our current lifestyle with ecological capital from other countries. It is frightening to read that if we all had the USA's consumption patterns, then we would need 4,5 planets to live on!

Another factor coming into play now is our 'water footprint'. The Mediterranean area is facing greater and greater water stress and 5 of the top ten countries with water footprints are from that area - Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus. Around 50 countries are suffering moderate to severe water stress.

'Sensible' people always go on about 'good housekeeping' - spending what you have and only borrowing when you know you can pay it back. What we are doing with the planet we are living on is completely at odds with that, however. Do we need to reach the point when the crunch actually comes before we face the situation? It will be too late then. As I mentioned above, there is nobody to bail us out of an ecological crunch when it comes. On TV here, we are seeing more and more people in the USA who have lost their homes and are having to live in tents or their cars; if we lose our global home, where are we going to live?

Many people perhaps believe - maybe even just subconsciously - that it won't happen in their lifetime. What about the next generation, who are going to have to pick up the tab? Would you spend money recklessly all your life and just say, "I'm going to die and my children can just pay off all my debts."? What kind of a parent does that?

Anyway, the good news is that, according to the report, that it is still not too late - the trend is not irreversible and we have the means to do something about it.


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