one planet living: overshoot hurts animals, too

human overshoot

By 2050, Earth will only be able to sustain the U.S. and Canada...if we want animals to live here, too.

Say what?

Look at this set of charts which highlights Earth's sustainable limits and the overshoot of human civilization (via how the world works).

Focus first on the red and green lines that trace the planet's sustainable capacity.

The green line allows for coexistence with other creatures, while the red line hogs all resources on earth for humans.

Then track the colored areas that are exponentially curving upward. These are the population (left chart) and land area (right chart) of human civilization including the U.S. and Canada (blue), Europe and Russia (purple), and the rest of the world (yellow).

Now, advocates of the 'ecological footprint' method for assessing sustainability have focused attention on our overshoot, noting that humans currently require about 1.3 planets to maintain their civilization.

By these measures, we notice that the human overshoot in population and footprint (where the colored areas exceed the red line) occured somewhere around 1980.

Yet, if all forms of life are included in the calculation (green line), it turns out that the overshoot actually came many years earlier--before 1950.

One gets the feeling that the scale of transformation now required to get our civilization back to 'one planet living' is vastly more daunting...if we want more than just humans as residents.

We are so far beyond the levels of sustainability, and, as Pollard points out, "the curves are creeping up on us so quietly and quickly that if we wait for the first undeniable evidence of cataclysm, it will be too late."

What's our move? Curtail food production, says Pollard...but that's another post.

For now, pity the messenger who gets to tell our global cousins there's only room for Americans...and animals.

Published by Ken on March 9th, 2007 tagged Systems Thinking

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