Animals across the globe are rapidly disappearing as a result of rapidly expanding human population coupled with an unsustainable level of per capita consumption.
In the mid-17th century, there were one-half billion humans on the planet. By the mid-1920s, world population had quadrupled to 2 billion. Before century’s end, it would triple again to 6 billion. Though the rate of growth has slowed, by late 2011/early 2012, we will have passed the 7 billion mark, and continue to increase by over 83 million a year. The UN currently predicts 10 billion people by 2100.
“The human population is now so large that the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available at current consumption patterns,” said Mr. Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Program in 2007. According to the Global Footprint Network (GFN), “Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.5 planets to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year. ...Turning resources into waste faster than waste can be turned back into resources puts us in global ecological overshoot, depleting the very resources on which human life and biodiversity depend.”
According to GFN, this overshoot is having a drastic effect on the world’s flora and fauna: “The threats facing the rich array of plant and animal life on the planet seem greater than at any time in modern history. Problems such as climate change, water shortages, overharvesting and habitat disruption—symptoms of human pressure on the planet’s finite resources—are driving down wildlife populations worldwide.”
Harvard Professor E.O. Wilson estimates that, “...on the land at least and on a worldwide basis, species are vanishing 100 times faster than before the arrival of Homo sapiens.” He adds that, “Today as human populations expand and alter the natural environment, they are reducing biological diversity to its lowest level since the end of the Mesozoic era, 65 million years ago.”
Read AWI’s Population and Consumption brochure about the impacts of human population and consumption on the natural environment and ways each individual can make a difference by consuming less, consuming differently, and conserving more.