One earth, three planets' worth of damage
BRITAIN is living a "three-planet lifestyle", consuming resources at triple the rate the Earth can renew them, according to wildlife campaigners.
WWF's biennial Living Planet report said each person is using the equivalent of six football pitches of resources to support the way we live.
It said Britain had risen from 15th to 14th place among countries with the largest ecological "footprint" - placing the greatest demands on the natural world.
WWF estimated that Scotland was doing only slightly better than the UK as a whole.
Dr Richard Dixon, the director of WWF Scotland, said: "Somebody else, somewhere else, is paying the price of our consumption rates in Scotland, whether it is the rainforest in Brazil, the hippo in Uganda or the Savannah of South America."
The group said the world's natural ecosystems were being degraded at a rate unprecedented in human history. On current projections, this means that as a whole, humanity will need at least two planets' worth of natural resources by 2050.
The report said humanity's ecological footprint was 25 per cent greater than the planet's annual ability to provide everything from food to energy and recycle all human waste in 2003. The figure has increased from 21 per cent five years ago.
James Leape, WWF's director general, said: "We are in serious ecological overshoot. The consequences of this are predictable and dire.
"For more than 20 years, we have exceeded the earth's ability to support a consumptive life-style that is unsustainable and we cannot afford to continue down this path.
"If everyone around the world lived as those in America, we would need five planets to support us."
WWF said forests and fisheries will eventually be harvested to such a degree that they might disappear altogether.
The report showed there was a one-third decline in the populations of more than 1,300 fish, bird and animal species between 1970 and 2003.
It said the loss of natural habitat to farming has been particularly acute in the tropics. Pollution, tree-felling and over-fishing were major factors elsewhere, with climate change-causing fossil fuels the fastest-growing factor.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency said the report backed its own study, published this month, which highlighted evidence of dramatic environmental changes.
Chris Spray, its director of science, said: "Even if you don't agree with what we have said, or what WWF is saying, it's important that we talk about the issues and priorities for our future."
The Scottish Green Party said Scotland's "dismal record" on the environment was "depressing but not surprising".
Mark Ruskell, its environment spokesman, said: "Limited progress in areas such as recycling is more than cancelled out by the Executive's insistence on building the Glasgow M74 and Aberdeen bypass and backing the aviation industry, despite the pollution these will create.
"Ministers should be climate-proofing all policies, halting the expansion of motorways and airports, and prioritising support for the renewables industry."
A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said: "We are aware of the importance of living within environmental limits and we're committed to building a sustainable future.
"Our sustainable development strategy highlights the priorities we give to tackling the challenges of sustainable development."
COUNTRIES with the largest ecological footprint per person are the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Finland, Canada, Kuwait, Australia, Estonia, Sweden, New Zealand and Norway. Denmark, France and Belgium/Luxembourg were also placed ahead of Britain, in 14th place.
At the other end of the scale, Afghanistan had the smallest footprint, followed by Somalia, Bangladesh, Malawi and Haiti.
Turkey was the European country with the smallest footprint.
China was ranked 69th, but WWF said its size and rapid economic growth make it a key player in the sustainable use of the world's resources. WWF welcomed its pledge to cut energy consumption by a fifth over the next five years.
Species under threat
THE most under-pressure species include the swordfish, African bullfrog, pictured, and the South African Cape vulture. Those bucking the trend include rising populations of the Javan rhinoceros and the northern hairy-nosed wombat in Australia.
But species in some habitats have declined far faster than the average 30 per cent fall from 1970 to 2003. Tropical terrestrial species are down by 55 per cent, although temperate species are fairly stable.
The report also says mangroves - tidal forests - which provide nurseries for 85 per cent of commercial fish in the tropics, were cut by a third in the decade to 2000.
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