Airdate: Apr 11, 2002
Scientist: Mathis Wackernagel, PHD
Ecological Footprint: Overshoot
Humanity is expending the natural resources of our planet faster than they can be regenerated.
ambience: wetlands dawn
What happens when you spend more than you earn? Well, some scientists say that's exactly what's happening here on Earth -- human beings are taking more resources from planet Earth than nature can renew or we can somehow replace. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Dr. Mathis Wachernagel is with the global sustainability group Redefining Progress.
"When we track how much we use as humanity, compared to how much capacity we have on the planet, what we see is that we are actually using more than what nature can renew. This is possible because we can cut forests more rapidly than timber regrows, or we can fish more rapidly than fish will replenish, or we can draw on water supplies and groundwater more rapidly than it renews -- and all that we call ecological overshoot. We liquidate our ecological capital."
New technologies such as satellite imagery have helped ecologists get a pretty good idea of how much of the natural world remains today. But Wachernagel says that careful analysis shows our planet is clearly being overtaxed by human consumption. It seems the human race is "running in the red".
"Worldwide, we use about thirty percent more than what nature can renew. That means it would take about one year and four months to regenerate everything we use during one year. We can do that for some tim - like we can spend some more money than we earn for some time - but somebody has to pay the bill, and thatâ€™s what weâ€™re concerned about."
We'll hear more about the cost of living on earth in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.