[OPE] The environmentalist case for austerity - a view from Down Under

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Date: Thu Oct 30 2008 - 16:16:53 EDT

New Zealanders' love for cars is contributing to our huge ecological footprint, which per person is now ranked sixth largest in the world. A WWF Living Planet Report released yesterday shows that only the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Kuwait, Denmark and Australia have larger per capita ecological footprints than New Zealand.

The report, regarded as the leading statement on the planet's health, differs from measuring just our carbon footprint by including not just what the country consumes in resources, but how much waste is generated and its impact on the natural environment. Globally the report showed that more than three-quarters of the world's people now live in nations which are ecological debtors, where national consumption has outstripped a country's biological capacity.

However, because New Zealand has a relatively small population for the country's physical size it is not yet in eco-debt, with a bio-capacity still up to half greater than our footprint. Chris Howe, WWF-New Zealand executive director, said our global consumption was increasing and biodiversity declining. New Zealand moved from requiring 5.9 global hectares per person in the 2006 report (based on 2003 data) to an average of 7.7 global hectares per person (based on 2005 data).

Mr Howe said a global hectare was a hectare with world-average ability to produce resources and absorb wastes. Worldwide, the average ecological footprint jumped from 2.2 global hectares per person to 2.7 global hectares per person. The planet could afford just 2.1 global hectares per person and humans were now exceeding the planet's regenerative capacity by about 30 per cent. Mr Howe said the report warned that if demands on the planet continued at the same rate by the mid-2030s we would need two planets to sustain our lifestyles. "And if everyone on Earth used resources at the same pace as New Zealanders do we would require over three and a half planets to sustain our way of life."

Complete text: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/environment/news/article.cfm?c_id=39&objectid=10540083

The Report: http://assets.wwf.ca/downloads/lpr_2008.pdf

I'm not really sure about the statistical reasoning here - on what basis could you estimate "regenerative capacity" (supposed to have been exceeded in the mid-1990s) accurately? What theoretical presuppositions are really involved? It seems to be an argument along the lines of "if present trends continue", but obviously they will not, as the new long recession reduces per capita consumption. As against that, I tend to think that reduced economic growth will make all ecological problems worse, insofar as people bereft of the wherewithal to survive tend to care less about environmental concerns, not more. Still, if people consumer less, it might force a change in social values about what is really important in life.


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Received on Thu Oct 30 16:20:59 2008

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