Before the industrial age the CO2 levels stood at 280 parts per million. In 2004 it was 379 ppm. This change has occurred at least 10 times faster than any increase in the last 500,000 years.
Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, World Meteorological Association and UNEP
Increase in Pesticide Use There is considerable evidence that widely used pesticides may suppress immune responses to bacteria, viruses, parasites, and tumors, making people significantly more vulnerable to disease. 99% of Americans, including all children born in recent years, had DDT residues, a pesticide banned since 1972! Source: World Resources Institute
Increase in Heavy Metals 98,000 pounds of mercury are emitted by hundreds of coal-burning plants across the U.S.A. When mercury-contaminated effluent seeps into rivers, a compound named methylmercury, a neurotoxin, forms which is highly toxic to human cognitive function and of course to the fish.
Increase in Flame Retardants PBDE concentrations in the ringed seal, native to Canada, are doubling every 4 to 5 years Source: Ikonomou, Rayne and Addison
Dividing the 11.2 billion hectares available by the global population indicates that there are on average 1.8 bio-productive hectares per person on the planet.
The 2004 Living Planet Report indicates that the actual usage was 13.5 billion global hectares or 2.2 hectares per person – more than a 20% overshoot. The overshoot result indicates that our annual draw down of natural capital is liquidating natural capital income, as well as reducing natural capital itself.
Time series of the global Ecological Footprint indicate that human activities have been in an overshoot position for approximately three decades, and the overshoot is increasing over time.
Empirically demonstrating that ecological overshoot is now occurring by a significant margin is a major contribution to our understanding that we are exceeding sustainable ecological scale on a global level, and by roughly how much.
The implications of these results are even more urgent when we realize that the Ecological Footprint is likely an underestimate of the actual demands we place on the earth’s ecosystems.
Until recently, birth rates and death rates were about the same, keeping the population stable. People had many children, but a large number of them died before age five.
During the Industrial Revolution, a period of history in Europe and North America where there were great advances in science and technology, the success in reducing death rates was attributable to several factors:
In-creases in food production and distribution;
Improvement in public health (water and sanitation);
Medical technology (antibiotics); and
Gains in education and standards of living within many developing nations.
Without these attributes present in many children's lives, they could not have survived common diseases like measles or the flu. People were able to fight and cure deadly germs that once killed them.
Technology allowed people to produce more and different kinds of food. These discoveries and inventions spread throughout the world, lowering death rates and improving the quality of life for most people.
The ‘big’ issue is not only the increasing population, but how much each of these individuals demand.
Despite rising consumption in the developing world, industrial countries remain responsible for the bulk of the world’s resource consumption—as well as the associated global environmental degradation.
Consumption patterns of Western countries is extremely high as you will have seen by undertaking your own ecological footprint, however the demand of many millions of people from developing countries such as India and China are striving to catch up with the Western world.
“ By virtually any measure—household expenditures, number of consumers, extraction of raw materials—consumption of goods and services has risen steadily in industrial nations for decades, and it is growing rapidly in many developing countries.”
The United States, with less than 5 % of the global population, uses about a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources—burning up nearly 25 % of the coal, 26 % of the oil, and 27 % of the world’s natural gas.
As of 2008, New Zealanders own 3.8 million cars. As of 18.12.08 there are 4,291,000 people. That means there are almost as many cars as there are people in NZ
New houses in the U.S. were 38 % bigger in 2002 than in 1975, despite having fewer people per household on average.