Thursday, December 6, 2007

Accumulating Waste

In my previous analyses, I assumed a constant biocapacity – the total available amount of bio-productive land on Earth – equal to its 2003 value (as stated in the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report 2006, where much of my data comes from). In fact, biocapacity has been growing, though much slower than the global ecological footprint (an accrued 0.5 percent per year since 1961, versus 2.8 percent for the footprint).

When the great die-off of other species started, the ratio of available resources to total biocapacity was 18 percent. Since the late 1980s, humans have exceeded the available biocapacity; and like trash piling up in the street because the trash collectors are out sick, the difference remains unprocessed. By 1999, the amount of unprocessed waste equaled our ecological footprint, and by 2005 the unprocessed waste was double the resources we consumed in a year (currently the ratio is about 2.5).

If every hectare had the biological productivity of an average hectare in 2003, it would take the entire surface area of the Earth (including the oceans) to process the waste we will have accumulated by 2010. By 2014, we will need 1.5 Earths to process our waste; this is the year my projections show the populations of other species crashing. By 2021, as our own population peaks, we will need three Earths to process 6.3 times our annual consumption.

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