Pursuit of a ‘good life’ is exhausting the Earth’s environmental resources

We are increasingly aware of our unsustainable practices. The long-term impact is becoming more and more evident all the time. Tom Bawden writes a good article in the i newspaper in Britain about some of that impact. What are your views?


Britain is using far more than its share of world’s resources

The average Briton is using more than three times their share of the world’s resources as they work through 24 tonnes of crops, trees, minerals and fossil fuels a year.

A new study warns that increasing global demand for consumer products and a better lifestyle is using up key environmental resources at an alarming rate – and points to wealthy countries such as the UK, Spain and the US as being among the worst offenders.

It found that out of the 150 nations assessed not one of those that was able to provide a ‘good life’ for its citizens is doing so without unsustainable use of resources.

“I was both worried and surprised by the results of this study which is very much a wake-up call for sustainability,” said the study’s lead author, Daniel O’Neill, of Leeds University.

“We expected out of 150 countries there would be at least one we could hold up as a shining star example – giving their people a good life and doing well on the environment. But there wasn’t,” he added.

“We have to totally redesign the way we transform resources into wellbeing – both physically and in terms of how we organise our societies. That is something we will be looking at,” Dr O’Neill said. In search of the good life.

The global pursuit of a ‘good life’ has put the world in danger of using phosphorous and nitrogen – essential for plant and animal growth – at six times the sustainable level at some point in the future.

Meanwhile, the global use of crops, trees, minerals and fossil fuels – or ‘material footprint’ -could eventually rise as high as four times the sustainable rate. This measures the volume of resources needed to produce the food, consumer goods, utilities and services we consume and is currently at 1.3 times the sustainable rate.

Mike Barrett, director of science and policy at WWF said: “Nature is in decline and we are the cause. We are facing the first mass extinction of wildlife since the demise of the dinosaurs — driven by our consumption. “We know what we need to do to protect the planet. We need to tackle carbon emissions, transform the food system and protect the places where wildlife thrives,” he added.

Britain’s material footprint of 24.3 tonnes of crops, trees, minerals and fossil fuels is 3.4 times the sustainable level. It is below the US, on 27.2 tonnes, and Spain at 25.7 tonnes but well below Russia.


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