Britain now 'eating the planet'

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Stella, Apr 15, 2006.

  1. Stella macrumors G3


    Apr 21, 2003

    The UK is about to run out of its own natural resources and become dependent on supplies from abroad, a report says.

    A study by the New Economics Foundation (Nef) and the Open University says 16 April is the day when the nation goes into "ecological debt" this year.

    It warns if annual global consumption levels matched the UK's, it would take 3.1 Earths to meet the demand.

    But bio-geography professor Philip Stott criticised the "doomsday report", arguing it would hit poorer nations.

    "What we tend to have - not just with this report but alternative reports on the other side - are two theological positions," said Prof Stott, of London University.

    "This one is the kind of Doomsday report - on the other hand the total free-traders are far too optimistic."

    He went on: "If we did follow this report for example the damage to the Third World would be very great indeed because of course trade is the main dynamo of growth."

    In 1961, the symbolic "ecological debt day" was 9 July; in 1981, it had shifted forward two months to 14 May.

    The authors of the UK Interdependence Report hope to highlight the need to curb rising consumption levels.

    'Eyes bigger than planet'

    Nef policy director Andrew Simms says this year's debt day shows that the UK's growing demand for goods and services is having an impact on the rest of the world.


    In 1961, the Earth could have supported everyone having a UK lifestyle
    It would take 3.1 planets to support the current UK lifestyle
    "On one level, there is absolutely nothing wrong with importing goods and services, but our eyes are bigger than the planet.

    "The problem is that we want to have our planet and eat it and not think about the consequences," Mr Simms said.

    The findings are based on the concept of "ecological footprints", a system of measuring how much land and water a human population needs to produce the resources it consumes and absorb the resulting waste.

    The report, produced by Nef and the Open University's geography department, uses a number of examples that it says illustrate how resources are being wasted, including:

    In 2004, the UK exported 1,500 tonnes of fresh potatoes to Germany, and imported 1,500 tonnes of the same product from the same country
    Imported 465 tonnes of gingerbread, but exported 460 tonnes of the same produce
    Sent 10,200 tonnes of milk and cream to France, yet imported 9,900 tonnes of the dairy goods from France
    The authors say this shows how current trade systems are inefficient at a time when there is concern over energy supplies and greenhouse gas emissions.

    "If you do not have the right signals within the economy to tell you when you are doing something very environmentally wasteful, then you cannot expect it to stop," says Mr Simms, the report's lead author.

    "Lifestyles in Britain are becoming increasingly unsustainable and are placing an ever larger burden on the global environmental system."

    The UK's food self-sufficiency has been falling steadily for more than a decade, and indigenous food production is now said to be at its lowest level for half a century.

    In 2004, the UK lost its energy independent status when it became a net importer of gas following lower returns from the North Sea fields.

    At a global level, the world is also living beyond ecosystems' ability to supply the resources and absorb the demands being placed upon them.

    This year's ecological debt day for the world is 23 October.

    In the future, it is expected to be even earlier as emerging economies, such as China and India, demand more resources to meet changing lifestyles.

    "The earlier it creeps in the year, the more you are permanently running down the Earth's environmental capital.

    "The problem is that we are not clever enough to know at what point we will see a crash within eco-systems," Mr Simms told the BBC News website.

    "While you are not living within the planet's limits and are eroding ecosystems, and the earlier the ecological day falls in the year, the greater the risk of a system crash."

    Mr Simms said developed nations had a responsibility to share their experience and knowledge with developing nations in order to limit the impact on the environment.

    However, he added, despite the sharp rise in economic growth in the emerging economies, their consumption levels were still far behind developed nations.

    Give and take

    Steve Bettison, from the free-market think tank, Adam Smith Institute, described the report as "an interesting concept" but questioned its findings on market inefficiencies.

    Potato exports to Germany equal what Germany sends to the UK
    "The only inefficiencies in the market place are those that relate to government intervention and that do not allow for free trade to occur, such as tariffs on agricultural products, or protectionist measures."

    Mr Bettison said market forces were the best way to control consumption of the world's finite resources: "The usual 'supply and demand' economics will govern where these resources are used.

    "This would also drive human ingenuity as people strive to develop new ideas to take up where previous resource supplies have waned," he told the BBC News website.

    UK generation - you choose
    Electricity calculator
    "It would be interesting to see how the rest of the world is dependent on the services and resources that we have developed over time.

    "Whilst we take, we also give - something that seems to have been forgotten."

    Andrew Simms said the report was not calling for the UK's borders to be closed because there were many benefits, both economic and cultural, to be gained from closer ties with other nations.

    The report builds on previous studies that have used "ecological footprint" measurements, such as the WWF's "one planet living" campaign.

    It also echoes last year's Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the most comprehensive survey ever into the state of the planet. It concluded that human activities threatened the Earth's ability to sustain future generations.

    Nef and the Open University hope the "ecological debt day" will be used as an annual yardstick to measure the health of the planet.
  2. edesignuk Moderator emeritus


    Mar 25, 2002
    London, England
    Whether it be sensationalist crap, or stone cold fact, it's not good :(

    Even if t isn't neciseraly true now, it's only going to be a matter of time.

    Bollocks eh.
  3. Thomas Veil macrumors 68020

    Thomas Veil

    Feb 14, 2004
    OBJECTIVE reality
    It'd be nice to know that we Americans aren't the only resource-pigs on the planet...if it weren't so dire. :(
  4. Danksi macrumors 68000


    Oct 3, 2005
    Nelson, BC. Canada
    I saw a statistic somewhere, that suggested the UK was more densely populated than China (Canada was the least) in terms of people/

    It should be hardly surprising to anyone living in the UK or visiting that it's turning into a real 'keeping up with the jones'' kind of place. What do we do these days, manufacturing, farming? Nope we shop....
  5. Dagless Suspended


    Jan 18, 2005
    Fighting to stay in the EU
    It is a pretty full country. I mean I live in the countryside, farms, people, roads galore. I went up to the moors yesterday and for the first time ever I heard --nothing--. Pure silence. Only had this during the wee hours of the morning. but to be in the blazing sun and not hearing a thing. heaven.

    I suppose one of the contributors is the weather. It's still damn cold in England, especially at night. the sun may be poking out and temperatures are rising, but pretty much ever household in the UK has been trying to keep warm over the past 8 months.

    I keep on going over what was said in Doctor Who. About how this new prime minister brought us into the next "golden age". I know thats all sci-fi, but I would love for us to get into a golden age. Solar panels left right and bloomin centre, wind farms (regardless of what old people in villages want), tidal power stations, use more damns as power suppliers. hell! go NUCLEAR. get electric cars in the mainstream market. f**k the Jeremy Clarksons of the world.

    I'm scared something big is going to happen in my life time. Be it a super volcano, ice caps or natural resources. and it's stupid how nobody seems to care about that. barring the volcano, of course.
  6. Danksi macrumors 68000


    Oct 3, 2005
    Nelson, BC. Canada
    ... don't worry too much, we'll have relocated to Mars by then. :rolleyes:

    There's been so much talk about meeting demand, but little talk/action/education about reducing demand. How many company's leave their PC's, lights on at the office over night? How many houses leave TV's on standby (using 80% of the power still), poorly insulated and have the heating set to balmy t-shirt comfort temps (lower the temps - wear more clothes!)

    My parents live in Northern Scotland and are a little worried, they're retired, pensioners, seen their heating oil bill triple in the past 18-months and it won't get any better. They're always looking for ways of making their house more efficient, within their budget.
  7. DerChef macrumors 6502


    Apr 29, 2005
    Northern Ireland
    Our local TV did a little experiment with a family's consumption of Food, water , energy and what waste they produced.:cool:

    They said if everybody on the planet lived like them it would need 6 1/2 planet earths to accomodate everybody:eek:
  8. tristan macrumors 6502a

    Jul 19, 2003
    high-rise in beautiful bethesda
    I guess "eating the planet" sounds more frightening than "importing more raw materials".
  9. Nickygoat macrumors 6502a


    Dec 11, 2004
    Yup - the UK has 244 people per km² and China 133.
    Canada is not quite bottom (3.36) - that's Australia (not bottom but you wouldn't want to live in any of the others) at 2.47.
    Interesting statistical linkety

    We are living in an unsustainable way and far too many people either can't see it or don't care.
    Losing energy independence threatens us far more than any of Our Dear Leaders current obsessions.
  10. miloblithe macrumors 68020


    Nov 14, 2003
    Washington, DC
    Population density isn't really the issue. The UK is predominately great land with abundant resources. Australia is full of pretty crappy land. China runs the extremes.

    I wonder how long ago the US started consuming far more than it could possibly produce.
  11. mactastic macrumors 68040


    Apr 24, 2003
    Ummmm.... 1650-ish?
  12. Stella thread starter macrumors G3


    Apr 21, 2003
    We are so wasteful of energy - go into any large town or city and see how many lights are left on in office buildings, for starters... I'm not going to get started out petrol guzzling cars etc. If people had to pay the real price for energy, we would be a lot better off - individual's energy consumption would immediately plummet, for the better.

    Each person's way of live must change, unfortunately we ( *most* ) are unwilling to do so.

    Our present actions may not affect us today, but certainly will affect our children and their children. Wars being fought over scarce resources - food ( as crops fail due to the environment ), water etc ; hey, wars are being fought over oil today... and still we won't change our life styles - what we see today is only the beginning.

    Alternative fuel's are a long way off and it doesn't help that industries - such as the Oil - are suppressing alternative energy, *today*, that could benefit the stability of the world. They have a lot of answer for, but then, so do the common people as well, as we waste energy, don't recycle as much as we should etc.


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