A recent study reveals that the high resource consumption by wealthy countries, is forcing poorer nations into ‘ecological poverty’.

Human beings use 73 percent more natural resources than the Earth can produce in a year, according to a recent study carried out by American and Sri Lankan researchers.

The demand for natural resources has increasingly exceeded the Earth’s biological rate of regeneration, said the research published in Nature Sustainability.

The research found that the issue is driven by rich countries’ high resource consumption, which is forcing the world’s poorer countries into “ecological poverty”. 

Extensive resource extraction is also accelerating ocean acidification, groundwater depletion and environmental deterioration.

The capacity of ecosystems to renew biomass, or “biocapacity”, has become the material bottleneck for the human economy, the study said. It found that national economies are unequally exposed to such biocapacity constraints.

The number of people living in countries with both biocapacity deficits and below-average income has been growing in recent years. In order to maintain its population, a nation needs to have either enough natural resources to match people’s ecological footprint or enough export replacements from other countries.

By 2017, the world was using 173 percent of its annual biocapacity, compared to 1980 when it was 119 percent.

Wealthier nations with higher standards of living have caused a 54 percent rise in using natural resources over nearly four decades.

Wealthy countries exploiting resources to sustain high standards of living have eliminated the chance of poorer countries being able to eradicate poverty in their societies, the researchers said.

“Low income thwarts these economies’ ability to compete for needed resources on the global market,” the report wrote. It emphasised that nearly 72 percent of humanity lived in lower-income countries as of 2017.

“This trend not only erodes their possibilities for maintaining progress but also eliminates their chances for eradicating poverty, a situation we call an ‘ecological poverty trap’.”

All countries, representing over 99 percent of the world’s population, were plotted onto a four  dimensional space according to their income level and biocapacity reserve.

In the low income (L) and biocapacity reserve (R) quadrant (LR), the high income (H) and (R) quadrant (HR), and the (H) and biocapacity deficit (D) quadrant (HD), no patterns between GDP and net biocapacity seem to emerge.
In the low income (L) and biocapacity reserve (R) quadrant (LR), the high income (H) and (R) quadrant (HR), and the (H) and biocapacity deficit (D) quadrant (HD), no patterns between GDP and net biocapacity seem to emerge. (TRTWorld)

In 2017, two percent of the world’s population were in countries with high incomes and biocapacity reserves, while 14 percent lived in low income and biocapacity reserve states.

When it comes to people who live where both a biocapacity deficit and below-average income are the norm, their number has been increasing steadily from 2.5 billion in 1980, to 5.4 billion in 2017, displaying a rate of population growth far above the world average.

The weight of the LD quadrant in global ecological footprint becomes even more apparent as the number of people living in the LD quadrant reached 72 percent of the total population.

“Collectively, LD countries’ demand alone corresponds to 96 percent of the planet’s biocapacity. By contrast, the HD quadrant, accommodating 14 percent of the world population, used 52% of the planet’s biocapacity,” the report added.

Researchers also outlined some suggestions to maintain equilibrium between resource availability and demand.

In order to preserve biocapacity, there should be a focus on conservation, restoration and regenerative use.

By constructing and designing efficient buildings, cities could become more integrated and compact, which would reduce transport needs.

Renewable energy should be replaced with fossil fuels which boost energy efficiency.

Food production and distribution should also be improved, with a particular emphasis placed on reducing consumption of animal-based products. Food demand alone accounts for 50 percent of the Earth’s biocapacity.

The final solution offered is to encourage smaller families, as the number of people sharing the planet has a determinative impact on biocapacity.

Source: TRT World