At the rate we’re going, we’ll need 1.5 Earths to sustain humanity … (Today Friday 22 June 2012)

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At the rate we’re going; we’ll need 1.5 Earths to sustain humanity …

June Yang

What does that mean?

Singapore – The Living Planet 2012 report, released last week by the WWF, noted that with humanity’s current rate of consumption, we would need 1.5 Earths’ worth of natural resources to keep going.

They arrived at this number by looking at the ecological footprint of the average human being.

The ecological footprint is expressed in terms of how much ecologically active area is needed to sustain the resources a person uses. The unit used is GHA, global hectares, which is one biologically productive hectare with average productivity.

In 2008, the Earth’s total biocapacity – the ability to regenerate resources that are used up – was calculated to be 18.2 gHa, or 2.7 gHa per person.

This essentially means we are using up the Earth’s resources one-and-a-half times faster than the planet can regenerate them.


How does S’pore fare?

More than two-thirds of a Singaporean’s ecological footprint comes from carbon emissions: that means not just electricity used and transportation fuel, but also in material goods consumption. If you buy something that was made in a factory, it has a carbon footprint.

Also, Singapore has one of the lowest per-capita biocapacities in the world.

We are densely populated, and have very little land and scarce natural resources. Hence, we import the bulk of our resources, be it food, energy or raw materials.

All this means that per person, Singaporeans leave the 12th biggest ecological footprint in the world, of 6.10 gHa per person (see graphic on right). That’s far ahead of the likes of France (23rd), Britain (27th) and South Korea (29th).

This takes into account things like the electricity we use, the foodw e eat, the amount of goods we buy and throw away.

If everybody on Earth lived like the average Singaporean we would need 3.5 plant Earths to sustain us.


How does this matter to me on a daily basis?

The weight of our carbon footprint: The impact of global warming in Singapore.

The average surface temperature in Singapore has risen from 26.8 degrees celcius in 1948 to 27.6 degrees celcius in 2011. The sea level in Straits of Singapore has risen 3mm per year, every year, in past 15 years alone.

We will also expect more extreme weather patterns – that means more rain and heavier rains in addition to hotter weather.

And that means more potential for flooding.


Yikes, so what can I do to reduce my ecological footprint?

Buy energy-efficient appliances for your home.

Cut down on material consumption. Buy less, throw away less, recycle more.

Choose wood and paper products that have the FSC mark: These products come from responsibly managed forests.

Eat seafood from properly-managed populations. WWF has released a Singapore seafood guide ( to tell consumers what is safe, what is dubious and what is to be avoided. For example:

Safe: Pacific salmon, squid from Malaysia, abalone from Australia

Think twice: Atlantic salmon, silver pomfret, abalone from China

Avoid: Bluefin tuna, tiger prawn, all shark products

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