Humans are using 73% more natural resources than the Earth produces in a year, study reveals

The more than 7.5 billion people living on Earth are using nearly 73 percent more natural resources than the Earth produces in a year, a study has found.

A new report looks at the deficit in the world’s ‘biocapacity’ – the ability of the ecosystem to generate natural resources – compared to human demand. 

And joint researchers from the US and Sir Lanka found that wealthy countries are fueling the problem by living out of their means – gobbling up resources and condemning the poorer majority of people to ‘ecological poverty’.

For a country to maintain its population, it needs to either have enough resources to match people’s ecological footprint or the funds to buy from other nations.

Researchers determined that in 1980, the world was using 119 percent its annual biocapacity. 

But by 2017, the amount had increased by 54 percent – pushing the total to 173 percent.

The increase, according to the study, stems from wealthier nations with higher standards of living requiring more resources to sustain such lifestyles.

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Lower income nations (red and pink) spent 96% of the planet’s biocapacity in 2017, yet lived in nations with only 34 %of the world’s biocapacity While higher-income countries (green and light green) make up 14% of the world population and used 52% of the planet’s biocapacity

The study, published in Nature Sustainability, provides an example of over spending Earth’s biocapacity with a forest that matured over 50 years.

If the trees are cut down at a two percent rate per year, the forest would be cleared of matured trees within 25 years – and this is what experts are witnessing the our real world.  

Researchers compared the biological capacity of a country to its consumption footprint, the area needed to produce the materials consumed, and found 72 percent of the population living in low-income countries used more resources that it had in 2017.

This group spent 96 percent of the planet’s biocapacity in 2017, yet lived in nations with only 34 percent of the world’s biocapacity

The report looks at the deficit in the world's 'biocapacity' ¿ the ability of the ecosystem to generate natural resources - compared to human demand. It found lower incomes lived in a biocapacity deficit compared to higher income nations

The report looks at the deficit in the world’s ‘biocapacity’ – the ability of the ecosystem to generate natural resources – compared to human demand. It found lower incomes lived in a biocapacity deficit compared to higher income nations

While higher-income countries make up 14 percent of the world population, these nations used 52 percent of the planet’s biocapacity.

‘Countries in the highest per-person income bracket also are among the countries with the highest per-person resource requirements, often far beyond what can be replicated worldwide,’ researchers wrote.

Biocapacity explained

What is biocapacity?

The capacity of ecosystems to produce natural resources to meet human demand and to absorb waste materials generated by humans.

What is biocapacity deficit?

This happens when the footprint of a population exceeds an ecosystem’s capacity of resources that are available for the population.

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