"How Many Planets Do We Need?"
Published in the Namib Times, 9 April 2013.
By Marcia Stanton
It is time we rethink our addiction to limitless growth. We are using the planet like a credit card, selfishly withdrawing too much while leaving the debt for future generations to cope with.
The environment is a global commons which people often exploit in order to increase their own maximum individual benefit. Meanwhile the greater global impact gets ignored. As a result, we are over using our earth’s resources. In fact we are currently using the resources at a rate of 30% more than what can be regenerated.
According to the Global Footprint Network, at our existing worldwide rate of resource use, we need 1 ½ planets to sustain the present level of development and consumption. If global resource use continues to expand at the modern rate, then we will need 3 planets to sustain the earth’s population in 2050.
Presently Namibia needs 1.15 planets to sustain itself, meaning that as a whole the Namibian population is not living sustainably. In future, Namibia could become even more unsustainable if our goal is to develop in the same manner as the first world. European countries need nearly 3 planets and the United States needs about 4 planets to sustain their population at existing rates of development and consumption.
Clearly something has to give as we only have 1 planet. Some 40% of all living species on Earth are at risk of going extinct and 20% of all freshwater species have gone extinct due to human activities. If the present rate of soil damage continues, we have only about 60 years of topsoil left in the entire world for growing food. Currently, 40% of human deaths are caused by environmental pollution. The worst impacted are the poor who have far less access to resources including health care.
The writing is on the wall. Our present limitless growth will lead to the mass suffering of future generations. They will not be able to sustain themselves from the damaged planet we are leaving them unless we make serious changes now and look at truly sustainable options for development. Although “sustainable development” seems to be the latest buzz word, few people grasp the true meaning. Sustainable development is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
In order to live truly sustainably, then we need a paradigm shift in how we think and behave. We must take pressure off of the planet’s resources by lowering our consumption and population and increasing resource efficiency. We must limit our use of non-renewable resources such as oil, coal, natural gas, uranium, phosphates, and other minerals. We should sustainably make use of renewable resources such as solar energy, air, wind, water, soil and plants.
It is time for us all to make changes in order for future generations to survive. After all, "the earth is not ours; it is a treasure we hold in trust for our children and their children." - African Proverb