How many Earths do Swedes need?

3:08 min

Swedes are consuming at such a high rate that they need four earths to sustain them, not one. WWF's Living Planet report reveals overconsumption as one of several human activities that has impacted planetary wildlife.

The Living Planet report is published every two years on how our consumption affects the Earth's wildlife and resources.

The report, which is a collaboration between conservation group WWF and the Zoological Society of London, says that global wildlife populations have fallen by almost 60% since 1970 levels.

It warns that, if the trend continues, the number of wild animals living on Earth will fall by two-thirds by 2020, with animals living in freshwater environments such as lakes, rivers and wetlands suffering the biggest losses.

The data compiled by scientists says that human activity, the destruction of wild habitats (mainly for farming), hunting and pollution were to blame.

The findings are based on long-term monitoring of some 3,700 vertebrate species spread across more than 14,000 distinct populations around the globe.

Professor Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, wrote in a foreword to the report that we have reached a tipping point.

“We are no longer a small world on a big planet. We are now a big world on a small planet, where we have reached a saturation point.”

WWF's general secretary in Sweden, Håkan Wirtén, told Swedish Radio News that halting the losses needs a change in how we consume resources.

He said Sweden ranks poorly in overconsumption tables, particularly meat.

"We have a large import based consumption, often with fossil-based production. We have a high meat consumption, also from imports. Therefore Sweden remains poorly placed in this league," he said.

"If everyone would live as Swedes do, it would reportedly require 4.2 globes. We therefore take more resources than when the last report came out two years ago when we lived as if there were 3,7 globes."

However, he said there are signs of improvement, with a global climate agreement and another on sustainability.

"They are both very important," Wirtén said. "But at the same time it's about moving from words to action."

WWF is also calling for Sweden to set goals for how to reduce the impact of its consumption abroad.

"I think we should look at food production, in particular food consumption. We want that the government to develop a strategy to halve meat consumption which constitutes a large part of the human impact and emissions," Wirtén said.

"A large part of our footprint in Sweden is about our travelling. There, we would like to see a stop to sales of new cars that run on fossil fuels as soon as possible, why not by 2025," Wirtén said.

Meanwhile, WWF's Director General Marco Lambertini told the AFP news agency that  "wildlife is disappearing within our lifetimes at an unprecedented rate". 

"We should not be deceived into thinking humanity can do without," he added.

"Biodiversity forms the foundation of healthy forests, rivers and oceans. Take away the species, and these ecosystems collapse, along with clean air, water, food and climate services they provide us."