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15 May 2012

SA's ecological footprint has grown

South Africa's ecological footprint, or its demand on natural ecosystems, has increased in the last two years, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-SA) said.

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South Africa's ecological footprint, or its demand on natural ecosystems, has increased in the last two years, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-SA) said on Tuesday.

Each local citizen was consuming natural resources to the value of 2.59 global hectares, up from 2.32 hectares in 2010, chief executive officer Morné du Plessis told reporters at the launch of the Living Planet Report in Cape Town.

He said this was under the global average of 2.7 global hectares, measured in 2008.

What is an ecological footprint?

An ecological footprint referred to measuring how much biologically productive land and water a person needed in order to absorb their waste and produce all the resources they consumed.

The biggest component of South Africa's footprint was the amount of land needed to offset carbon emissions. The country had an over-reliance on fossil fuels, burning mostly coal for electricity.

Carbon offsets were also the biggest component of the global footprint at 55%, followed by croplands.

In Africa, the three countries with the highest footprint were Mauritius, Mauritania and Botswana. South Africa was in fourth position.

The countries with the three highest footprints in the world were Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The Living Planet Index, which tracked over 2 600 mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species, showed that there had been a 30 percent decrease in animal populations since 1970.

Du Plessis said the globe was consuming a lot quicker than it was producing.

"We are living as if we have an extra planet at our disposal. We are using 50 percent more resources than the Earth can sustainably produce and unless we change course... by 2030 even two planets will not be enough." - (Sapa, May 2012)

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