To meet global demand, requires one Earth and a half: the demand for raw materials of mankind is 50% higher than the regenerating capacity of natural systems. To remind us of this is the Living Planet Report, the document published every two years by the WWF (which is now in its tenth edition) that reports the state of health of the Planet and the consumption of resources.
The report points out that since 1970 the populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles on the planet fell by 52%, while the carbon footprint – the amount of resources consumed by man – continues to grow. The survey shows that the greatest threat to biodiversity is caused by human activities such as fishing, hunting and climate change. We spoke with Gianfranco Bologna, the Scientific Director of WWF Italy.
Can you summarize briefly the purpose of the Living Planet Report?
We want to spread and promote One Planet Perspective: There is only one Planet, and we must protect it. Yet in less than two generations, on the contrary, the size of populations of vertebrate species have been halved. These life forms constitute the fabric of ecosystems, and therefore represent a barometer of what we are doing to our planet. Ours is an urgent call to action, and we can no longer wait, because in 2050, according to the latest forecasts of the United Nations, there will be 9.2 billion people on Earth. Sustainable social and economic development must be within the limits of the biosphere: life, for all we know so far, only exists in this thin end of the universe. Our production model cannot be separated from natural capital.
What sort of influence will the disappearance of biodiversity have on the food we eat?
Clearly the two are closely connected, although it is not easy to indicate precise commodities at risk of disappearing, because the variables are many. For some ingredients, such as palm oil, whose production methods are highly destructive for tropical forests, it has been necessary to produce a work table with businesses that identify rigorous criteria for the production chain.
What opportunity do you think Expo Milano 2015 represents on these matters?
We will participate at Expo Milano 2015 as representatives of civil society with a program articulated on the theme of the Exhibition, called One Planet Food.
We will present several reports on the environmental impacts of food chains. But beyond the various manifestos that we or others present, the importance of this great moment of reflection is that there will also be precise guidelines and operational policies. During the next World Food Day, on October 16, 2015, the closing year of the Millennium Goals of the United Nations, the President Ban Ki-Moon will confirm the importance of adding value to natural capital that is based on agricultural systems, rich soil and resources of the sea. It will be an opportunity to reiterate that the traditional economic systems must be overcome, including the well-being of man, which depends on Nature. Everything is interconnected, the Amazon has a fundamental role in the climate of the entire planet and the global economy cannot ignore deforestation. Even in Italy, state accounting needs to include environmental aspects. If we think of cases that have led to economic damage as Ilva of Taranto, Porto Marghera, La Terra dei Fuochi or hydrogeological malfunctions. The usual referent of an association like ours should be the Minister of Economic Development.
From whom should the change of perspective start: institutions, companies or civil society?
Everyone must do their part. The action of a single social player is not enough. Clearly, those who have more decision-making power have more responsibility. In this sense, the Italian semester of the European Union could be an excellent opportunity to talk about 'well being compact' and not just a fiscal pact.
But even the decision of a multinational energy company like Enel to disinvest in fossil fuels can be of decisive importance. And even the consumer at the time of purchase and consumption, has the power to change things. As the two great Carlin Petrini and Alex Zanotelli remind us, purchases are a vote with your wallet and eating is an agricultural act. For example, Coldiretti has made the calculation that by buying products from a short production chain, we can save 1 tonne of CO2 per household and 100 euro per month. We too on our site propose through One Planet Food ‘an environmental receipt', which calculates the CO2 of products in our shopping cart.
In the Report you listed the countries with the highest ecological footprint (Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Belgium, Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore, USA, Bahrain and Sweden): how does Italy rank?
Italy is in 26th place, still above the world average. This means that if the global population had the same standard of living of the Italians, we would need 2.6 planets to meet their needs. If it had the standard of living of the inhabitants of the United States, we would need no less than 3.9 Planets.