When it comes to the planet's resources--from timber, minerals and fossil fuels to vegetables and grains, the human species is on an unsustainable binge.
That's the sobering upshot from a new report on global production and flow of materials, issued by the United Nations Environmental Program, which concludes that worldwide extraction of resources has tripled over the past 40 years, to 70 billion tons.
And our appetite is growing. If the world continues to provide housing, mobility, food, energy and water in the same way as today, the report warns, we'll be consuming 180 billion tons by 2050, an increase of more than two-and-a-half-times over the present level. That's going to accelerate problems ranging from soil erosion and pollution to acidification of the world's oceans.
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UNEP also found that affluent countries are consuming a vastly disproportionate share of the world's resources. The average person in North America and Europe consumes between 20 and 25 tons of raw materials per year, while the per capita consumption in Africa is less than 3 tons.
"The alarming rate at which materials are now being extracted is already having a severe impact on human health and people's quality of life," Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, co-chairperson of the UN's International Resource Panel, said in a press release. "It shows that the prevailing patterns of production and consumption are unsustainable.
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