More than 70% of the global population lives in countries where biological resources are limited

·2-min read
Japan is one of the industrialized countries that scored poorly for biocapacity.

Some 72% of the global population live in countries where the Earth's natural resources are not sufficient to cover the needs of their inhabitants, points out a new American study.

The study published in the journal Nature Sustainability was conducted by the Global Footprint Network. With a view to measuring the impact of human activity on the environment, researchers from the US-based think tank calculated the overall biocapacity of the planet, which is "the aptitude of ecosystems to provide useful biological resources and to absorb waste material generated by humans, under current management schemes and extraction technologies."

Taking into account and analyzing available data, which was mainly sourced from the United Nations, the researchers also looked at the biocapacity of 20 countries around the world, and how it had evolved from 1980 to 2017. The goal here was to determine if these countries were running a biocapacity deficit or surplus. Finally, the researchers also factored in per-capita GDP figures for each of these countries to cross-reference biocapacity and economic data.

In 2017, 72% of the global population was resident in countries with a biocapacity deficit, as opposed to 57% in 1980, points out the study. Whereas countries like Sweden, Canada and Finland achieved good biocapacity ratings, results for other industrialized countries were relatively disappointing. This was notably the case for Japan, France and Germany, which purchase external resources to make up for their biocapacity deficits.

However, there are also cases of countries that combine a biocapacity deficit with a level of income that falls short of the global average, notably Algeria, Burundi, Malawi, Zimbabwe and India.

"The strength of a country's economy determines the number of resources it can buy and use," explains Mathis Wackernagel, a co-founder of the Global Footprint Network and the principal author of the study. "Low income thwarts these economies' ability to compete for needed resources on the global market. This trend not only erodes their possibilities for maintaining progress but also eliminates their chances for eradicating poverty, a situation we call an ‘ecological poverty trap,'" points out the researcher.

Léa Drouelle