Argues that production and consumption patterns are integrally linked and entire use cycle must be considered to understand environmental effects, identify potential interventions, and articulate effective policy approaches.
Chronic, human-induced imbalances in major biological systems—for example, nutrient cycling, inter-species relationships and food chains—are more insidious than acute incidents of pollution or other damage. Their consequences, however, may be much harder to reverse, and more serious for the developmental and security prospects of every country.
These examples demonstrate how current practices are undermining the biological systems which support key renewable resources, exploiting them in such a way that potentially ever-lasting supplies are being depleted. Other examples could have been chosen: fossil fuel use is changing the global climate, water engineering projects have profoundly altered freshwater habitats.
In many cases, wasteful, inefficient or short-sighted production and consumption patterns are putting at risk whole ecosystems, disrupting their normal functioning and reducing their potential productivity, now and for the future. This is perhaps the most unsustainable aspect of human economic activity today.
The scenarios for 2010 presented here are daunting. At the same time, they are not inevitable.
Attempting to meet the world’s future consumption by simply doing “more of the same” will accelerate ecosystem degradation and will undermine the very productivity we are striving to increase.