We Are Consuming More Than What The Planet Can Provide

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which is responsible for World Environment Day, is focusing attention on three main items of consumption globally: water, energy and food. Here are some facts:


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Population growth and expanded use have outweighed the effect of water-saving technology and behavior.

  • Less than three per cent of the world’s water is fresh (drinkable), of which 2.5 per cent is frozen in the Antarctica, Arctic and glaciers. Humanity must therefore rely on 0.5 per cent for all of man’s ecosystems and fresh water needs.
  • Man is polluting water faster than nature can recycle and purify water in rivers and lakes.
  • More than 1 billion people still do not have access to fresh water.
  • Excessive use of water contributes to the global water stress.
  • Water is free from nature but the infrastructure needed to deliver it is expensive.

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Despite technological advances that have promoted energy efficiency gains, energy use will continue to grow exponentially. Commercial and residential energy use is the second most rapidly growing area of global energy use after transport.

  • We can shift our consumption patterns towards goods and services with lower energy and material intensity without compromising quality of life.
  • Households consume 29% of global energy and consequently contribute to 21% of resultant CO2 emissions.The cost of renewable energy is increasingly competitive with that derived from fossil fuels. One-fifth of the world’s final energy consumption in 2013 was from renewables.
  • Globally, energy consumption grew most quickly in the transport and service sectors, driven by rising passenger travel and freight transport, and a rapid expansion in the service economy.


While substantial environmental impacts from food occur in the production phase (agriculture, food processing), households influence these impacts through their dietary choices and habits. This consequently affects the environment through food-related energy consumption and waste generation.

  • 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year while almost 1 billion people go undernourished and another 1 billion hungry.
  • Overconsumption of food is detrimental to our health and the environment.
    • 1.5 billion people globally are overweight or obese.
    • Land degradation, declining soil fertility, unsustainable water use, overfishing and marine environment degradation are all lessening the ability of the natural resource base to supply food.
    • The food sector accounts for around 30% of the world’s total energy consumption and accounts for around 22% of total Greenhouse Gas emissions.
  • Increased consumption adversely affects food security.
    • Increase in food prices.
    • Upsurge in production methods that use more resource-intensive food products.
    • Resource-intensive foods deplete the agro-ecological resource base, affecting its ability to produce plentiful food.

Today is World Environment Day, which is being observed this year under the theme Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care. According to the official WED website;

“The well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy, ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. Evidence is building that people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide.

Many of the Earth’s ecosystems are nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change, pushed by high population growth and economic development. By 2050, if current consumption and production patterns remain the same and with a rising population expected to reach 9.6 billion, we will need three planets to sustain our ways of living and consumption.

The WED theme this year is therefore “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.” Living within planetary boundaries is the most promising strategy for ensuring a healthy future. Human prosperity need not cost the earth. Living sustainably is about doing more and better with less. It is about knowing that rising rates of natural resource use and the environmental impacts that occur are not a necessary by-product of economic growth.”