UN Human Development Index, 2014

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The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and others conclude that resource consumption currently associated with high levels of human development exceeds renewable levels (see the Plot of UN Human Development Index against Ecological Footprint below). Without change, this expansion will collide with resource depletion, resulting in environmental and human degradation.

The above graphic plots the UN Human Development Index against per capita Ecological Footprint. This powerful summary graphic sets out the challenge: the levels of development to which humanity aspires, currently uses resources at a vastly greater rate than they can be renewed, used by the WBCSD Vision 2050 as one of its indicators. The Human Development Index (bottom axis) is an overall measure of national development, combining life expectancy, education and income, as defined by UNDP. The Ecological Footprint is an assessment of the total hectares that might be required to support the per capita lifestyle in a country, also allowing for the space required by other species, as produced by the Global Footprint Network. This can be contrasted with global population divided by the actual size of the planet to give the number of hectares actually available per person. As global population has increased, the number of hectares per person available has declined, from over 3 hectares in 1961 to 1.8 hectares in 2009. Currently the number of hectares required to renewably support high levels of human development, are all above, and usually substantially above, the number of hectares available. If correct, in effect we are living off capital rather than income. The challenge is to universally increase Human Development to very high standards, but do so within the limits of the planet – when all countries would lie within the blue rectangle at the bottom right of the graph. Source: UNDP (2013), Global Footprint Network (2012).

2014, MMG/SNJ