Breaching environmental boundaries: UN report on resource limits, Rex Wyler, Greenpeace

Coal train in the Powder River Basin, USA. Greenpeace

As ecological limits are approached and violated, we need a new economic model that is not founded on the delusion of endless growth on a finite planet.

The United Nations International Resource Panel’s ‘Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity’ report admits what ecologists have been saying for decades: Earth’s wealth (‘resources’) is limited, human consumption trends are unsustainable and depletion of Earth’s wealth diminishes human health, quality of life and future development.

The report shows that consumption of Earth’s primary ‘resources’ (metals, fuels, timber, cereals and so forth) has tripled in the last 40 years, driven by population growth (increasing at about 1.1% per year), economic growth (averaging about 3% per year over the same period) and over consumption.

Based on the data examined, the UN report recognises that “the level of well-being achieved in wealthy industrial countries cannot be generalised globally based on the same system of production and consumption.”

This extended blog post explores, analyses and critiques the UN report in an easy-to-access way. De-bunking the myth that we can successfully de-couple economic growth from the destruction of Nature, Wyler concludes “humanity needs a new economic model that does not require the delusion of endless growth in a finite global habitat.”

Read the extended blog and access the UN report here.