The impact humans have on their terrestrial environment is below the level of economic and population growth. The human footprint is lower than the actual needs.
Two factors that improve the human footprint are a good government and urbanization.
The researchers from University of Northern British Columbia, together with the Wildlife Conservation Society and seven other universities performed a study concerning the human footprint.
The analysis shows that the global population rose with 23%, while the global economy increased 153% in the 12 years up to 2009. During the same period, the global human footprint grew by only 9%.
The percentages make the researchers very optimistic regarding the way people use natural resources. In other terms, the human footprint increased at a slower rate than the population growth.
However, even if the environmental impact does not mimic the extent of economic growth, it still is a high number. The experts estimate that three-quarters of the planet had been already altered, with 97% of the biodiversity rich areas being also altered.
While experts expected to see a higher environmental impact in countries that have a strong economic growth than in the ones that in development, the results showed that the hypothesis was incorrect. The human footprint was not uniformed and was not in direct correlation with the economic development.
The countries that had a good governmental structure and they had high urbanization rates were also the ones that had been capable of economic growth while limiting their impact on the environment.
The example of the countries that have a competent government is correct even when taking into consideration the imports of goods. More and more developed countries rely on sustainable development and think globally.
The researchers are also noting that honest governments are important in managing environmental impacts in terms of facts, and they need to pay close attention to measure and assess the consequences their decisions may have on the environment.
Another observation is that people that are concentrated in cities have a better infrastructure and housing options than people that are living scattered over a vast landscape.
The maps and the datasets used in the study had been made public and will be further used by researchers and policy makers to identify the areas that need to gain protection and to assess the level of work necessary to restore natural functions in other sectors.
The study was published with just one month before the IUCN World Conservation meeting of world leaders and conservationists, and it will most probably be used as a basis for further environmental discussions.
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