Many important ecosystems have been degraded and ecological processes impaired. Trends indicate that this situation is not improving, and that growing human populations and unsustainable rates of resource consumption will result in increasing negative impacts on biodiversity. Unless immediate action is taken much biodiversity, including the life-support systems upon which humanity relies, will soon be lost.
If present trends in population growth, economic growth and consumption patterns continue, the natural environment will be increasingly stressed. Distinct environmental gains and improvements will probably be offset by the pace and scale of global economic growth, increased global environmental pollution and accelerated degradation of the Earth's renewable resource base. The negative impacts of environmental degradation will fall most heavily on the poorer developing regions. The income gap between rich and poor countries, and between the rich and poor within countries, will increase for several decades. Under a business-as-usual scenario, current inequities in the distribution of the environmental costs and benefits of consumption seem likely to grow worse. This could be expected to have a destabilizing influence on the physical, social and political environment.
The Kyoto World Conference (1-10 December 1997) was not only a call for the survival of the Earth, it was a sign that the limits of growth in industrialized countries may have already been reached. The impact of our present way of life has huge repercussions for the planet and it is no longer possible to reproduce and to perpetuate it indefinitely.
At the beginning of the 21st Century, there is no doubt that the natural systems on which all life depends are severely impacted by human activity. During the past century, these systems have borne the stresses imposed by an eighteen-fold increase in world economic output and fourfold increase in human population. The increasing demands and activities of growing economies combined with a world population of over six billion are exceeding the productive and regenerative capacity of these systems.
2. Social legislation cannot repeal physical laws.
3. Research into mass extinctions has revealed that the global ecosystem is far more fragile and unstable than was once supposed.
4. We face a crisis -- one of our own making -- and if we fail to negotiate it with vision, we will lay a curse of unimaginable magnitude on future generations (Richard Leakey).
5. There is strong evidence that the life support systems on which our economies depend are being overloaded, and unless a shift is made towards sustainable development we face severe or irreversable damage to the environment.