The world is not enough

Friday 15th Oct 2010 by theWeather Club

1969 saw the release of the British film Doppelganger – also known as 'Journey to the far side of the sun'. In it the European Space Exploration Council discovers that a planet has been in the same orbit as the Earth but on the far side of the sun and a mission is dispatched to explore this strange new world. What they find when they arrive – after much understandable confusion – is an exact copy of the Earth.

The World Wildlife Fund has a system for showing our effect on the planet by calculating how many Earths we would need to supply our resource needs if everyone lived at the level of a specific country. For example we would apparently need entire 6 planets if everyone was to consume resources at the same rate of those in the United Arab Emirates, 4.5 for United States levels of consumption and 3.8 if we all lived like the Aussies.

The UK appears to be doing rather well at 2.75, making it 31st in the table of resource use, down from 15th. This has of course begun a debate about the reasons for different countries' movements up and down the scale. Is country A doing very well, or is it going down the table because countries D, E, and F have become more wasteful since the last time they were looked at? And what does it mean for those poorer countries whose useage is well within the planet's ability to support? Does this mean they are free to cut loose on an unabashed resource spending spree?

Taking everything into account, the WWF calculates that the world is using 1.5 planets' worth of resources at our present rate. While this sounds great when compared to the 5 or 6 planets found near the top of the scale, it still highlights a basic truth. One and a half into one does not go, and we only have one Earth. So the list – as it was supposed to – highlights the fact that we have two choices. Move to a system of living where the average resource use for the planet as a whole falls below one. Or hope that we find an identikit Earth floating around somewhere in the cosmos. For the record we have already looked on the far side of the sun.