A new report is warning that in the not too distant future standards of living around the world will start to plummet unless people start preserving the Earth's resources.
The report is by a conservation group called WWF International and is being launched in advance of next month's Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The WWF report says the world is undergoing a very rapid loss of biodiversity, with the number of animal, bird and fish species declining by 35 percent over the past 30 years. Virtually all of this loss, the report says, can be blamed on human activity. The author of the WWF study, Jonathan Loh, says the rate at which people are consuming the world's natural resources cannot be sustained.
"We are eating into the Earth's natural capital. We are consuming fish stocks faster than the fish stocks can regenerate and replace themselves. We are consuming wood and forest products in parts of the world, faster than the forests are capable of regenerating," he said. "And, most importantly, we are emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate faster than the Earth's ecosystems are capable of absorbing and recapturing that carbon dioxide."
According to the report, rich countries - the United States, Japan and the countries of the European Union - are using up the world's natural resources at a far faster rate than are the poorer countries. But Mr. Loh says everyone must learn to consume resources more efficiently.
"We have to protect and look after the Earth's natural ecosystems to make sure that they will remain productive in the future and not less productive," he said. "We have to establish networks of protected areas and manage those places where biological productivity is supporting the human economy of the world."
WWF predicts that standards of living and human development will continue to grow until 2030. But after then it warns that human welfare will go into a steep decline unless urgent action is taken to save the Earth's resources.