The Worldwatch Institute, an organization that focuses on environmental, social and economic trends, says the current rate of global demand for resources is unsustainable. The statement came in the group's annual report, which this year focused on the growing importance of China and India.
Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin said this year's report looks at what he called the "ecological footprint" of various countries.
"And this is translating the total resource and pollution requirements of a country, into the number of global hectares, that is, hectares around the world, that are being required, land area, to actually support that way of life," he explained. "Whether it is in terms of providing wood or paper or food or land to absorb all the carbon dioxide that's being produced."
Flavin said the overall demand on global ecology has been growing dramatically.
"And, in fact, within the last 20 years for the first time, the total ecological impact has begun to exceed the total biological capacity of the earth, which is basically a definition of unsustainability, which means at some point, these resource-use levels and pollution levels are going to have to come down to a level that is sustainable," he added.
After more than two decades of compiling annual reports, Worldwatch this year focused on two rapidly growing countries, China and India. Combined, the two countries include 40 percent of the world's population. Flavin said as both nations continue to develop, they have been hungrily gobbling up the world's resources, such as steel and cement. He also projected future global competition over oil, another limited resource.
"If you look at the fact that if China and India were to demand as much of the resources in this ecological footprint term as even Japan does today, you would have to literally find an additional planet earth just to support their needs -- again, without supporting the rest of the world at all," he noted.
The Worldwatch president said if these two countries continue to follow a conventional development path, he anticipates problems in the future.
"Whether they will be ecological, mainly security, mainly economic, is hard to know, but that there are crises coming if we follow this path, I think, is unquestionable," he said.
At the same time, though, Flavin said, China and India have the leverage to make changes and find new energy systems. He added that the choices these two countries make could have a huge impact on the overall quality of life for the rest of the world.
"If China and India were to choose to go in a new direction, their scale, in terms of economies, technologies, human ingenuities, [they] are now graduating a large number of scientists and engineers, truly could push the world in a new direction," he added.
Meanwhile, the Worldwatch president said although the rise of China and India can be seen as a threat, many governmental and non-governmental leaders in both countries also are aware of their opportunity.