The current growth in the world’s economy contrasts starkly with the health of the Earth’s ecology, a report published by the Worldwatch Institute to coincide with this weekend’s Earth Day has warned.

The number of cars, people, and fishing boats has boomed, the report says, but forest cover, farmland per person and fish catches have plummeted. The trends that sparked the first Earth Day in 1970 continue to cause massive ecological decline, according to the report.

Among the trends picked out by the report are the destruction of forests and habitats, spiralling population and the rapid depletion of fossil fuels.

The report also lists seven key moments that have helped define the current state of the environment. These include the invention of the automobile, the use of monoculture crops by giant corporations like McDonalds, and India’s backlash against family planning in the face of enforced birth control.

The report is not all doom and gloom, however. On the positive side, Worldwatch picks out the rise of NGOs to counterbalance the power of corporations and governments, the potential role of the Precautionary Principle in climate negotiations, and the spread of small-scale renewable energy in the developing world.

But, according to the report, the main areas of concern include:

  • large scale forest clearing and urban sprawl and the destruction of fragile habitats. One in four vertebrate species (birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish) is on the verge of extinction or is now extinct, the report says
  • rising population. The global population has nearly doubled since 1970, placing increasing pressure on land and water. Meanwhile, the report says, the share of cropland per person has been almost cut in half, and one out of six people are now chronically hungry
  • rapid use of fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels has released 160 billion tons of carbon into the

    atmosphere since 1970. In comparison, 110 billion tons were released between 1751 and 1970. Worldwatch links this to record global temperatures and recent weather disruptions. In 1998 damages from storms cost a record $93 billion, the report says

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