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Sustainability, or meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, depends on making sure humanity does not use more ecological resources than nature can regenerate. The Global Footprint Network estimates that in the early 1960s, the human species consumed about 50% of the Earth's natural resource capacity. By the mid 1980s, the scale of human activity on the planet reached 100% of the Earth's capacity, and was trending steadily upward. Now, because of continued high global population growth rates and higher consumption patterns, the total anthropogenic (human species) demand on our planet is approximately 140% of its long term capacity. This global "overshoot" threatens the quality of life for all citizens of the planet and our hopes of improving the living standards for the poorest of the poor in "developing" countries. It also threatens the long term viability of many fragile ecosystems, and the prospects for safeguarding biological diversity which is necessary to support all life on the planet.
PI is working to educate the media and the public about issues relating to population and sustainability, including the food crisis, water shortages, depletion of scarce resources, loss of biodiversity, and climate change and its impact on vulnerable populations. PI is developing new educational tools that will help policymakers, the media and the general public understand the concept of sustainability and new metrics for measuring it. PI is also working with leading economists to evaluate the impact of projected population growth on global and national economic well-being.