The WWF’s Living Planet Report

May 23, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Last week the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a new report. Titled Living Planet Report 2012, it was discussed with breathless credulity by numerous media outlets (see here, here, here, here, and here, for example).

But there’s actually little that’s fresh, urgent, or newsworthy within these 164 pages. The report is primarily a prop – a device to help the WWF keep its name in the news. In March, the media devoted gallons of ink to the corporate-driven WWF event known as Earth Hour. Mere weeks later, it’s once again providing these professional nags with a megaphone.

What message is being broadcast? The same old, same old. Humans are a plague on the planet. The world is headed to hell in a hand basket. The sky is falling, and it’s all our fault.

Over at The Register, Lewis Page has written a critical analysis of the report (be sure to click through to page 2; backup links here and here ). He points out that, rather than using standard measures commonly understood by everyone, the WWF and similar groups have invented their own indices. Might this be because, if they used a standard approach, they’d discover that things are not, in fact, getting worse?

Unlike most journalists, Page takes statements in this WWF document to their logical conclusion. In doing so, he sees a grim, grey future no one would want to bestow on their grandchildren:

the only people on Earth who are [currently] living within their means are those in the poorest nations – their “footprint” exactly matches the “biocapacity” in their countries…offering a picture of the sort of life all human beings could aspire to in a WWF-run world.

…you are to accept a massively lower standard of living, in order to reduce your “footprint” to match your nation’s “biocapacity”…That means less heating when it’s cold – no cooling at all, probably, when it’s hot. It means sharply limited hot water: so dirtier clothes, dirtier bedding and a dirtier you – which will be nice as you will also have to live in a smaller home and travel almost exclusively on crowded buses or trains along with similar smelly fellow eco-citizens. [italics in the original]

Read the whole thing here.

Incidentally, it’s worth noting that an electronic search within this report turns up:

  • 46 instances in which the WWF talks about what we need (as in “the choices needed to ensure a sustainable existence”)
  • and 24 uses of the word must (as in “temperature must not rise more than 2 degrees”)

There’s also heavy use of the word should. Need. Must. Should. Bossy bunch of folks, aren’t they?

Nowhere, however, does the WWF bother to explain why an organization that is supposed to be saving wildlife is making statements about other matters entirely. And yet this report is full of declarations such as “Equitable resource governance is essential…” and catch phrases like “societal inequality” (see pages 61 and 162). Indeed, the terms inequality and equality appear 28 times in this report.

This is a huge red flag. Equality is a political concept. In the world in which I live, people who want to make political decisions first need to get themselves elected.


Below are links to previous editions of the WWF’s Living Planet report. On some occasions, it appears the WWF produced a custom version for a particular region/country. A thorough, historical examination of these documents would make a fascinating MA thesis, it seems to me.



Entry filed under: media, NGOs, World Wildlife Fund. Tags: , , .

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