The UK Interdependence Report: how the world sustains the nation's lifestyles and the price it pays

The UK Interdependence Report: how the world sustains the nation's lifestyles and the price it pays

The UK's ecological debt to the developing world

The UK Interdependence report maps out the depth and breadth of our increasing interdependence and the price the planet pays. The clearest demonstration of this comes from looking at the day in a typical calendar year when we start to live off the rest of the world.

The report shows that at current levels of natural resource use in the UK, the average person goes into ecological debt on 16 April. As our total consumption grows, the day on which we begin consuming beyond our environmental means moves earlier in the year. In 1961 it was 9 July. By 1981 Britain's ecological debt day was reached almost two months earlier on 14 May. The world as a whole is also living beyond its ecosystems' capacity to regenerate itself - leading to long-term, overall environmental degradation - and goes into ecological debt on 23 October.

The report reveals how the nation is being woven into an ever closer and more complicated economic, cultural and social fabric, with both positive and negative consequences. Above all, the report raises huge questions about how radically the UK's patterns of interdependence will have to change if our economy and lifestyles are to become remotely sustainable. A positive future, it suggests, will only be guaranteed through a paradigm shift in government policy away from 'beggar- thy-neighbour' economic competitiveness, towards the cooperation demanded by our inescapable interdependence.

The report recommends that:

  • careful official monitoring is needed to ensure that things do not come to the UK at the expense of the environment in other countries
  • UK consumers can also play a positive role by choosing products that are produced according to appropriate standards
  • the recent wave of ethical consumerism shows potential but as much as we can consume better, nothing can hide the fact that in the UK we also need to consume less