The past 30 years have seen a bigger improvement in human prosperity than all of the past centuries combined.
We have built more roads, buildings and machines than ever before. More people are living longer and healthier lives and access to education has never been better.
The average GDP per capita has grown 15-fold since 1820. More than 95 per cent of newborns now make it to their 15th birthday, compared with just one in three in the 19th century.
However, such progress has come at a great cost. As humanity has thrived, nature has suffered.
Humans are driving animal and plant species to extinction and destroying their habitats to feed and house an ever-increasing population. An influential UN report warns that up to one million animal and plant species are at imminent risk of extinction.
Data shows that, in the 1992-2014 period, the amount of capital goods – such as roads, machines, buildings, factories and ports – generated per person doubled , see Fig.1 Over the same timeframe, however, the world’s stock of natural capital – water, soil and minerals – per person declined by nearly 40 percent.
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