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Published byJasmine Kathryn Carr Modified over 8 years ago
What Is It? An area of land (and water) that would be required to sustainably provide for a specific population’s resources and assimilate its waste. It is more about the resources and waste produced or needed by a population rather than the population that an area can sustain. It’s the inverse of carrying capacity. Provides a quantitative estimate of human carrying capacity.
Calculating Ecological Footprint Everything required for our daily needs comes from natural resources. The ecological footprint is calculated in acres or hectares, and is used to calculate the amount of Earth’s bioproductive space needed to keep a population at its current level of resource consumption.
The Calculation Takes Into Account: Arable Land: Required for growing crops. Pasture Land: Required for meats and milk etc. Forests: Required for fuels, furniture, and housing. Oceans: Required for fish and other marine products. Infrastructure Needs: Transportation, Factories, and Housing etc. Energy Costs: Land required for absorbing wastes and other energy gases. Species Extinction: Not taken into account so far.
How Useful Is It? Indicator of sustainability. Conceptual simplicity. Clear indicator of progress towards sustainability. Clear indicator of resource injustice. National footprint comparisons.
Depends On… Population size (how many people and how much land each one uses). Consumption per capita.
Global And National Footprints The planet’s biocapacity is estimated at 1.9 hectares per person. Some countries are already using up 2.2 hectares per person. The planet’s biocapacity is under threat due to an increasing population. Ecosystems are being used up due to OUR actions (fisheries, oceans, forests, coral reefs, soil, water etc). The higher the consumption by population results in a decrease of the planets’ carrying, renewal and regeneration capacities.
How Do Countries Compare? CountryHectares United States10.3 Australia9.0 Canada7.8 Germany5.3 United Kingdom5.2 Switzerland5.1 China1.6 India0.8
How Do Countries Compare? Countries are either: a) Ecological debtors: Larger footprints. Changing sizes of the countries in proportion. Could be harvesting resources unsustainably, importing goods or exporting wastes. b) Ecological creditors: Smaller footprints than biocapacity. Biocapacity: living capacity or natural resources.
The Future By 2050 the planets’ biocapacity is estimated to be reduced from 1.9 hectares per person to 1.5. In USA (the largest footprint in the world) people are estimated to be reduced to 9.57 hectares per person. If everyone lived like an average person in Bangladesh where the footprint is 0.5 hectares per person then the world would be able to support 22 million people. Between 1961 and 1999, the global ecological footprint rose from 70% to 120% of the earths’ biological capacity. By the year 2050, the global ecological footprint is predicted to grow to about 180% to 220% of the Earth’s biological capacity.
Limitations Average, therefore it doesn’t show whether there are areas dense in waste or resources or completely virginal natural areas. Does not capture other environmental strains for example, once the resources are used they may not be reused for a while (systematic degradation of ecological productivity). Ignores the effects of toxic or air pollution They fail to capture the erosion of earth carrying capacity, which is a basis of sustainability.
Recycling At home and at work: Classify everything you have in separate bins Paper/cardboard. Plastic. Glass. Aluminum. Leave you bins in the appropriate area so that it can be collected properly.
Resource Conservation What YOU can do: Water your lawn with a water hose instead of water sprinklers, they spray water not needed by the plants. Participate in community recycling programs. Buy products manufactured with recycled materials. Reuse bottles and paper as much as possible. Say no to plastic bags in the supermarket. Do not buy/use products containing CFC’s.
A Country: Limit the amount of pollution and carbon emissions in factories. Limit the amount of fishing and hunting a person can do. National parks and reserves, wildlife refugees. Promote the sell of environmental friendly products (grant subsidies to companies). Organize recycling programs. Establish laws protecting the environment and for conserving resources. Make ecological limits central to decision-making.
Activity Make a list of everything you do during 1 day which may contribute to your ecological footprint. Sort all of your activities (items used/consumed) into the following categories... Arable Land, Pasture Land, Forests, Oceans, Infrastructure Needs, Energy Costs, Species Extinction. Write a paragraph giving reasons for what you could do in your life to help reduce your ecological footprint.
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