Ecological Footprint

Have you heard the word before, “Ecological Footprint”? Do you understand it? Do you know your footprint or that of your country or continent?

I will like to introduce you to Ecological Footprint:
Conceived in 1990 by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees at the University of British Columbia, the Ecological Footprint launched the broader Footprint movement, including the carbon Footprint, and is now widely used by scientists, businesses, governments, individuals and institutions working to monitor ecological resource use and advance sustainable development.

Ecological footprint is the amount of biologically productive land (land that is sufficiently fertile to accommodate forests or agriculture or fishing grounds– they do not include deserts, glaciers and open oceans) and water needed to supply the people in a particular country or area with renewable resources and to absorb and recycle the wastes and pollution produced by resource use. It is measured in million/global hectares.

If a country’s or the world’s total ecological footprint is larger than its biological capacity to replenish its renewable resources and absorb the resulting waste products and pollution, it is said to have an ecological deficit.

The per capita ecological footprint is the average ecological footprint of an individual in a given country or area or how much of the earth?s renewable resources an individual consumes. In 2005 there were 13.4 billion hectares of biologically productive land and water available and 6.5 billion people on the planet. This is an average of 2.1 global hectares per person. Due to rapid population growth, this figure is decreasing.

Causes of global increase in ecological footprint:

Cultural changes have increased our ecological footprints. Culture is the whole of a society?s knowledge, beliefs, technology and practices. Man used to live by hunting and gathering but in recent times three major cultural changes have occurred:

  • Agricultural revolution (About 10,000-12,000 years ago)
  • Industrial-medical revolution (About 275 years ago) and
  • The information-globalization revolution (beginning about 50 years ago).

Each of these cultural changes gave man more energy and new technologies with which to alter and control more of the planet to meet our basic needs and increasing wants. Increase in food supply, longer life span, pollution, etc. have increased our footprints.

Current Situation:

Our current global situation: Since the 1970s, humanity has been in ecological overshoot with annual demand on resources exceeding what Earth can regenerate each year.

It now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year.

We maintain this overshoot by liquidating the Earth’s resources. Overshoot is a vastly underestimated threat to human well-being and the health of the planet, and one that is not adequately addressed.

By measuring the Footprint of a population—an individual, city, business, nation, or all of humanity—we can assess our pressure on the planet, which helps us manage our ecological assets more wisely and take personal and collective action in support of a world where humanity lives within the Earth’s bounds. (http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/footprint_basics_overview/)

 

According to Global Footprint Network and World Wildlife Fund, if the current exponential growth in the use of renewable resources continues, it is estimated that by 2050, humanity will use twice as many renewable resources as the planet can supply. This means that by 34 years from now, all of us on Eco-generation will need another earth to survive. For example, USA has exceeded the earth’s biological capacity by 25% since 2006.

Global Footprint ecological footprints are grouped under the following thematic areas: Food, Building and living, Gardening, Mobility, Energy, Recreation / holidays, Personal care.

Which of these thematic areas do you fall victim to? Which of these thematic areas increases your daily footprint? I am guessing Energy (electrical gadgets, phone, laptop, etc.) and Personal Care (Soap, detergent, earring, clothing, make-up kits, pomade, etc) will be the answer to most youth. Do your best to recycle, reuse, recover, reduce, and refuse your items. That is a way to protect Earth.

Countries with biggest ecological footprint _ Graphics24

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