So despite all of the debates which seems to be the current rage regarding the increasing climate change as well as its sustainability, the majority of us still remain blindly unaware of our own personal carbon loads that we each place on the planet.
The initial ideal of an Ecological Footprint was created explicitly for lowering that load, as well as to bring awareness using basic simple concepts which everyone could hopefully understand.
So what is an ecological footprint? An eco footprint is the measurement of human usage and the demands placed on all of the Earth’s ecosystems. This is a standardized measurement of the consumption of natural resources as well as the capital resources, compared to the planet’s current ecological capacity and ability to be able to regenerate those resources.
It also includes the exact space which is required to assimilate the wastes which the same population produces, wherever on the planet that the relevant land or the water may be located.
The Rich Are Overpowering The Poor
This as expected and quite obvious, the countries of the world which are the most wealthiest has the largest “eco” footprint per capita. As an example, the average North American requires close to eight hectares per dwelling to be able to adequately support their current consumer lifestyles.
Japan, as well as most European countries are currently a lot more material and energy efficient, by just getting by on four to five hectares per capita on average. But if you contrast these numbers that the “rich countries” use with just the half-hectare that’s required to supply an average dwelling in Africa or India, the number as well as inequity becomes startling.
The differences in the eco based footprint clearly defines that there’s social injustice. There is an obvious widening gulf which is separating the lifestyles of the wealthier countries and the individuals from those countries which are historically and chronically impoverished. The average North American can potentially weigh up to 32 times more heavily on our planet resources, based on eco terms, than those residents from the world’s poorest countries.
Draining On Sustainability
So you may be wondering what this has to do with sustainability. Well, plenty. In the rich densely populated countries of the world, consumer demand now outstrips domestic supply. The ecological footprints of certain countries now exceed the land’s capacity by a ratio factor of at least five to six. These are the countries which are running massive ecological deficits compared to the rest of the world, based again in ecological terms.
The current global average human ecological footprint happens to be around 2.2 hectares, while there’s only around 1.8 hectares of productive water and land that’s available per capita.
What this means is that we as humans has already over used the long-term carrying capacity of what the planet is able to provide by more than 22 percent. So humanity is currently consuming a lot more than what the ecosphere is able to produce.
We’re living as well as growing by permanently and continuously depleting even the historical renewable natural capital resources, such as our forests, fish stocks, water, soil etc. This is obviously the essence of becoming unsustainable.
We as North Americans also consume around five times more our fair share (1.8 hectares) of the entire world’s ecological output, as well as the economic output. Simultaneously, we’re also effectively setting material standards for all of the developing world.
The problem with this is that we would need at least four additional planets much like Earth to be able to support just the current world population, this based on the current North American material usage statistics. We’re also expecting our population to grow by an additional 2 billion by 2050.
What one population group usually has however may be mutually exclusive to them. So what’s used and consumed by that population group isn’t necessarily available for usage by any other geographic group. As a result, the nations of the world are currently engaged in an intense competition for the earth’s limited bio-capacity.
In the rapidly changing world that we live in, uncontrolled globalization as well as the increasing entanglement of the nations will risk geopolitical turmoil along with resource based wars.
So Where Is All This Headed?
Ecological foot-printing forces recognize that, with the current world in overshoot mode, we’re not able to grow our way to sustainability. Instead, we especially in the richer nations, need to immediately reduce our global energy usage significantly, along with our material consumption as well.
If the communities of the world is to avoid any conflicts in global resource allocation while achieving sustainability with equity, then the rich of the world must immediately learn how to live on less, so this way, the poor will be able to survive. This may however prove to be an unprecedented and bold challenge indeed. But by doing so would obviously increase the future well being of everyone on this planet.