Ecological Footprint

 EF Two researchers in Canada, Rees and Wackernagel, first published a book on ecological footprints and their calculation in 1996. Since then, the concept has become widely accepted with many web site calculators designed to help you measure your footprint. EF is a model used to estimate the demands that human populations place on the environment. The measure takes into account the area of land and water required to provide all the resources needed by the population, and the assimilation of all wastes. 

Where the EF is greater than the area available to the population, this is an indication of unsustainability as the population exceeds the carrying capacity of the population. EFs may vary significantly from country to country and person to person and include aspects such as lifestyle choices (EVS), productivity of food production systems, land use and industry. In 2012 it was calculated that the EF of all people on Earth was equivalent to 1.5 Earths or 2.7 global hectares (gha) per person. So humanity would take 18 months to regenerate one year's worth of resources that we use. 

We are in ecological overshoot and have been since the 1970s in that our annual demand on the natural world exceeds what it can supply. Some countries with the biggest ecological footprints are Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Denmark and the USA; and some countries with the smallest ecological footprints are Timor Leste, Afghanistan, Haiti, Eritrea and Bangladesh. 


A person's personal ecological footprint is known as earthshare. A fair earthshare is the amount of land each person would get if all the ecologically productive land on the earth was divided amongst its population. On average, a Canadian's ecological footprint is 7.8 hectares or approximately the size of 15 football fields. Only the United States and Australia have larger footprints at 10.3 and 9.0 hectares respectively. To compare, the average person in India has a footprint 010,8 hectares, China 1.6. In the United Kingdom it is 5.2, in Germany 5.3 and in Switzerland 5.1 hectares. 

In 2008, if we all shared equally, there would have been 1.8 hectares available per person or 1.3 if you do not include productive marine areas. Clearly, we are living beyond the Earth's ability to provide for our consumption. The ecological footprint of a country depends on several factors: its population size and consumption per capita — how many people and how much land each one uses. It includes the cropland and other land that is needed to grow food, grow bionics, graze animals for meat, produce wood, dig up minerals and the area of land needed to absorb wastes, not just solid waste but waste water, sewage and carbon dioxide. 

The WWF Living Planet Report 2006 attempts to show countries as either ecological debtors or creditors. The creditors have smaller footprints than their biocapacity (living capacity or natural resources) and the debtors have larger footprints. Debtors could be harvesting resources unsustainably in their countries, importing goods or exporting wastes. There is no such thing as 'throwing away' on the earth. There is no 'away' in a closed system. This is why fair resource distribution across countries and the people within countries is so important - we need to ensure that no resources are wasted in the developed countries that can be sustainably used in other parts of the world, so as to make the world more equal and also not increase the global ecological footprint.

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