It is not a secret that the whole humanity has lived and continues living within the Earth’s bounds and our existence depends on our planet’s resources. The measurement of the ecological footprint gives us an opportunity to imagine the picture of our pressure on Earth and figure out the necessary actions to support our planet and prevent the undesirable outcomes.
Defining the ecological footprint, overshoot and carrying capacity
The Ecological Footprint is defined as “the area of productive land and water ecosystems required to produce the resources that the population consumes and assimilate the wastes that the population produces, wherever on Earth the land and water is located”(1).
In other words the ecological footprint is the expression of the impact of the population on the environment. The concept of the “ecological footprint” was developed at the end of the twentieth century by environmental scientists Wackernagel and Rees. The results were extremely disappointing indicating universal shortage of resources. According to the research done in 2005 we are overestimating Earth’s resources by 30% and there is a tremendous necessity to make a start in finding sustainable solutions to improve the current situation.(3)
The two diagrams will help better understand the situation. The diagram on the left represents the humanity’s ecological footprint throughout time in billions of global hectares. The other diagram illustrates the relationship between the ecological footprint and the number of needed Earths to support the need of resources. As we can see about more than three decades ago we passed the threshold and the increased demand for the resources exceeded its supply by creating what is known as “ecological overshoot”. According to the data provided by Global Footprint Network “it takes about one year and six months to generate the ecological services (production of resources and absorption of CO2) that humanity requires in one year”(6).
According to Withgott and Brennan the carrying capacity is the utmost size of the population of species that the given environment is able to sustain.(3)In other words an environment’s carrying capacity is its maximum persistently supportable load(7). Experience shows that sooner or later populations are expected to reach their carrying capacity rather than keeping on the exponential growth because of the environmental resistance. However, the answer to the obvious question when will the human population be stabilized still remains a mystery.
As we can see the ecological footprints of various countries differ from each other and each of them has its own ecological profile. Bangladesh produces the smallest ecological footprint which is around 4 times smaller than the world average ecological footprint. However examining the results of United Arab Emirates or Australia we will see that they are extremely large. I noticed that the developed countries produce much larger ecological footprints than the developing countries and I am proud to say that my country’s ecological footprint is more than 2 times smaller than the world average. After examining the table more carefully I figured out that the higher the GDP of the country, the larger its ecological footprint. My personal GPA is a little bit larger than my country’s average. Certainly, it is larger than the footprint of Bangladesh. However if I compare it to Chile or Spain it is much smaller and according to the results if everyone lived my lifestyle we would need only 0.6 Earths. The diagram above represents the EF by regions.
Taking into considerations the above mentioned information I would like to conclude that our influence on our planet is exceptionally tremendous and requires taking necessary actions to obtain sustainable solutions. The ecological footprint varies from country to country and person to person due to various reasons. However we can agree that it serves as some kind of a signal and apart from measuring the impact on the environment should be recognized and used by all countries and individuals in making precise decisions.
1) Ecological Footprint. (n.d.). The Sustainable Scale Project. Retrieved March 3, 2011, from http://www.sustainablescale.org
2) Marquette Turner, Environment: What is You Ecological Footprint?(Feb 20,2011).Retrieved March 06,2011 from http://marquetteturner.com/environment-what-is-you-ecological-footprint/
3) Withgott, J., & Brennan, W. (2006). Energy in the natural environment: PSC 1515. Boston, MA: Pearson Custom Pub., Pearson Benjamin Cummings.
4) N.d,N.d, The Sustainable Scale Project. Retrieved March 3, 2011, from http://www.sustainablescale.org
5) N.d,N.d, The Sustainable Scale Project. Retrieved March 3, 2011, from http://www.sustainablescale.org
6) August 21 is Earth Overshoot Day . (n.d.). Global Footprint Network. Retrieved March 3, 2011, from www.footprintnetwork.org
7) Rees, W. E. (n.d.). Ecological Footprint — Revisiting Carrying Capacity:Area-Based Indicators of Sustainability. From Capitalism To Democracy. Retrieved March 3, 2011, from http://dieoff.org/page110.htm
8) N.d,N.d, The Sustainable Scale Project. Retrieved March 3, 2011, from http://www.sustainablescale.org
9) Youth for a Sustainable Future Pacifika, Mission/Vision(2011).Retrieved March6,2011,from http://orgs.tigweb.org/youth-for-a-sustainable-future-pacifika
10) Planet 2025 , “Humanity’s Footprint”,( Dec 31, 2008). Retrieved March6,2011,from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtIxguH2bpM&feature=related