Ecological footprints are a measure of sustainability. In essence an ecological footprint measures how much people or nations consume versus how much they actually have. The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth’s ecosystems. It is a standardized measure of demand for natural capital that may be contrasted with the planet’s ecological capacity to regenerate. It represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population consumes, and to assimilate associated waste.
Ecological footprints are an accounting system for biocapacity that tracks how much biocapacity there is, and how much biocapacity people use. Ecological footprints measure of land and water use as well as the wastes generated. Another even simpler definition would be the amount of the environment necessary to produce the goods and services necessary to support our lifestyle.
Calculation methods have converged due to standards released in 2006 and updated in 2009. Assessing the global ecological footprint enables us to estimate how much of the Earth (or how many planet Earths) it takes to support humanity.
For 2007, humanity’s total ecological footprint was estimated at 1.5 planet Earths; that is, humanity uses ecological services 1.5 times as quickly as Earth can renew them. Every year, this number is recalculated to incorporate the three-year lag due to the time it takes for the UN to collect and publish statistics and relevant research. At present we are estimated to be using around twice the earth’s carrying capacity each year.
Everyone of us has an ecological footprint, so does every business, every city and every nation. To find out more, go to The Global Footprint Network, Earthday.net, and Redefining Progress. All of these sites offer a number of useful resources.
© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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