Ecological Footprint: A measure of the amount of natural resources an individual, a community, or a country consumes in a year.
In most cases you’ll hear the term “ecological footprint” used when referring to environments and climate change. However, despite that reputation, it is also a very clear way of showing us just how much we westerners consume.
The ecological footprint takes into account the amount of land required to supply the resources we consume, such as food, timber, energy, the land/space we live on and the land/space taken to absorb our impacts (such as waste and pollution). In the world, there are 12.4 billion hectares of bioproductive land (land we can use for food). This (if evenly divided amongst the current population of 6 billion people) divides up into approximately 1.7 hectares of land per person. That means that in order for the world to cope with our demands for it, we must each only demand what 1.7 hectares can offer. The problem is that the land is not divided as it should be.
Ethiopians require 0.8 hectares of land per person (sustainable)
India, despite its large and growing population requires 1.1 hectares of land per person (sustainable)
Egypt requires 1.7 hectares of land per person (the correct amount)
China requires 1.8 hectares of land per person (a little over)
The U.K requires 6.2 hectares of land per person (very high)
The U.S requires 12.6 hectares of land per person (much too high)
What this all means is that a large percentage of the world are taking up way more than their fair share of space. The western countries are importing land from all over the world. Not only are we taking up space in our own countries, but the demands of our consumer lifestyles are requiring developing countries to give up their land to grow cash crops which will be exported over to the west. If the population keeps growing at the same rate it has been for the last 20 years, this uneven divide of land will become a bigger problem. Its so simple: The more people there are in the world, the less space there is to produce what they need.
So what can we do about it?
- We can buy locally produced products
- Reduce the energy we waste
- Reduce the diversity of our diets
- Reduce our reliance on transport
- Reduce our waste and rubbish production
- Reduce water waste
- Invest in eco-friendly houses
- Protect animals and environments which supply us with most of our resources
- Encourage recycling
If you want to work out your ecological footprint here is a simple place to give you some idea