Ecological footprint is 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 important because they represent an accounting system that tracks how much biocapacity there is, and how much biocapacity people use. Ecological footprints measure land and water use as well as the wastes generated.
Ecological footprints are caused by using environmental resources to produce the goods and services necessary to support our lifestyle. Calculation methods have converged due to standards released in 2006 and updated in 2022. Assessing the global ecological footprint enables us to estimate how much of the Earth (or how many planet Earths) it takes to support humanity.
The Ecological Footprint measures how much demand human consumption places on the biosphere. It is measured in standard units called global hectares.
An ecological deficit occurs when the Ecological Footprint of a population exceeds the biocapacity of the area available to that population. A national ecological deficit means that the nation is importing biocapacity through trade, liquidating national ecological assets or emitting carbon dioxide waste into the atmosphere. An ecological reserve exists when the biocapacity of a region exceeds its population’s Ecological Footprint.
Biocapacity is the area of productive land available to produce resources or absorb carbon dioxide waste, given current management practices. Biocapacity is measured in standard units called global hectares.
According to World Population Review, humanity’s total ecological footprint was estimated at 2.77 global hectares per person (12 billion total) in 2017, with an average biocapacity of 1.60 global hectares. This computes to a global deficit of 1.17 global hectares per person, or a biocapacity reserve of -1.17, meaning humanity’s consumption of natural resources is currently outpacing the Earth’s ability to replenish those resources.
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.
Interested in knowing whether your country is an ecological creditor or debtor? Click here to see how your nation ranks in terms of its ecological footprint.
© 2022, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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