One could explain the ecological footprint (EF) as a measurement within sustainable development. This is since the EF shows how much of the earths surface that is needed to meet the demand of natural resources that a certain lifestyle might require. It can also apply to a company or an entire nation. In other words, the EF can calculate the area that is required, or the so called biocapacity, of a particular way of life or production. Furthermore, the ecological footprint includes both the production and waste. To put it another way, it basically shows how sustainable, or not sustainable, ones consumption actually is. That is why the EF is an important starting point for sustainable work.
The ecological footprint across the globe
The ecological footprint of the entire world shows us that global consumption has been overusing the earth’s resources since 1970. Today, that is for over half a century. This overconsumption is part of today’s climate crisis and climate change. Some consequences of this is deforestation, lack of clean water and a unimaginable biodiversity loss. If one looks att the EF of humanity as a whole, yearly studies from Global Footprint Network presents the results.
For example, the “earth overshoot day” happened on the 22nd of august in 2020. This day thereby marks the day when all of humanity started to live beyond the capacity of the earth. More so, it shows that we would have needed 1,6 planets to meet the demand of last year. Unfortunately, this development puts an enormous pressure on nature.
The ecological footprint differ greatly amongst the nations of the world. This is due to our lifestyles and thereby enormous differences in patterns of consumption. In general, the richest countries have a much higher EF. For example nations such as Sweden have a very high footprint. The lifestyle there includes many big and private households, as well as many privately owned cars per capita. Colder nations also consume much more energy in the households. Other nations with a high EF are Qatar, Luxemburg and the United States.
How do you calculate an ecological footprint?
To begin calculating an EF, one starts by looking at the amount of resources that have been used. Following this, one compares these to the earths own ability to regenerate the source, the so called “regenerative capacity”. This means that the used resource is compared to how long it takes for the earth to create it again. In other words, the capacity of the earth to recover or rebuild itself. One can look at the consumption of wood as an example. If one looks at the largest rainforest of the world, the Amazon rainforest, one can see that the deforestation there is pushing the entire ecosystem towards a complete collapse. This is because the forest has no way of growing in the same speed that its being taken down.
It is good to keep in mind that an EF is calculated with respect and consideration to other spices. For example Globalis, calculates an EF by first putting aside land for the 30 million other spices that we share the earth with. After protecting the necessary area, the area that is accessible to humans is used to do calculate the footprint. Furthermore, Globalis puts aside about 12 % of the earth’s surface to protect the biological diversity. However, it is important to keep in mind that humans depend on other life as well. Hence the protection of other life and biological diversity.