Eco Footprint

by guest writer, Mike J

Your eco footprint is a broad measure of your resource use compared to the planet’s ability to sustain it.

Although typically it has been the developed countries that has been the biggest contributor to global warming, recently, developing countries like China and India's industries have grown and are speeding up their contributions. As The Global Footprint Network states, “each country has its own ecological risks profile; many are running ecological deficits, with footprints larger than their own biological capacity”.

There are some complicated issues to think about, as this footprint considers not only whether you recycle, use green energy, drive a car but also such things as the food you eat, the amount of living space that you take up and the general efficiency of your country of habitation. Therefore, when calculating an individual’s eco footprint, the country’s capacity to replace or 'reimburse' the planet for what it uses also needs to be considered. Factors that need to be considered include how electricity is generated (is it mostly by burning fossil fuels or green resources like wind or solar power) or whether the country’s industries embrace greener technologies in its manufacturing and production industries.

It has been estimated in a report in 2006 that Earth's population is using some 25 per cent more resources than the Earth can re-new – a figure that may grow to 30 per cent. The Global Footprint Network also reports that “80 per cent of the world's population lives in countries that use more resources than is renewably available within their own borders.”

The first eco footprint was developed by Mathis Wackernagel under Prof. William E. Rees for a paper whist studying at the University of British Columbia between 1990 – 1994. This was later developed into a book - Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth in 1996. Since then, many ecological footprint calculators have appeared on the internet – and there are several organisations that will provide in-depth studies for businesses or organisations.

Ultimately what eco footprints are trying to measure is exactly how much resources are being used by individuals, businesses, cities, countries and the planet as a whole. In knowing this, we can monitor the overshoot – that is the overuse or resources compared to what the planet can regenerate – and hopefully adapt our lifestyles to rebalance the deficit. This will be achieved through the wide range of green ideas, technology and services existing and coming to the forefront every day.

Currently, politically and economically, we often categorise the world in terms of whether they are “developed” and “developing” countries. This is largely based on their GDP, political and technical infrastructure, and possibly the quality of life of its inhabitants. But such ecological measures have highlighted that in the future we might 'view' the world differently as resources become scarcer. In time to come, ecological wealth could possibly “emerge as a growing geopolitical force, playing an increasingly important role in determining countries’ competitiveness and its citizens’ ability to lead secure, rewarding lives.”

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