Our Ecological Footprint & Ultimate Survival
An Alarming Story of Fuzzy Numbers
This is not about sustainability!
The Ecological Footprint Story is about what each one of us consumes to survive and enjoy life compared to what the earth is capable of providing without decay or degradation.
I first became interested in this subject in 1996, when I attended a presentation by Professor William Rees and his assistant Mathis Wackernagel at The University if British Columbia in Vancouver.
The issue is: What do various country populations consume on average and can the earth support that amount? To solve this problem, the authors applied a simple concept called ecological footprint. So, what is an ecological footprint?
The ecological footprint is a method of measuring the quantity of nature (area of fertile land) it takes to support an individual, group of people or a whole economy. It is an ecological accounting system.
Wikipedia: In other words it is a way of measuring how fast we consume resources and generate waste compared to how fast nature can generate resources and absorb our waste.
As of June 2008, Canada's footprint was approx. 7.5 GHA/CAP, that's global hectares of fertile land per person. A hectare is a piece of land 100m x 100m or about 2.47 acres, or about 2¼ football fields. So, on average, each Canadian requires the growing capacity of 17 football fields to cover everything they have or do.
Canadian consumption (7.5 in 2008 now estimated at 8.17)
This is where those footprints go:
2.15 = 29%
Plant and animal food
2.18 = 29%
Construction, maintenance, energy
1.44 = 19%
All vehicles private and public
0.98 = 13%
Furnishings, clothing, electronics, paper, etc.
0.75 = 10%
Water, sewage, government & military, finances, etc.
7.50 = 100%
Our earth's capacity:
All of this is nice to know, but what is our earth's carrying capacity for supplying what we consume and absorbing the waste we generate? This is a very complex issue and details are open to question.
However, the difference or discrepancy between our total Footprint and the capacity of our earth to absorb is sufficiently large that imprecise figures leave little doubt. As of the 1990s, we needed at least 130% of what we have. Given the substantial increase in consumption since then, especially amongst advanced nations, that figure is likely even higher.
This is not about "sustainability" it's about ultimate human survival.
Canada compared to a sample of other countries in 2021:
Incr. 2008 to 2021 = 9%
Where should we look to save on footprints in Canada? Here is a sample of footprints.
Canadian footprint distribution across income:
Our Ecological Footprint, Mathis Wackernagel & William Rees, 1996