Ecological Footprints

Table 1: Countries and their EF in proportion to the world average, the world area available (1), and their GDP per capita(2).

Understanding Ecological Footprint

Ecological footprint is a term that has become increasingly popular over the years as humans have started to have a more and more negative impact on the environment with their bad habits. This term is used to measure how much biologically productive land and water a person or population must be equipped with in order to withstand the impact they have on the environment as a result of their personal habits. In addition, this term also adds in how much land is needed for the person to dispose of or recycle their waste. Certain factors play in to the ecological footprint of a certain country, such as GPD and population. Countries with small populations and a low GPD per capita rate, such as Bangladesh and Nepal are more likely to have a small ecological footprint because they are not consuming resources as fast or in as great of quantities as countries with big populations. Countries with a small GDP are not using as many resources to create certain goods; therefore, their ecological footprint is smaller because of their lower rate of consumption. “Overshoot” is a term related to ecological footprint because it measures how much of Earth’s renewable resources we are depleting faster than they can be replenished. Currently humans are using renewable resources 30% faster than they can be replenished, meaning Earth can no longer sustainably support us. With the amount of resources on the Earth and the always increasing human population, there is a certain number of people that the Earth can support. This is known as “carrying capacity”, which is an approximation of the maximum population size of a species that a certain environment can sustain (3). Since the human population is increasing and we are continuing to use resources faster than they can be replenished, we are in need of major changes that will reduce our ecological footprint, bring overshoot down, and make the Earth’s carrying capacity able to support the human population. As a part of this blog I have calculated my own ecological footprint based on my personal habits, which shows that my footprint exceeds that of the world average by almost two times. This means that I have to make changes to my daily lifestyle in order for the Earth to be able to support my habits. Personally, I think that people are not aware of the impact they are having on the environment; therefore, they continue their bad habits, but if this carries on, the Earth will eventually run out of resources and we will be forced to find alternatives.

Analyzing Table 1

The ecological footprint of different countries depends on a few major factors, which are affluence, technology, and population. Countries that have a small population with little technology will most likely have a small ecological footprint because they do not have the wealth or technology to create the same amount of goods as a larger country. Australia and the United Arab Emirates, on the other hand, have a lot of capital, advanced technology, and access to natural resources. Because of this, they are going to have a larger ecological footprint as they are better able to produce goods, but at the same time they will be consuming more resources and producing more waste. The United Arab Emirates has such a large ecological footprint because they have a small population in proportion to how much they produce and the size of their country.  From studying the table it isapparent that there is a direct relationship between GDP and the ecological footprint of a country. A country with a high GDP is going to have a larger ecological footprint because they are using more resources and producing more waste. For example, America and the United Arab Emirates both have ecological footprints larger than 10 and they also have a GDP of about $49,000. On the other hand, small countries such as Nepal and Burundi who have a small GDP of $1,300 and $600 also have ecological footprints of 1.01 and .75. 

 

This is a graph showing the relationship between ecological footprint and GDP per capital.  As the GDP of a country increases so does the ecological footprint.

Illustration 1: Ecological footprint and Biocapacity in USA (4)

As this graph shows, the bio-capacity of the United States is significantly lower than that of our ecological footprint, which means that the ecosystem is producing far fewer natural resources than we need and it is also consuming human waste at a lower rate than we produce. This also shows that America’s ecological footprint is decreasing as we are finding more sustainable ways to produce our goods and services.

My Personal Ecological Footprint 

Using the website, hhtp://myfootprint.org , I have calculated my personal ecological footprint and compared it to that of other countries around the world. My footprint is 6.49, which is a little bit more than twice that of the world average, which is understandable because I am from America and we tend to use a lot of resources; however, I have been trying to decrease my negative impact on the environment ever since I first heard about this term and figured out how much I was contributing to the environment in a negative way. Compared to the average American I am doing a good job, but that is not saying much because America has an ecological footprint of 12.22. My ecological footprint is about ten times greater than that of Bangladesh, but this is because the lifestyle of someone from Bangladesh compared to mine is drastically different. Because Bangladesh is an under-developed country, it is more common that they will have a smaller impact on the environment, whereas Americans are exposed to all sorts of resources that they have become adapted to using that are more than likely bad for the environment. However, this does not mean that it is impossible for me to reduce my personal ecological footprint, which I would like to do because I do not want to have a negative impact on the only Earth there is. I can do this through changing how much water I use, the car I drive, the amount of electricity I use, how much I recycle, and many other things. China has an ecological footprint of 1.84, which is three and a half times smaller than mine, which is surprising since china has such a large population and is a leader in manufacturing. New Zealand on the other hand has an ecological footprint of 9.45, which is quite larger than mine because they are focused on agriculture and do not use sustainable methods in doing so (5). Sadly, if everyone lived my lifestyle we would need about 6.49 Earths. In order to bring this number down we have to become more sustainable and be more aware of the resources we are using on a daily basis.

Table 2: This is a graph showing my footprint in comparison to America. My average is higher in all areas but carbon footprint. Goods and services is quite higher because i do not buy locally and import a lot of goods (6).

Ecological Footprint is a term that has become increasingly popular over the past years because scientist have started to realize that we are using resources a lot faster than they can be replenished. The Earth’s carrying capacity is not able to withstand the impact humans have on it because of the limited resources that exist. Certain countries that have a small GDP are most likely going to have a small ecological footprint since they do not use as many resources as a country with a large GDP and population. It is essential for those countries with a high GDP, such as America and the United Arab Emirates to find more sustainable ways to create their goods. After putting this blog together, it makes me even more determined to cut back on the number of resources I use in a negative way and alter my lifestyle so I do not contribute to America’s ecological footprint in a negative way.

References

  1. Environment Statistics (2000). Ecological Footprint (most recent) by country. Retrieved October 21st , 2012 from http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/env_eco_foo-environment-ecological-footprint
  2. The world Factbook (2012). Country Comparison – per capita – GDP. Retrieved October 21st , 2012 from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2004rank.html
  3. Withgott, J. & Brennan, S. (2010). Environment: The science behind the stories. 4th Ed. San Francisco: Pearson Education.
  4. (2012). Global Footprint Network. Retrieved October 21st , 2012 from http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/trends/unitedstates/
  5. Eric Pawson. ‘Economy and the environment – New Zealand’s ecological impact’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Retrieved October 21st , 2012 from http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/economy-and-the-environment/7
  6. Ecological Footprint (2012). My ecological footprint. Retrieved October 21st from http://myfootprint.org/en/quiz_results/
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