When I was an undergrad, it was quite popular to design your “Class t-shirts” and wear them. Our seniors had a peculiar t-shirt – a large footprint with few scribbles written inside. I thought it was weird. To have a footprint on your t-shirt, it looked like somebody had stamped you on the front. However, as I recall back, it probably was related to ecological footprint (or wasn’t, but my seniors were quite smart, I tell you). We learnt about ecological footprint on our 3rd year and man! it was confusing! Today, this term is quite popular and is being used often in mostly, in conservation science and climate change talks. This post introduces about ecological footprint in general. I have tried to make it easy by creating an infograph. References have been made largely from “Living Planet Report 2012: Biodiversity, Biocapacity and Better Choices” and few other sites.
Ecological footprint is a term given to know how much of biologically productive land and water area human population requires to produce the resources it consumes and to assimilate its waste. It tracks humanity’s demands on the biosphere by comparing humanity’s consumption against the earth’s regenerative capacity, or biocapacity.As for biocapacity, it is the nature’s ability to produce renewable resources, replenish the used resources, provide land for built-up areas and provide waste absorption services such as carbon uptake. Biocapacity acts as an ecological benchmark against which the Ecological Footprint can be compared. Both the Ecological Footprint and biocapacity are expressed in a common unit called global hectare, where 1 gha represents a biologically productive hectare with world average productivity.
Simply saying, it is a measure of how much energy we are using. Using this resource management tool, it is possible to estimate how much of earth (how much of planet) it would take to support humanity if everyone followed a given lifestyle.
Why is it important?
It is a necessary management tool because it estimates how much of earth (how much of planet) it would take to support humanity if everyone followed a given lifestyle. By which, we would know if humanity’s rate of consumption exceeds earth’s carrying capacity or not. By carrying capacity, we mean the nature’s maximum capacity to support human population (in terms of food, water, habitat, energy) and it’s activities.
In 2008, the Earth’s total biocapacity was 12.0 billion gha, or 1.8 gha per person, while humanity’s Ecological Footprint was 18.2 million gha, or 2.7 gha per person. This discrepancy means it would take 1.5 years for the Earth to fully regenerate the renewable resources that people used in one year. Ecological footprint for the humanity is recalculated every three year due to the time it takes for UN to collect and publish statistics and relevant research. The largest component of the ecological footprint is the carbon footprint (55%). Others are cropland, fishing grounds, built-up land, forest area and grazing land.
Ecological footprint is the sum of these areas, regardless of where they are located on the planet. Shown below, is an infograph that tells us about the components of ecological footprint.