How much land does each of us need to live and survive
According to calculations, there are more than 7 billion and 750 million humans living on Earth today. Each of them eats, moves consumes energy, produces waste, uses resources and structures. The inhabitants of the countries of the North of the world and those of the South of the world have very different standards of living and behaviours, but both leave their mark on our planet, in some way “affect” the environment. What does this track correspond to? How can the effects of behaviour be measured, understand if it is correct or if it has too great an impact on the environment that provides us with the resources to live? What factors must be taken into consideration to understand if our daily choices are compatible with the survival of our planet or rather contribute to destroying it?
Among the various attempts made by scientists to explain and measure the impact of mankind on the earth, one of the most interesting is certainly the one based on the concept of ecological footprint.
The ecological footprint is a very useful method for calculating our impact on the environment and in particular on climate change, in terms of carbon dioxide (CO₂) produced. This measurement method was developed by Professor William Rees of British Columbia University in the 1990s and is still used today to measure the amount of greenhouse gases produced in daily life. The ecological footprint forces us to change our point of view, making us look at the context from the point of view of “Nature”: we no longer have to ask ourselves how many people can live on planet Earth, but how much Earth each inhabitant of the planet needs to live and survive.
The name “footprint” is very significant, because it makes us immediately think of the trace that each of us leaves in the ground as we walk: the heavier one is, the more he crushes the ground where he advances, the more he ruins it. The ecological footprint is a method for calculating the area of land and sea necessary for each of us to support their consumption of raw materials, energy and to absorb waste.
The ecological footprint is an environmental indicator, that is, a measurable physical quantity that allows you to check how far you go or how close you are to an environmental protection goal. More precisely, the ecological footprint allows us to understand in a simple and immediate way the relationship between the lifestyle of an individual or a population and the “quantity of nature” necessary for their livelihood. To calculate this footprint as accurately as possible it is necessary to collect a lot of data and make rather complicated calculations, but simplifications can be made. The important thing is that the message arrives: each of us leaves his mark, more or less large and profound depending on his lifestyle.
Are you a bigfoot or a mouse?
For further information and a simplified calculation of your ecological footprint, you can consult the educational resource made available by the Spanish partner Federacion EFA Galicia: Climate Change… is it my fault?