http://www. footprintnetwork. org/en/index. php/GFN/page/basics_introduction/ Footprint Basics – Introduction You’ve probably heard of the Ecological Footprint – the metric that allows us to calculate human pressure on the planet and come up with facts, such as: If everyone lived the lifestyle of the average American we would need five planets. This section of our Web site explains how the Ecological Footprint works in basic terms. It examines the benefits of ecological accounting, introduces some of the most important Footprint findings, and addresses provocative questions: Do we fit on the planet?
How can the Footprint foster sustainable human development? How do carbon emissions contribute to humanity’s Ecological Footprint? Footprint Basics – Overview Humanity needs what nature provides, but how do we know how much we’re using and how much we have to use? The Ecological Footprint has emerged as the world’s premier measure of humanity’s demand on nature. It measures how much land and water area a human population requires to produce the resource it consumes and to absorb its wastes, using prevailing technology. pic] [pic] Our current global situation: Since the mid 1980s, humanity has been in ecological overshoot with annual demand on resources exceeding what Earth can regenerate each year. It now takes the Earth one year and four months to regenerate what we use in a year. We maintain this overshoot by liquidating the Earth’s resources. Overshoot is a vastly underestimated threat to human well-being and the health of the planet, and one that is not adequately addressed.
By measuring the Footprint of a population—an individual, city, business, nation, or all of humanity—we can assess our pressure on the planet, which helps us manage our ecological assets more wisely and take personal and collective action in support of a world where humanity lives within the Earth’s bounds. Conceived in 1990 by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees at the University of British Columbia, the Ecological Footprint is now in wide use by scientists, businesses, governments, agencies, individuals, and institutions working to monitor ecological resource use and advance sustainable development. World Footprint
Do we fit on the planet? Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1. 3 planets to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth one year and four months to regenerate what we use in a year. Moderate UN scenarios suggest that if current population and consumption trends continue, by the mid 2030s we will need the equivalent of two Earths to support us. And of course, we only have one. Turning resources into waste faster than waste can be turned back into resources puts us in global ecological overshoot, depleting the very resources on which human life and biodiversity depend. pic] [pic] The result is collapsing fisheries, diminishing forest cover, depletion of fresh water systems, and the build up of pollution and waste, which creates problems like global climate change. These are just a few of the most noticeable effects of overshoot. Overshoot also contributes to resource conflicts and wars, mass migrations, famine, disease and other human tragedies—and tends to have a disproportionate impact on the poor, who cannot buy their way out of the problem by getting resources from somewhere else.
Ending Overshoot The Earth provides all that we need to live and thrive. So what will it take for humanity to live within the means of one planet? Individuals and institutions worldwide must begin to recognize ecological limits. We must begin to make ecological limits central to our decision-making and use human ingenuity to find new ways to live, within the Earth’s bounds. This means investing in technology and infrastructure that will allow us to operate in a resource constrained world.
It means taking individual action, and creating the public demand for businesses and policy makers to participate. Using tools like the Ecological Footprint to manage our ecological assets is essential for humanity’s survival and success. Knowing how much nature we have, how much we use, and who uses what is the first step, and will allow us to track our progress as we work toward our goal of sustainable, one-planet living. *Time series data for all nations not available. See 2008 Data Tables for more information. Living Planet Report Living Planet Report
Every two years, Global Footprint Network along with WWF and the Zoological Society of London issues the Living Planet Report, which uses complementary measures to explore the changing state of global biodiversity and of human consumption. The report documents the extent of human pressure on the planet, how that compares across nations, and how it is impacting the natural world. Human Pressure on the Planet Growing The Living Planet Report 2008, released October 29, 2008, shows that at the current rate humanity is using natural resources and producing waste, by the early 2030s we will require the resources of two planets to meet our needs.
In 2005, the most recent year for which data are available, humanity’s Ecological Footprint was 31 per cent larger than the planet’s capacity to produce these resources, according to the report. This ecological overshoot means that it now takes about one year and three months for the Earth to regenerate what we use in a single year. Overshoot has increased by 5 percent since the last Living Planet Report was published in 2006. The carbon Footprint, which accounts for the use of fossil fuels, is almost half the total global Footprint, and is its fastest-growing component, increasing ore than eleven fold from 1961to 2005. What is Earth Overshoot Day? Earth Overshoot Day marks an unfortunate milestone: the day when humanity begins living beyond its ecological means. Beyond that day, we move into the ecological equivalent of deficit spending, utilizing resources at a rate faster than what the planet can regenerate in a calendar year. Globally, we now require the equivalent of 1. 4 planets to support our lifestyles. Put another way, in less than 10 months, humanity will have used ecological services it takes 12 months for the Earth to regenerate. [pic] Of course, we only have one Earth.
The fact that we are using (or “spending” natural capital) faster than it can replenish is similar to having expenditures that continually exceed income. In planetary terms, the results of our ecological overspending are becoming more clear by the day. Climate change – a result of carbon being emitted faster than it can be reabsorbed by the forests and seas – is the most obvious and arguably pressing result. But there are others as well: shrinking forests, species loss, fisheries collapse and freshwater stress to name a few. Please contact Nicole Freeling if you are interested in learning more about Earth Overshoot Day.
What is Overshoot? Just like any company, nature has a budget — it can only produce so many resources and absorb so much waste every year. The problem is, our demand for nature’s services is exceeding what it can provide. In 2009, humanity is projected to use about 40 percent more than nature can regenerate this year. This problem — using resources faster than they can regenerate and creating waste such as CO2 faster than it can be absorbed — is called ecological overshoot. We currently maintain this overshoot by liquidating the planet’s natural resources.
For example we can cut trees faster than they re-grow, and catch fish at a rate faster than they repopulate. While this can be done for a short while, overshoot ultimately leads to the depletion of resources on which our economy depends. [pic] Humanity first went into overshoot in 1986; before that time the global community consumed resources and produced carbon dioxide at a rate consistent with what the planet could produce and reabsorb. By 1996, however, humanity was using 15 percent more resources in a year than the planet could supply, with Earth Overshoot Day falling in November.
This year, more than two decades since we first went into overshoot, because we are now demanding resources at a rate of 40 percent faster than the planet can produce them. In 2008, Earth Overshoot Day was reached on September 23. How is Earth Overshoot Day Calculated? [ world biocapacity / world Ecological Footprint ] x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day Day Put simply, Earth Overshoot Day shows the day on which our total Ecological Footprint (measured in global hectares) is equal to the biocapacity (also measured in global hectares) that nature can regenerate in that year.
For the rest of the year, we are accumulating debt by depleting our natural capital and letting waste accumulate. The day of the year on which humanity enters into overshoot and begins adding to our ecological debt is calculated by calculating the ratio of global available biocapacity to global Ecological Footprint and multiplying by 365. From this, we find the number of days of demand that the biosphere could supply, and the number of days we operate in overshoot. This ratio shows that in 2009, in just 268 days, we demanded the biosphere’s entire capacity for the year. The 267th day of the year is September 25.
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