The concept of Ecological Footprint was developed by William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel in 1990 and it means the amount of productive land and water that people in a particular part of the world need to provide them with an indefinite supply of renewable resources while also recycling all the waste and pollution related to their use of this resources. In other words, it tracks the demands placed by humans living of the Earth’s natural supplies by region, country and individual person.
The Global Footprint Network is a non-profit started in 2003 with the objective of enabling a sustainable future that would allow all humanity to live satisfying lives within the supply capabilities of one planet. To do so they measure human impact on the Earth’s natural resources, using the Ecological Footprint, to better inform the use of these resources and create ways to prevent their overuse and depletion.
They use Footprints as one would use a bank statement, tracking withdrawals and deposits to see if different regions, countries and individual persons are living within their ecological budgets or if are going into overdrafts, using resources faster than the Earth can replenish and in larger quantities. For example, today, as a whole, humanity is in overshoot because it uses the equivalent of 1.5 planets a year to provide the resources we use and regenerate our waste. Overshoot is when our demands exceed the supply and the regenerative capacity of the Earth.
In their view of the future these individual Ecological Footprints will be tracked as closely as the stock market, ensuring that buildings, products and cities are projected to have a one-planet Footprint, and where humans take care to live within the renewing means of our planet. To make this vision a reality they provide the world with the scientific data necessary to drive large-scale social change. Working with 200 cities, 23 nations, leading business, scientists, other NGOs, scholars, over 90 global partners in 6 continents and hundreds of individuals they are making the impact of the Footprint known, are applying it to projects and facilitating a worldwide discussion about a one-planet life and how we can all work to achieve that.
My individual Footprint
Since I’m from Brazil I decided to measure my Footprint twice, first measuring the impact of my current life in the United States and second measuring the impact of my life back in Brazil. And the results were so different they created a renewed awareness in me about the impacts a country’s footprint can have on our individual footprints.
First my American life: it would take 3.3 planet earths to provide enough resources for everyone in...