The Ecological Footprint is a measure that calculates human consumption and its demand on the planet’s ecosystems. According to reports from the GFN (Global Footprint Network) the world would need 1.7 Earths to support its current demands on renewable, natural resources.
Ecological Footprint & Biocapacity
The footprint takes into account how much in biological resources (such as forest land or fishing grounds) is necessary to fulfill the consumption of a country to absorb its waste. Along with an ecological footprint, the GFN also measures bio-capacity. This is the country’s ability to renew the resources demanded from its ecosystems. The smaller a country’s ecological footprint, and the bigger a country’s bio-capacity, the better it is.
Many countries have bio-capacities that are declining quickly. In some countries, this can be due to a combination of rapid population growth and deforestation. The United States for example, makes up 13% of the world’s total footprint and has the second-largest deficit in the world, after China. While the United States’ total footprint has been slightly decreasing since 2005, it is still twice the size of India’s and far greater than in other developed countries. Its consumption rate is still far from completely sustainable.
Economic development often means using more resources and increasing carbon emissions. For developing countries, an increase in ecological footprint may be necessary to strengthen their economies. The footprints in these countries may not be high to begin with, so small changes can cause a big jump. Also sustainable technology may not be as widely available in developing countries.
For developed countries, the opposite may be true. Because their rate of growth is decreasing and most already have large footprints, the fluctuations might not be so obvious. There are many different solutions, but the fastest way for a country to reduce its ecological footprint, according to GFN is to switch to greener energy sources.