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Measuring sustainable consumption: the Ecological Footprint

Measuring sustainable consumption: the Ecological Footprint

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Measuring sustainable consumption: the Ecological Footprint

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  1. Measuring sustainable consumption: the Ecological Footprint Martha Rosemeyer Introduction to Environmental Studies October 7, 2002

  2. General Concept of sustainability • “Satisfying the needs of present generations without compromising the needs of future generations.” Bruntland Commission 1987 • So broad that it is devoid of operational significance • How do we know that progress is being made toward sustainability?

  3. Indicator of sustainability • We want to measure the ability to consume sustainably in a number of different categories • food • shelter • transport • goods and services • Question becomes how to aggregate these measurements

  4. Characteristics of an indicator of sustainability • Relatively easy to measure • Could be repeated • Sensitive • Correspond to level of aggregation that is appropriate • Developed in a participatory manner

  5. Concept of Ecological Footprint The quantity of bioproductive land that is required to support current consumption food, housing, transport, consumer goods, services Includes land needed for absorption of waste

  6. Assumptions • Resources consumed and waste are measured, and data accessible • Consumption and waste can be related to land area

  7. US Ecological Footprint- new Total .7 5.4 0 5.2 0 4.3 0 5.8 0 2.8 .7 23.5 Note: new fishing numbers

  8. Consumption in over 60 categories • Add imports and subtract exports • Resource use and waste emissions are expressed in land area required -- one unit

  9. Ecological footprints of nations • US 24 acres • Germany 12 acres • China 3.9 acres • India 1.9 acres

  10. Energy land Land needed to absorb CO2 2.47 acre/1 ha acre = football field

  11. Forest use

  12. Transport

  13. Transport

  14. How can the ecological footprint be used? • Global scale • National level • Municipalities, e.g. Thurston Co. • Individual items: tomatoes grown in greenhouse vs. in the field • Household/personal scale

  15. Overshoot Growth beyond carrying capacity or when demand exceeds ecological supply

  16. Humanity’s Ecological Footprint- 20-30% larger than is sustainable

  17. Only 1.9 ha or 4.7 acres of biologically productive space per person on Earth • World average is 2.3 ha or 5.6 acres

  18. Recognition Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2002 Concludes that since 1980s have exceeded regenerative capacity of biosphere 1999- 20% overshoot

  19. National EF with capacity anddeficit

  20. CanadianE F Impact of 5 categories on • energy, • degradation • garden • crop • pasture • forest

  21. Local E F Lower Fraser River Valley BC

  22. Comparingsystems Greenhouse vs. field grown (10x greater)

  23. Personal Calculation of individual ecological footprint

  24. Opportunity for personal reflection • Assignment due this Wednesday, October 9

  25. Ecological Footprint of Thurston County • Dr. Paula Swedeen from Sustainable Community Roundtable will be with us Wednesday. • “According to new calculations that more accurately account for CO2 emissions, Thurston County's “ecological footprint” is even bigger than reported in our 1997 Indicator Update. At 10.3 hectares (25.4 acres) per capita, sustaining our current population requires a land area ten times the size of Thurston County. At projected growth rates, we'll require one and a half times that amount of land to maintain our current quality of life — unless many more of us redefine what “quality of life” means, adopt an ethic of “voluntary simplicity,” and radically reduce our consumption.”