If this concept is not "inevitable" what it offers serves greatly
those who make the step to calculate their personal footprint.
The ecological footprint measures the amount of biologically productive
land area needed to produce goods and services we consume, and absorb
the waste we produce. It therefore allows to measure the pressure exerted
by human on nature.
This tool has been developed in Canada in the early 1990s, as part of
the Global Footprint Network, by two researchers: Mathis Wackernagel and
It was then popularized by the WWF global association whose website (among
others) offers a computerized questionnaire to calculate the individual
To understand the concept, we can start from a few observations:
* The Earth has a total area of 51 billion hectares.
* Only 11.4 billion of them are biologically productive: arable fields,
forests that absorb CO2, oceans that produce fish, etc. but not deserts,
for instance, where there is nothing arable.
* Those 11, 4 billion hectares are to be shared among 6.5 billion people
(7 in 2011). And this population is increasing day after day.
The ecological footprint represents an estimate of the surface necessary
for one person or a group of people to produce what they consume and absorb
what they reject. It is expressed in area unit: hectare (10,000 m²).
If there was an equal distribution of biologically productive area of
the Earth among all its inhabitants, each of us would have a "right"
to 1, 75 ha.
If we reserve some space for biodiversity, to the "wilderness",
it is about 1.6 hectare left to each of us to meet his long-term needs.
However, on average, each individual "consumes" already 2.2
hectares. So this is too much with respect to the natural capacity of
the earth and that means demand is far outstripping supply!
On the scale of humanity, this indicator has tripled in 40 years and
we live today as if we had 1.26 planet at our disposal.
Moreover, and this is particularly shocking, this consumption is obviously
very unevenly distributed. A European has an average footprint of 5 ha,
a North American of 9.7 ha, an Indian of 0,7 ha ...
Additionally, the ecological footprint of developed countries and World
population continues to grow: so, the productive area available per person
decreases day after day.
Here are some websites that offer a single calculation of the ecological
The big advantage of these questionnaires is that they allow those who
answer questions, to get aware about their consumption, and to help them
change their behavior in the concerned areas.
This does not mean that it gives a reliable calculation. It's much too
rough and uncertain, given the rough analysis it offers. But that does
not diminish the relevance of questions asked, and it is useful to have
a look at several sites in order to broaden the perspective.
Additional information is available at the following sites:
This text has been written originally in French and has been translated
by the author (who is French speaking). The translation quality is therefore
not guaranteed : see more details here.
Your help could be appreciated.