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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 William Rees.

It was then popularized by the WWF global association whose website (among others) offers a computerized questionnaire to calculate the individual ecological footprint.

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 footprint:

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. Don't hesitate to report any error. See more details here.



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