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Ecological Footprints
Alex Steffen, 5 Dec 03

Alan's post "Indicators are Reality" prompted some debate around about the relative merits of different strategies for sustainability. That in turn led to several comments and emails asking for more info about the concept of "ecological footprints."

Ecological footprints are good tools for thinking: statistical formulae for assessing your lifestyle's environmental impact, measured in the number of acres of productive land it takes to support it and compared to the number of acres we'd each have to work with if the planet's ecological resources were used sustainably and distributed equitably (which works out to about 4 acres a person).

Want to figure out what you ecological impact is? Use this handy ecological footprint quiz (available in English, Germna, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese and Russian). I use eleven acres, which surprised me.

Interested in knowing how the other half footprints? This report ranks the ecological impact of nations.

It's not a perfect measurement, of course, but as a tool for mindfulness and a way of gleaning insight into how your lifestyle stacks up against those of your planetary neighbors, it's hard to beat.

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Of course, the sad truth is that there's no way in hell we can make anything resembling a first-world lifestyle have a small enough ecological footprint to be sustainable...

Even if we cut our resource use by a factor of four, we'd still be using far, far more than the planet can sustain long term.

I find myself chewing on that one at odd hours of the night.

Posted by: Vinay on 5 Dec 03

There is that. I lead a fairly green life and I'm 2.5+ times away from sustainability.

It is a spur to thinking bigger, that's for sure: we need not 30, 40, 80% more efficient technologies but technologies which are 10, 15, 20, 40 times more efficient. It's possible, but we nowhere near there yet.

Posted by: Alex Steffen on 5 Dec 03

I found this recently:

It's mostly somewhat-dubious design rhetoric, but there are some gems and (frankly) it's one of the few places I've really seen the scope of the necessary changes laid out.

Some bits of it are insane (like global urbanism as the answer) - but then, perhaps some part of it is designed to "piss off everybody - like good design should."

Posted by: Vinay on 6 Dec 03



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