HomeArticlesEcological footprint: how many planets do we need?

"Invisible" global problems

If you are not a scientist, not a politician, not an ecologist and not an activist, then you are unlikely to have information and think about what are the real volumes of resource consumption and the demands of mankind in relation to the Planet. The average consumer receives the final product imposed on him by the market, and therefore the questions rarely arise: where from? How? What was the price of all this on the shelves? If we are not related to the direct process of extraction, production, transportation of goods, then even approximate figures of the impact of this product on the Planet do not arise in our heads. Meanwhile, even the smallest accessory, bought for a one-time use, often incurs huge losses for the Earth.

Why has environmental activists become more and more numerous in recent years, and their voices are getting stronger? After all, even earlier we were taught to love nature and protect the forest, feed the birds in winter and not litter outside the trash can. But now concern for the environment is not limited to such primitive measures, since the problems of recent decades have gone much further and carry a much greater danger to all biological species. Now, even in places where no human foot has set foot, one can find pernicious traces of his activity. children began to notice the problem , among which there are many active environmentalists, which should be a serious signal and example for adults.

If you look from a scientific point of view, then in order to assess the human impact on the Planet and predict further opportunities for a comfortable existence of all species, there is the concept of an ecological footprint - this is the area (in global hectares, gha) of a biologically productive territory and water area necessary for the production of the resources we use and absorption and recycling of our waste. On a global scale, the ecological footprint indicates how quickly humanity is consuming natural (biological) capital. Or, in simple terms, how many Planets do we need to satisfy all the modern needs of humanity.

According to a 2014 report by the non-profit organization Global Footprint Network and the World Wildlife Fund ( WWF ), for more than 40 years since 1970, human consumption of natural resources has exceeded the Earth's ability to reproduce, leading to biocapacity deficit - the ability of the Earth's biosystem to produce certain biological materials (natural resources), as well as its ability to absorb and filter other materials (carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere. According to ecologists, the appetite of mankind exceeds the ability of nature to reproduce all resources by 1.5 times. If this trend continues, by 2050 we will need three Planets. In 2015, already in August, humanity spent the resources of the Earth, designed for a year. oversoot day - the day when our needs outpace the Earth's ability to regenerate - has moved 6 days back from 2014.

calculate your ecological footprint , for example, on the WWF website .

Components of the Ecological Footprint

The ecological footprint can be divided into three subgroups:

  • the ecological footprint of consumption is the consumption of biocapacity by the population of a particular country. This indicator is most dependent on the individual consumer: it can be reduced by changing the style of individual consumer behavior;
  • the ecological footprint of production is the consumption of biocapacity due to the conduct of production activities in the territory of a particular country or region;
  • The Ecological Footprint of trade is calculated by subtracting the Ecological Footprint of exports from the Ecological Footprint of imports. It is a measure of biocapacity in international trade.

The Ecological Footprint of consumption is the sum of the Ecological Footprint of production and the Ecological Footprint of trade. It follows from this that, by reducing our consumption, we reduce the chain of production, import / export, and hence the cost of resources and the impact on the environment.

What are the main components of the ecological footprint? The main and largest factor of influence is the carbon footprint, that is, the emissions of carbon dioxide (carbon dioxide, CO 2 ) into the atmosphere, formed during the combustion of fossil fuels due to human activities. Other components:

  • arable land - land necessary for agriculture to grow food, textile fibers, rubber crops;
  • pastures - land plots, the plant components of which are used for breeding farm animals in order to obtain meat and dairy products, leather and wool. You can read more about the impact of animal husbandry in our article “ Why and how does animal husbandry harm the environment? »;
  • forests - forest areas needed for the production of pulp and paper, logging and wood fuel, as well as for absorbing CO emissions2;
  • fishing zones - internal sea and fresh waters used for catching and breeding fish and seafood;
  • built-up land is a biologically productive area occupied by residential developments, transport infrastructure and industrial facilities.

According to 2005 data, the average “ecological footprint” of an inhabitant of the Earth was 2.7 hectares, while at the moment the Planet is able to provide everyone with only about 1.7 hectares. The largest per capita biocapacity overruns are in highly developed countries with high income levels and, consequently, low levels of consumption, as well as with high population density and low levels of waste disposal. The map below shows the total Ecological Footprint of consumption by country by population, expressed in global hectares (gha).


What threatens us with this state of affairs? First, the overexpenditure of environmental capital leads to the reduction of environmental assets and the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which in itself is a huge danger. Nature's ability to restore resources is sharply reduced, and this will lead to an inevitable collapse. The lack of clean air, clean drinking water and healthy food, climate change, soil pollution with toxic chemicals and the accumulation of unrecyclable waste are much more dangerous than the lack of a new lipstick or leather purse. Humans are 100% dependent on natural resources.

As the population grows on the planet, the pressure on it increases. It is becoming increasingly difficult to contain consumption and maintain the integrity of the ecosystem. Countries with depleted biocapacity will be forced to import resources for huge amounts of money, which will ultimately change the economic situation in the world (war for resources). Among other things, there is already a sharp decline in animal species due to habitat degradation, biological depletion of territories, pollution with waste and chemicals. Populations of many animal species have declined by 30-40%, some are on the verge of extinction. The same goes for marine life , half of which has already been lost, and in the case of some fish species, the population decline is 75%. Since in nature all species are closely interconnected and play certain roles in the biological chain, such an imbalance in the ecosystem will provoke more serious changes in all areas of the Earth, from climate to landscape degradation and environmental disasters.

What action can each take?

Being under the pressure of environmental, and therefore social and demographic problems, it is very difficult to maintain a positive attitude, pay attention to spiritual and moral values, and the simple joys of life. When there is a struggle for survival, it is impossible to live in peace and love. It is in our hands to prevent disaster. Don't rely on politicians, activists, scientists or anyone else. The actions of each of us are of great importance. After all, by our example we create a chain of influence that can bring the most unexpected, impressive results. Every smallest act can bring a lot of good or, conversely, harm. Even a small accessory purchased or a package accidentally thrown away can have disastrous consequences: after all, even if every 100th inhabitant of the Planet performs such an action, it will acquire a planetary scale. Be conscious in every action, think globally, try to bring more benefit to all of humanity and you will succeed.

To help you with this, we are running a Tips that will tell you how to make your life more environmentally friendly. You can also highlight some general recommendations, the observance of which will reduce your impact on the ecosystem:

  • buy the essentials, gradually get rid of momentary desires and thoughtless consumption. When making a purchase, consider how much you need this item, whether you can make it yourself , borrow it or buy it second-hand. If you still cannot do without this item, try to buy from the most reliable sources, made from natural materials in compliance with all standards of sustainable production;
  • when buying, make sure that you can properly (environmentally) dispose of this item. Hand over waste for recycling ;
  • buy local products;
  • avoid plastic and other non-biodegradable containers and packaging;
  • do not fall for the tricks of marketing propaganda;
  • save natural resources (electricity, gas, water, oil, etc.);
  • install ecological appliances, various eco-designs and devices in your home;
  • use environmentally friendly transport and walk more;
  • try to be close to nature in thoughts, actions and lifestyle. Spend more time outdoors, try not to destroy and deplete natural resources, but to restore. In everyday life, use things and objects made from natural organic materials. Eat healthy plant foods. Try to use only technically or chemically unprocessed items, returning them to nature in their original form;
  • think often about how you can simplify your life in order to reduce the impact on the environment, which you can do as a token of gratitude to nature for all its gifts;
  • remember those people who already lack the resources to survive or who suffer from environmental pollution. Are your whims worth such sacrifices?;
  • think about future generations - what kind of planet will you leave them as a legacy;
  • share information about a conscious and healthy lifestyle, set the right example.

And most importantly - create around yourself a space of love, gratitude and care for the world around you! Right thoughts form right actions.

May all living beings be happy! 🙂


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Victoria Shurupova Victoria Shurupova

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