What is your ecological footprint?

This coming week (on Monday, Jan 29) we will discuss ecological footprints in class, and read a small sample from a burgeoning literature in the field. Four papers are up on Blackboard for you to download.

Here are the citations for the two main papers for discussion:

  1. M. Wackernagel, and 10 co-authors. 2002. Tracking the ecological overshoot of the human economy. PNAS 99:9266-9271.
  2. M. Luck, and 3 co-authors. 2001. The urban funnel model and the spatially heterogeneous ecological footprint. Ecosystems 4:782-796

I have also posted a couple of additional papers, for further reading – but note that if you search for the phrase “ecological footprint” on Google Scholar, you will get a few thousand hits! And if you find something more interesting than these papers, or a different take on the concept, do share!

While these papers illustrate the use and application of the concept to regional and national scales, you can go figure your own individual ecological footprint at the Earth Day Footprint Quiz. I would like you all to do that, and share what you think of this particular tool. Play around with it – change some of your responses, or your location, and see what happens to your footprint? Does it change? How? Why?

Then go explore the website of Redefining Progress, the organization behind the ecofootprint quiz. The thing that caught my eye, and is on my list of things to read this week is their new report: The Ecological Fishprint!

On the other hand, the reconciliation ecology perspective, as articulated by Dr. Michael Rosenzweig (quoting a Chinese maxim) says, “The careful foot can walk anywhere“!

3 thoughts on “What is your ecological footprint?

  1. Craig

    Hey everyone, I tried out the Earth Day footprint link on the blog, and you should all try it out. I need 15 acres of land just for myself. If everyone lived like I do we would need 3.3 planets, shocking huh.

  2. Madhu

    I’m even worse, with my profligate professorial jetsetting lifestyle: 19 acres implying that we will need 4.2 earths if everyone lived like me!!However, if I make a single change – just cut out those trips to India – and leave everything else the same, my footprint comes down to 9 acres, which averages out globally to 2 planets!So what’s a global ecologist to do? Move to India, perhaps? Well, if I maintain the exact same lifestyle I have here in the US, but move my base to Bangalore (and stop flying so much), my footprint drops to 2.3 hectares (5.7 acres), for an average of 1.3 planets!.Still not quite good enough – but if I am more realistic about how a professor lives in Bangalore, eat more like we do there (less meat, much less processed foods), switch to local modes of transport (i.e., not use my car so much, use a bicycle and motorbike, public transport, etc.), how do I do? Well, now I have brought my footprint down to 1.3 ha (3.2 acres), which is finally below the current global average of 1.8 ha (4.4 acres). So if we all live like a professor in Bangalore, we might get by with our one earth! Note, however, that even with this, I am consuming significantly more than the national average for India, for the average footprint for the country is a mere 0.8 ha (less than 2 acres) per person. Now isn’t that interesting? There is still room to improve the lives of many people around the world, it would seem, without requiring us all to become vegan hermits…!Does that give you a wee bit more hope than the depressing note we ended our class discussion on this week?

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