Estimating your overall impact on the environment is a daunting task when you consider all the variables involved. A tool for roughly estimating your environmental impact has been developed and it presents the information in a manner that is easily visualized despite the underlying complexities. It is known as an “ecological footprint”, and it describes the area of land needed to supply the resources used and wastes produced by each individual. Nature’s ability to provide resources and process wastes is known as “natural capital”, and the goal of sustainable living is to use resources wisely so as to avoid depleting natural capital, enabling it to be available to future generations. Ecological footprint analysis allows us to examine per-capita (per-person) utilization of natural capital (globally or by nation), the amount of natural capital available (globally or by nation), and the surplus/deficit in natural capital globally or in individual countries. We can then examine the impact of humans on the Earth’s natural capital on the whole or by individual nation.
Ecological footprints are calculated by examining the amount of land used for:
(a.) Cultivating food crops
(b.) Grazing livestock
(c.) Growing timber
(d.) Harvesting fish and other organisms from oceans
(e.) Housing, infrastructure (roads, bridges), transportation, shopping, energy production
(f.) Sequestering in trees the carbon dioxide produced by driving, electricity usage, etc.
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