Are Your Choices Sustainable?
People depend on nature for many things: food source, shelter, air, water, diversion of waste products, energy, clothing, and other needs of support our existance. If we are to continue to have quality living conditions, we must ensure that nature's ability to produce for our needs isn't used more quickly than the natural resource can be renewed, and that waste isn't discarded more quickly than nature can absorb it.
The ecological footprint is an accounting tool for ecological resources. Categories of human consumption are translated into areas of productive land required to provide resources and assimilate waste products. The ecological footprint is a measure of how sustainable our life-styles are.
The ecological footprint of the average Canadian adds up to 4.8 hectares or 18 acres of land! This is the total amount of land required for food, housing, transportation, consumer goods and services. Energy is a large component of this footprint: approx. 2.9 hectares are necessary to provide for long term biological substitute for fossil fuels. Agriculture is the second largest component at 1.1 hectare for the supply of food and consumer goods. Forestry takes up 0.6 hectare to supply the fibre for housing and consumer goods. Finally, our living environment takes up 0.2 hectares for housing and transportation.
Can the earth's population live like the average Canadian today?
No. In fact, if everyone on earth lived like the average Canadian, it would require at least three to four earths to provide all the material and energy she or he currently uses. Initial estimates show that the ecological footprint of today's consumption in food, forestry products and fossil fuels alone may already exceed the global carrying capacity by approximately 30%. About 3/4 of the current consumption goes to the 1.1 billion people who live in prosperity, while 1/4 of the consumption remains for the other 4.6 billion people. This demonstrates the ethical implications of the sustainability problem and questions economic expansionism as a remedy for poverty.
The Answer is up to Us!
We need to think seriously about how we can actually reduce the amount of waste we produce. Individual life-style choices have a strong influence on the ecological footprint. These choices include food, energy, transportation, housing, and water consumption, and other non-consumptive goods. For example: compare how much ecologically productive land is needed to travel by bicycle, car or bus. Most of the car's land is required to absorb CO2. Most the biker's land is used to provide the extra food for quenching the biker's hunger.