Thursday, October 20, 2005

Your Ecological Footprint

The ecological footprint gives an estimate of how much productive land and water is necessary to support what you use and discard. This includes all the land you need for the food you eat, the fossil fuels you burn to sustain your lifestyle, the amount of forest required to absorb the green house gases you produce, and the waste you create. There are many websites estimating the ecological footprint. I recently tried You fill out a questionnaire and then it gives you the result. According to this website (and I didn't check their algorithm) the average American has a footprint of 24 acres. Worldwide there only exists 4.5 biologically productive acres per person. I answered the quiz twice. The first time I gave what I thought was the upper bound for my current lifestyle and I got a result of 24 acres - the American average. I then tried it again using the lowest bound, ignoring my now long commute and it still came up with 8 acres. It is almost impossible to live in the US and get below this value. Our whole infrastructure is based on an inexhaustible supply of natural resources. I am simply not paying for the true cost of having a New Zealand grown apple in February, working in a climate controlled office year round, and being able to jet over to Europe when I need to. If this is true then we're going run into serious trouble when the rest of the world starts to consume like we do.

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