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Ecological Footprints: 

Ecological Footprints

We Depend on Nature: 

We Depend on Nature We exchange energy and matter with our environment as we Eat Drink Breathe We use Energy for heat and mobility Wood for housing and paper Food and water for living

We Depend on Nature: 

We Depend on Nature Nature Absorbs our wastes Provides climate stability Protects us from ultraviolet radiation In cities we tend to think of nature as a collection of commodities we obtain from around the world But nature is the very source of our lives and well being

Ecological Footprints: 

Ecological Footprints The amount of ecologically productive land used by individuals, cities, countries, etc. Production and use of goods and services involve land use: have ecological footprints

Ecological Footprints: 

Ecological Footprints Energy Land Fossil energy consumption requires Co2 sink

Ecological Footprints: 

Ecological Footprints Consumed Land Built environment

Ecological Footprints: 

Ecological Footprints Farm Land Food production

Ecological Footprints: 

Ecological Footprints Forest Land forest products

Transportation Footprints: 

Transportation Footprints If one person travels 5 kilometers twice each workday: Bicycle: 122 sq meters Buses : 301 sq meters Cars: 1,442 sq meters

Agricultural Footprints: 

Agricultural Footprints Open Field production of tomatoes takes up more land than greenhouse production But Greenhouse production has a much larger ecological footprint (10-20x) Energy Fertilizer Other inputs

Urban Footprints: 

Urban Footprints Imagine New York City covered by a bubble like Biosphere II in Arizona Most people would die within a few days Cities depend on much greater amount of land, environment for vitality

Urban Footprints: 

Urban Footprints Now imagine how big that bubble would have to be for the city to be self-sustaining This is the ecological footprint of the city Actually 347,000 square miles to support 20 million in U.S. lifestyle size of Texas and Oklahoma combined.

National Footprints: 

National Footprints Holland population 15 million Density = 4.4 People per Hectare Consumption is less than in U.S. Still, Dutch people require 15x more land than is within their country for Food Forest Products Energy Use Therefore, the ecosystems that support Holland lie far beyond their national borders

National Footprints: 

National Footprints In U.S. each person uses about 4.5 hectares/person Worldwide average = 1.5 hectares/person Therefore if everybody were to adopt the U.S. consumptive style, we would need 3 planets

Iowa Footprint: 

Iowa Footprint Iowa Population is 2,776,000 U.S. average footprint is 4.5 hectares/person Iowans need 12.5 million hectares of average land to support themselves Iowa area is 14.5 million hectares Therefore we can support at least another 444,000 Americans


Inequity We all compete for ecologically overloaded world Excess consumption by affluent countries takes up ecological footprint that would be used by poorer nations

Resource Distribution: 

Resource Distribution Wealthiest 25% of the world uses 75% of the world’s resources If four people landed on an island, could divide the land up into 4 equal sections, trade goods. Is it fair if one of those people claims ¾ of the land, forcing the other 3 to live off of ¼ of the land?

Can everyone live like we do?: 

Can everyone live like we do? No. There is not enough earth to support it Thus all poor countries cannot follow the miracle of developed countries Someone must bear the ecological burden of consumption by the affluent Our continued over-consumption hits the poor hardest

Science Objection: 

Science Objection Footprint Analysis is a crude simplification Interactions with nature are complex Can’t reduce such complexity to a mater of hectares

Answer to Science: 

Answer to Science Footprint analysis may not tell whole story Is good enough to show us what must be done Newtonian physics good enough to get us to moon Avoid paralysis by analysis Footprints may actually underestimate impact of humans on environment

Marketplace Objection: 

Marketplace Objection Global income is rising faster than human population Agricultural production is responding to growing demand Environmental problems are due to poorly defined property rights or prices If prices right, market will solve problems

Answer to Marketplace: 

Answer to Marketplace Yes, when nature is undervalued, it gets used and abused Pollution charges and depletion charges can be useful to reduce environmental damage Require Government Intervention Footprint analysis may help determine true costs

Answer to Marketplace: 

Answer to Marketplace Not everything in nature should be privatized or priced Stable Climate? Safe Ozone Level? Much of our income today derived from liquidation of our natural “capital”

Natural Capital: Forests: 

Natural Capital: Forests

Natural Capital: Soils: 

Natural Capital: Soils

Free Trade Objection: 

Free Trade Objection Trade is beneficial, has improved standard of living Let people in different parts of the world do what they do best: Comparative Advantage Coffee and Bananas from Developing Countries Computers from Developed Countries Is also more economically efficient to do what is more ecologically efficient Makes sense for tomatoes to be grown in Mexico rather than in greenhouses in Canada

Answer to Free Trade: 

Answer to Free Trade Economics looks at money flow Footprint analysis looks at Ecological flow Hong Kong, Switzerland, Japan provide little ecological productivity to the world, draw a lot. Not everybody can be a net importer

Answer to Free Trade: 

Answer to Free Trade Expanding economy stimulates depletion of planet’s natural resources People who are using Footprint resources far from home have no incentive to conserve them Indonesian Oil Palm Plantation

Answer to Free Trade: 

Answer to Free Trade Intensive production methods accelerate depletion and pollution Economic benefits of intensive production are not equitably distributed Those who need income displaced from land Profits from intensive Ag go to those already well off.

Answer to Free Trade: 

Answer to Free Trade Global economy is pressing ecological limits Poverty still affects 1 billion people We don’t need “Free Trade” Need terms of trade that Encourage rehabilitation of natural capital Direct benefits of export activities to those who need them

Uncertain Future Objection: 

Uncertain Future Objection Prediction about the future are always way off Can be sure the future will be different from what we expect

Answer to Uncertain Future: 

Answer to Uncertain Future Footprint Analysis is not a predictive tool Is an “ecological camera” that takes a snapshot of our current demands on nature Extrapolation into future really measures sustainability gap” USA at night from orbit

South America: 

South America



East Asia: 

East Asia

Answer to Uncertain Future: 

Answer to Uncertain Future Footprints also show material inequity Footprints show us how much we must reduce our consumption improve technology change behavior to be sustainable

Technology Fix Objection: 

Technology Fix Objection For hundreds of years people have worried that we would run out of resources Technological revolution has increased abundance and lowered prices of goods and services Thus one farmer produces more than 200 farmers did 200 years ago

Technology Fix Objection: 

Technology Fix Objection Millions in N. America better off than kings and queens in past due to technology: Live more comfortably Are healthier Feel more secure Eat better

Technology Fix Objection: 

Technology Fix Objection Computer revolution could not be predicted We can’t anticipate future benefits of genetic engineering When people faced with a problem they come up with a solution Medicine Transportation Communication We can fix any problem in the future

Answer to Technology Fix: 

Answer to Technology Fix Technology will play a role in making society more sustainable If global economy to be 10x the size of today, we need technology that makes us 10x more resource efficient Solar water heaters, insulation reduce our footprints and maintain standard of living

Answer to Technology Fix: 

Answer to Technology Fix Some technologies substitute natural capital for labor: Intensive Agriculture Gains in technology can encourage consumption Efficient cars just used more frequently! Despite efficiency gains, energy consumption has increased Gas-Electric Hybrid Car

Optimism Objection: 

Optimism Objection Footprints are depressing Apocalyptic visions never come true Look on the bright side! What, me worry?

Answer to Optimism: 

Answer to Optimism Acknowledging finite capacity of Nature is not pessimistic: is realistic It allows wise decisions Footprint assumption: we must live with global carrying capacity Number of people the earth can sustain If we choose wisely, may increase quality of life Concerned that our life now is destructive Sooner we start moving toward sustainability, easier it will be for humanity

Energy Production Objection: 

Energy Production Objection Energy is driving force of human enterprise With enough energy we can do anything Clean up environment Irrigate Deserts Build fast transportation networks Power highly productive greenhouses Soon we will have unlimited energy sources Fusion, Fission Tidal, Solar

Answer to Energy Production: 

Answer to Energy Production Sun = 175,000 terawatts shine on earth Fossil fuels use =10 terawatts Imagine impact of unlimited energy supply We’ve run down planet with just 10 terawatts extended human activities may produce new limiting factor: Waste Assimilation Still, moving toward solar energy would be good, would reduce our footprint

What Should We Do?: 

What Should We Do? I asked the author of this book what kind of technology research he thought the universities should be doing Answer: Research to help us reduce our ecological footprint without reducing our standard of living: sustainability

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