Deep Thoughts For The Day: Ecological Footprints

friday night i was chatting with a friend and facetiously made the comment that they should tax people for having too many kids, instead of giving them the rewards of huge tax breaks.

i don't see that idea ever actually coming into fruition, however, it got me to thinking about the impact we all have upon our habitat, the earth.

i did a little googling and learned the term 'ecological footprint' is used to describe the amount of space an individual takes up. not just physical space, but this measurement includes, use of resources, generation of waste, pollutions, etc. in other words, how much of our environment we consume.

this concept is then taken further, to use that footprint to determine how much space, ideally, we should be taking up, based on the known speed and ability of our planet to replenish all that we take from it.

at the site i took a little quiz to figure out my own footprint. the questions focused on consumption of animal products, fossil fuels and housing. it then told me my personal ecological footprint is 17 acres. damn, i don't feel that big.

i've never considered myself a conservationalist, but neither a wasteful person either. i don't leave the water running while i brush my teeth. i use both sides of a piece of paper. i even work at home, saving so much gasoline. but evidently, if everyone were to live as i do, we'd need 3.8 planets to sustain us.

what's more interesting is that the average footprint for my area is 24 acres per person. and worldwide there actually exists only 4.5 biologically productive acres per person. if little bitty me takes up 17, how does anyone fit into 4.5 or less?

this 4.5 acres is based upon the year 2000 worldwide population of around 6.1 billion (2005 has us at 6.5 worldwide). even if everyone had only two children (zero population growth), by the year 2100, the global population will have increased to 8.7 billion. and at our current rate of population growth 1.3%, our worldwide population will have increased to over 22.2 billion by the year 2100.

i also learned that humans are one of around 10 million species which inhabit this planet. yet, only 3% of the world's habitat is specifically set aside for all those other species. so technically, regardless of how many humans we make, we still represent only 0.000001% of the species of the planet earth. yet, we take 97% of it for ourselves.