3.8 (1-3) Ecological Footprint and the Carrying Capacity of the Earth


Explain the concept of an ecological
footprint as a model processing the demands that human populations make on their
environment we calculate from appropriate data the ecological footprint of a given population
stating the approximations and assumptions involved and we describe
and explain the differences between the ecological
footprints of two human populations one from less economically developed country and
one from a more economically developed country agricultural land open range cattle farming the extraction of oil a River a coastal fishing village a closed landfill and an outfall pipe draining waste into the ocean soil contaminated with hazardous waste the ecological footprint takes into account all of these for it is the amount of land and water required to supply all of the needs for given number of people and to assimilate all of the wastes that they produce the ESS guide defines the ecological footprint as the area a bland and water required to support a defined human population at a given standard is living the measure takes
into account the area required to provide the
resources needed by the population and also to assimilate or to collect all of the waste that
the population generates according to footprint network dot org the carrying capacity or the biocapacity of planet Earth is 13.4 billion global hectares put simply there are 13 .4 billion hectares of land capable of making a contribution toward
the ecological footprint either by being productive or by being able to assimilate waste from the human
population of seven billion given the fact that we
have seven billion people and 13.4 billion global hectares less then to global hectares are available per person on the planet given the current level of consumption
of the Earths human population we would need 1.5 Earths or to put it another way we would need 18 months of production to provide the needs of the Earth for 12 months this current overshoot is forecast to increase by the year 2030 and to continue its increase well into
the 21st century it is important to note that this is
just a model and it is likely that the actual
bio-capacity of the earth maybe even less spent 13.4 billion global hectares if we were to
include waste assimilation for things like heavy metals and plastics and to factor in water sustainability which is something that could change
from one year to another dependent upon things like global
climate change then we would realize that there is much
more that must go into the calculation of the Earths carrying capacity and the
true ecological footprint of our population
in addition to that the 13.4 billion global hectares are utilized to different extents
depending upon the level of economic prosperity in a
given country for a more economically developed
country like the United Kingdom the average citizen requires 5.1 global hectares whereas for a less economically
developed country like India the average citizen consumed only .9 global hectares it is useful to
examine some of the reasons for these differences one significant
reason has to do with the diet in many MEDC’s people consume a meat rich diet whereas in LEDC’s much less meat is consumed consider this area of land if it were
dedicated solely to producing grain and not to raising free range cattle then the amount of food that it could
produce would be significantly greater the
explanation for this connects to another topic and to the
differences between primary productivity and secondary productivity another
reason for the MEDC-LEDC difference is the consumption of energy this kitchen is typical up an MEDC like
the United Kingdom and it is powered by a huge consumption a fossil fuels to run the electric stove and the microwave and the dishwasher and
all of the other appliances and modern amenities which
are widely used in developed countries whereas in an
LEDC like India millions are without electricity and running water and very little energy is consumed in the preparation of
meals and very little meat is consumed in
meals another reason is the amount of
processed food that is consumed in the MEDC and all of the fossil fuel energy that
is consumed in the packaging and in the transport
and distribution of these foods the automobile is another major reason for the MEDC LEDC divide in most developed
countries people own cars and these cars are in most cases powered by the
consumption a fossil fuels in LEDC’s this consumption is a lot
less but in recent years with development it has been on the rise and millions in
India are beginning to improve the quality of
their life it is predicted that by the middle of
the 21st century millions more will have improved the
quality of their lives and the typical Indian Kitchen will look something like this.. this model for the ecological footprint is just that simplified description designed to show
the structure or workings of a system or concept a simple way to allow us to get an idea as to how much of a burden a country places on the planet’s resources a simple footprint calculator or a model involves the consideration of two main parameters the per capita or per person food consumption in kilograms per year divided by the
mean food production per hectare of local arable land per year basically a simple equation to allow a country to know whether or
not its able to supply its people with food another simple equation matches the per
capita carbon dioxide per year with the net carbon dioxide fixation per hectare of local vegetation per year in both cases these values can differ depending upon the productivity of the local arable land and depending upon the ability of that
vegetation to dissipate carbon dioxide let’s
consider three questions why is this model considered as a
simplified calculator what are some ways to lower
ecological footprint and what are some ways to increase bio-capacity this model calculation is
simplified because it excludes the land or water
required to provide any aquatic and atmospheric resources to take up waste other than carbon
dioxide it does not include the energy and
material subsidies imported to the productive land for
increasing the yields like fossil fuels to power tractors or fertilizers that are manufactured in
far-off countries it does not consider the replacement and
loss of productive land through urbanization a simple way to reduce the ecological footprint is to
reduce reuse and recycle and a way to increase bio-capacity is through
the use of biotechnology such as genetically
modified foods or alternative energy which would mean less fossil fuel consumption

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