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Our escalating consumption of natural resources and services directly impacts our planet. The challenge for long-term sustainability is to ensure that our consumptive patterns stay within the biological capacity of the biosphere. But how do we know if we are within that constraint? This tutorial is designed to help you determine your personal impact on the environment. To further explore the question of fair share of resources, you will be asked to provide an assessment of which is the most feasible approach to achieve the goals of sustainable development to lift the majority of the world’s citizens to a more equitable share of resources while ensuring we do not exceed the Earth’s biocapacity.
The Ecological Footprint concept was designed to assess the human impact on nature. The approach attempts to measure how much of natures’ resources we use simply to sustain our lifestyle. Ecological footprint calculations are based on two fairly easy-to-understand premises: 1) Can we keep track of most of the resources we consume and the wastes we generate? 2) Can we convert resource consumption and waste flows into the area of biologically productive space required to deal with these flows? Thus, the Ecological Footprint of any defined population (from a single individual to a whole city or country) is the area of biologically productive land and water exclusively required to produce the resources consumed and assimilate the wastes generated by that population, using prevailing technology. As people use resources from all over the world and affect far away places with their wastes, footprints sum up these ecological areas from wherever that land and water may be located on the planet.
In its simplest definition, biological capacity or biocapacity refers to the capacity of a given biologically productive area to generate an on–going supply of renewable resources and to absorb its wastes. However, the actual calculation of the biocapacity of an area is a bit more complicated. Itis usually calculated by multiplying the actual physical area by the yield factor of the particular land type and the appropriate equivalence factor. The yield factor accounts for variances between countries in the productivity of the different land types. For example, in 2005, German cropland was 2.3 times more productive than the world average. The equivalence factor is a productivity-based scaling factor that converts a specific land type (such as cropland or forest) into a universal unit of biologically productive area called a “global hectare”(gha). For example,to convert an average hectare of cropland to global hectares, it is multiplied by the cropland equivalence factor of 2.64. Pasture lands, which have lower productivity than cropland, have an equivalence factor of 0.5
Therefore, using our German example from above, a hectare of German cropland is converted to global hectares by multiplying that cropland by a yield factor of 2.3, multiplied by the cropland equivalence factor of 2.6 which results in: one German hectare of cropland is equal to 6.0 global hectares (gha).
Unsustainability occurs if the area’s ecological footprint exceeds its biocapacity.
Since we humans are not alone on this planet, we can see that complications will arise if we use all the available land and water for our own purposes leaving nothing for other species. ThePlanet’s natural systems and cycles (hydrologic, carbon, etc.) are unlikely to continue to function (thus keeping us alive) in the absence of the perhaps 30 million other species comprising Earth’s ecosystems. Most of them are already excluded from spaces intensively occupied by human activities. Is it difficult to accept that our survival depends on other species? How do we figure out how much is necessary to secure an ecologically stable world? To what extent does fairness to other species enter the picture?
Humanity already consumes 40% more than what nature can regenerate (hence we are eating up the globe’s natural capital). If you do the math, there is something like 2 hectares available if all humans were to share resources equitably and still stay within Earth’s carrying capacity. As you will see, 2 hectares would be a substantial reduction in resource use for affluent North Americans. Therefore, the sustainability challenge is: “What changes can we make that will still allow us to live a fulfilling life, yet consume something less than 2 hectares per person?” This is probably the most significant question facing us, whether at school, in business, and in our everyday lives!
Moving toward sustainability
Based on the course material to date, there are a variety of variables we can consider to achieve our sustainability goals. We can strive to have more equitable ecological footprints, where some of us will have to reduce significantly so that others can benefit from a more equitable share of resources; we can increase biocapacity, or we can consider reducing population growth rates and sizes. In this tutorial, you will be asked to calculate your personal ecological footprint, review and compare your footprint to others to determine whether it is feasible to make meaningful reductions. And finally, to present an analysis of whether we can move towards sustainability by realistically altering any or all of the three variables discussed above.
-To estimate your ecological footprint: the amount of productive land necessary to supply the components of your present lifestyle.
-To explore elements of your lifestyle that you could change in order to reduce your footprint,
-To address whether it is possible to manage a fair share of resources for all of humanity without compromising the planet’s carrying capacity, by evaluating the feasibility of making changes to the three variables introduced: ecological footprint, biocapacity, population.
Calculate your ecological footprint using the calculator found at the following website, and attach the results page with your assignment submission:
– whenever presented with the option, chose “Add details to improve accuracy”(usually on the bottom) since it will provide more accurate answers, then follow the instructions to determine your ecological footprint
Respond to the questions to the best of your knowledge:
▪choose 25% when prompted to identify the proportion of renewable energy in the electricity mix
•Review the table of ecological footprints and biocapacity calculated from 2007 data (the most recent year in which source data was available) in the file titled “Tutorial 2 national eco footprints 2010.xlsx” in the Tutorial #2 link in the Tutorial module on the course page on Quercus. In particular, review columns: Ecological Footprint of Consumption, Total Biocapacity, and Ecological (Deficit) or Reserve. Row 9 of the table summarizes that the World Ecological Footprint of Consumption is 2.7, while the Total Biocapacity is 1.8, leaving the global community with an ecological deficit of 0.9!
– Incorporating as much relevant data from your ecological footprint exercise, tutorial resources provided, and your own independent research, present an analysis of not more than 1000 words, on whether you think sustainable development with a more equitable distribution of Earth’s resources is achievable and which of the variables or combination of variables will be the most feasible approach to achieving this goal:
•Altering individual ecological footprints•IncreasingEarth’s biocapacity
•Your assessment should be written in an essay format with an introduction, body, and conclusion, in full sentences with paragraphs.
Within your assignment you should:
•Use APA in–text citation method as appropriate and for formatting the references used in your Reference List.
•Incorporate additional research as appropriate since there is an abundance of interest and sources on this topic.
•Provide any calculations you use in support of your statements.
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