Europe’s ecological footprint is currently more than twice its regenerative capacity. The issue has been discussed by EU ministers at an informal meeting in the Environment Council and it was concluded that if we don’t manage to use the materials we have in sustainable way we won’t be able to succeed in achieving a resource-efficient society.
The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth’s ecosystems and it is a useful assessment for estimating how many Earths it would take to keep up with the lavish lifestyle we enjoy in the developed world. In 2006 it has been calculated that we use up ecological services 1.4 times as fast as Earth can renew them.
Different methologies have been established in measuring our footstep. Allocating space for other creatures and calculating net primary productivity as well as changing the carbon component of the footprint to global carbon models has been received well by teachers, researchers, and advocacy organizations concerned about the ecological implications of humanity’s footprint. Basically, the ecological footprint is a broad measure of resource use which highlights where consumption is exceeding environmental limits.
At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves how much of the Earth’s resources does our lifestyle require?
Now the Belgian EU Presidency is intending to take sustainability and sustainable material management to a European level and to define the key questions on to what extent EU policy can contribute towards reducing our ecological footprint. Efficiency, alongside the implementation of renewable energies, will be the deciding factor in reducing our ecological footstep.
On a global outlook, it has become clear that human welfare is critically linked to mankind’s use and stewardship of ecological assets. Considering recurring world food crises and energy scarcity this is particularly obvious in Africa, where demand often exceeds what nature can provide. In a list of comparison, the USA requires 9 global hectares per person to satisfy demand, Eritrea requires only 0, 8 gha/capita, and Ethiopia 1,1 gha/capita. When considering national territory, in the United States there is a deficit of 4,6 gha/capita. This makes it an ecological debtor country. The situation in Africa is often reversed.
Another example that makes this unbalanced situation clear: An average German annually flushes more fresh water down the toilet than an average Indian uses in his entire life.
Our aim has to be to preserve the natural capital and reduce the environmental impact over the whole life-cycle from extraction, consumption and production to recycling. And it’s important to raise consciousness about this issue, so everybody can contribute to a fairer world by paying attention to sustainability.