Posts Tagged ‘footprint’

  • Explain the concept of an ecological footprint as a model for assessing the demands that human populations make on their environments.

The ecological footprint of a population is the area of land, in the same vicinity as the population, that would be required to provide all the population’s resources and assimilate all its wastes. As a model, it is able to provide a quantitative estimate of human carrying capacity. It is, in fact, the inverse of carrying capacity. It refers to the area required to sustainability support given population rather than the population that a given area can sustainably support.

Ecological footprints can be increased by:

  • greater reliance on fossil fuels
  • increased use of technology and energy (but technology can also reduce the footprint)
  • high levels of imported resources (which have high transport costs)
  • large per capita production of carbon waste (high energy use, fossil fuel use)
  • large per capita consumption of food
  • a meat-rich diet

Ecological footprints can be reduced by:

  • reducing use of resources
  • recycling resources
  • reusing resources
  • improving efficiency of resource use
  • reducing amount of pollution produced
  • transporting waste to other countries to deal with
  • improving country to increase carrying capacity
  • importing resources from other countries
  • reducing population to reduce resource use
  • using technology to increase carrying capacity
  • using technology to intensify land

There are many plans and innovations being set to reduce the ecological footprint in the future, this is funded by the MEDCs who have the biggest problems with their ecological footprints.

  • Calculate from appropriate data the ecological footprint of a given population, stating the approximations and assumptions involved.

The ecological footprint calculation is very complex, however approximations can be obtained through the steps outlined in this figure:

The total land requirement (ecological footprint) can then be calculated as the sum of these two per capita requirements, multiplied by the total population.

This calculation clearly ignores the land or water required to provide any aquatic and atmospheric resources, assimilate wastes other than CO2, produce the energy and material subsidies imported to the arable land for increasing yields, replace loss of productive land through urbanzation, and so on.

Factors used in a full ecological footprint calculation would include those in the following list:

  • bioproductive (currently used) land: land used for food and materials such as farmland, gardens, pasture and managed forest
  • bioproductive sea: sea area used for human consumption
  • energy land: an amount of land that is required to support renewable energy instead of non-renewable energy. The amount of energy land depends on the methods of energy generation ad is difficult to estimate for the planet
  • built land: land that is used for development such as roads and buildings
  • biodiversity land: land required to support all of the non-human species
  • non-productive land: land such as deserts is subtracted from the total land available

There are factors ignored when calculating the ecological footprint which influence the amount of land a population needs to support itself:

  • the land or water required to provide and aquatic and atmospheric resources
  • land or water needed to assimilate wastes other than carbon dioxide
  • land used to produce materials imported into the country to subsidize arable land and increase yields
  • replacement of productive land lost through urbanization

If everyone on Earth had the same lifestyle as the ones in the MEDCs, many Earths would be needed to support the global population.

  • Describe and explain the differences between the ecological footprints of two human populations, one from an LEDC and one from a MEDC.

Data for food consumption are often given in grain equivalents, so that a population with a meat-rich diet would tend to consume a higher grain equivalent than a population that feeds directly on grain.

The standards of living between MEDCs and LEDCs  change according to the resource consumption, energy usage and waste production, disparities should be expected between the ecological footprints of LEDCs and MEDCs. LEDCs have small ecological footprints as MEDCs have much greater rates of resource consumption. This is partly because MEDCs have higher incomes and the demands for energy resources is high. MEDCs consume a lot of resources as they are wasteful, they also have more waste and pollution. LEDCs are the opposite with lower consumption as people do not have too much to spend. The economy of the country forces them to recycle many resources, however they are developing and they’re ecological footprint is increasing. MEDCs use twice as much energy in their diet provided by animal products than LEDCs.

  • Discuss how national and international development policies and cultural influences can affect human population dynamics and growth.

Many policy factors influence human population growth. Domestic and international development policies (which target the death rate through agricultural development, improved public health and sanitation, and better service growth by lowering mortality without significantly affecting fertility.

Some analysts believe that birth rates will come down by themselves as economic welfare improves and that the population problem is therefore better solved through policies to stimulate economic growth.

Education and birth control encourages family planning. Parents may be dependent on their children for support when they get older and this may create an incentive for more children.

Urbanization  may also be a factor in reducing crude birth rates.

Policies directed towards the education of women, enabling women to have greater personal and economic independence, may be the most effective method for reducing population pressure.

  • Describe and explain the relationship between population, resource consumption and technological development, and their influence on carrying capacity and material economic growth.

Because technology plays such a large role in human life, many economists argue that human carrying capacity can be expanded continuously through technological innovation. For example, if we learn to use energy and material twice as efficiently, we can double the population or the use of energy without necessarily increasing the impact imposed on the environment. However, to compensate for foreseeable population growth and the economic growth that is deemed necessary, especially in developing countries, it is suggested that efficiency would have to be raised by a factor of 4 to 10 to remain within global carrying capacity.