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The current society shows excessive consumption patterns and inadequate natural resource management, which jeopardises the life of future generations. It is urgent not to use more resources than necessary in our daily activities, in order to reduce wastage and, consequently, waste production.
In order to satisfy its consumption needs, each living being requires a minimum amount of natural productive space. In fact, our survival depends on the existence of food, a constant energy source, the ability to treat the waste produced, so that it no longer poses a threat, and the availability of raw materials for production processes.
However, consumption and world population have increased significantly and, in the short term, the Earth's physical space may not be enough to sustain us. To ensure the preservation of favourable conditions for life which exist today, we must live according to what the Earth can provide us and not what we wish it would provide...
Bearing in mind this reality, it is fundamental to assess how the existing resources are being used by humanity. There are several indicators that allow us to gather that information. The ecological footprint is one of them, as it represents the biologically productive land* area needed to maintain the population's current lifestyle. It is the area need to:
produce all energy and raw materials consumed by the population;
eliminate all waste the same population produces.
It is expressed in a unit of area: hectares (100 m x 100 m).
* We consider biologically productive land to be composed of fertile soils, which allow plant growth, and waters, which allow the development of aquatic living beings.
The ecological footprint size varies according to lifestyle and consumption patterns.
What's the purpose of calculating the ecological footprint?
It allows the comparison of people's, families', cities', regions' and countries'
It is a reference regarding the sustainability of our behaviour.
It helps you to set goals in order to change into a more sustainable lifestyle.
What is the Earth's area available for resources and energy production?
The Earth has a surface area of 51 billion hectares, of which 14.5 billion are land (not covered by water). Only 12.78 billion hectares are biologically productive:
Arable land: 1.4 billion ha,
Pastures: 3.36 billion ha,
Forests: 5.12 billion ha,
Productive sea area: 2.9 billion ha.