Haven’t you heard this BIG news? Maybe you haven’t, perhaps distracted by recent headlines surrounding the war or Santa Claus. Well, only last week more definitive evidence came forth which demonstrates that bigfoot does exist. It is we. Yes, those of us in the United States, on average, have the biggest feet on the planet. Surprised? I am not writing here about shoe size—the literal interpretation—but rather the individual impact that our lifestyles have on the planet. This metaphorical footprint has been shown to be a very useful way to evaluate the impact each one of us is having.
You see, several researchers have recently determined to what extent the way in which we live has a quantifiable impact on our planet. Our footprint actually has been calculated and it has the units of acres. In other words, your day-to-day activities have an impact on the quality of air, water, and land that we breathe, drink, or stand on, and these can be collectively combined and represented by a particular land area.
But what is the connection between a land area and your annual production of carbon dioxide (via driving) or your yearly dietary needs? Well it is pretty simple, according to Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees, authors of the must-read entitled, Our Ecological Footprint. All humans require land area for two fundamental purposes. First, land (or ocean) provides the materials that people need to live, such as food, wood, aluminum, etc. Second, land (or ocean) must also absorb and recycle the waste that our species produces. Since human life necessitates the use of resources as well as the production of waste, each one of us requires a certain acreage for our survival. But...
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...g to overuse and misuse of resources on a massive scale. Yet, as dismal as our current position, we also have the capacity to change. Our institutions and industries have the potential to promote the most humane virtues of equality, fairness, camaraderie, wisdom and ingenuity all within the guidelines prescribed by our planet. It is incumbent upon us to provide the will and the resolve to see that they do so. History has shown that it won’t happen without our persistence and dedication. Perhaps next year, our footprints will be the major topic of discussion in our media. There is my wish for the New Year.
Wackernagel, M. & W. Rees. (1996) Our Ecological Footprint. Stony Creek, CT: New Society Publishers.
Wackernagel, M., C. Monfreda, & D. Deumling. (2002) Ecological Footprint of Nations: November 2002 Update. Provided at: http://www.rprogress.org/
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