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Ecological footprints; evaluating sustainability

A. R. Palmer
Ecological footprints; evaluating sustainability (in Meeting societal resource and environmental requirements into the 21st century, Lee C. Gerhard (prefacer))
Environmental Geosciences (December 1999) 6 (4): 200-204


Ecological footprint analysis is a method to evaluate the real demands made by each of us on earth's ecologically productive area by our patterns of consumption of food and wood products and our share of built up (ecologically degraded) land. A separate calculation of our energy footprint estimates the area of new forest that would need to be generated if we wanted to sequester all of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. Calculation of the current ecological footprint for each citizen of the United States shows that our style of consumption, which we market to the world, is not sustainable for the world population of approximately 9 billion people expected in 2050 if they wish to live as we do. Our food footprint can be significantly mitigated by reducing beef consumption by approximately 80%; our wood products footprint, if extrapolated to the world, exceeds the carrying capacity of earth's forests. We continue to degrade ecologically productive land beneath cities and the transport and business infrastructure that maintains our economy. Our energy footprint is so large that there is no realistic sink for the excess carbon dioxide we produce from the burning of fossil fuels. We need to know the consequences of this more clearly. We must face the reality of replacing our petroleum-based economy with alternative renewable energy sources during the twenty-first century. The challenge to bring human consumption into balance with earth resources for a sustainable and humane future, probably within two generations, is daunting.

ISSN: 1075-9565
EISSN: 1526-0984
Serial Title: Environmental Geosciences
Serial Volume: 6
Serial Issue: 4
Title: Ecological footprints; evaluating sustainability
Title: Meeting societal resource and environmental requirements into the 21st century
Author(s): Palmer, A. R.
Author(s): Gerhard, Lee C.prefacer
Affiliation: Institute for Cambrian Studies, Boulder, CO, United States
Affiliation: Kansas Geological Survey, Lawrence, KS, United States
Pages: 200-204
Published: 199912
Text Language: English
Publisher: American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), Division of Environmental Geosciences, Tulsa, OK, United States
Meeting name: Meeting society resource and environmental requirements into the 21st century
Meeting location: Taos, NM, USA, United States
Meeting date: 199810Oct. 1998
References: 9
Accession Number: 2008-112077
Categories: Environmental geology
Document Type: Serial Conference document
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: 2 tables
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute.
Update Code: 200841
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