Ecological Footprint in Earth
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- Students will calculate their individual ecological footprint.
- Students will determine their future ecological footprint after making alterations to their lifestyle.
- Students will compare the ecological footprints of the U.S. and other nations.
- Students will predict future trends in ecological footprints.
Like all species, humans need certain resources to survive. However, humans consume resources not only for survival, but also for comfort, luxury and prestige. Whereas nonhuman species generally must obtain their resources from within their ecosystem, in contrast, humans have devised ways to remove resources from other ecosystems to satisfy their needs and desires. Societies are not equal in their ability to extract, transport, process, manufacture and use resources. They also have different philosophies and cultural perspectives regarding their desire to utilize resources beyond basic needs. Thus, there is a question of equitable distribution of resources among human societies as well as between humans and other species.
The area of productive land required to provide resources and assimilate waste to meet consumption needs is referred to as the ecological footprint. The ecological footprint can exceed carrying capacity; for example, take a look at the United States. The U.S. can maintain more people than available resources can support because resources are extracted from other countries. The earth is finite, therefore some countries must have an ecological footprint smaller than its carrying capacity. Some populations must live near the subsistence level, whereas others can live in a high degree of comfort. A method to determine and compare footprints is to examine the per capita amount of resource use. We calculate the per capita resource use by dividing the amount of available biological resources and waste assimilation needs by the population. (Wagner, T. and Sanford, R. 2010. Environmental Science: Active Learning Laboratories and Applied Problem Sets. 2nd ed. John Wiley & Sons, New York.)
Activity 1: Your Ecological Footprint
Please Highlight or type answers in a different color.
How many planets (Earth) does it take to support your lifestyle?
- Go to the Earth Day Network Footprint Calculator. https://www.footprintcalculator.org/
- Click on the “Add details to improve accuracy” link. Do NOT click through the arrows to get the fastest answers.
Answer the questions below. Feel free to take a screenshot or pic & insert your results diagram here.
- How many planets (Earth) are needed to provide enough resources to support people if everyone lived like you? (Found in the tab “Result Part 1”)
- Describe or draw your ecological footprint breakdown. (Found in the tab “Result Part 2”)
- How many global acres would take to support your lifestyle? (Found in the tab “Result Part 2”)
Activity 2: Changing Your Lifestyle
Now, edit your Footprint by making CHANGES to your lifestyle. List the changes you have made to your lifestyle below, run the simulation again and record the impact it had on your ecological footprint.
Answer the questions below with your new data. Feel free to take a screenshot or pic & insert your results diagram here.
- How many planets (Earth) are needed to provide enough resources to support people if everyone lived like you?
- Describe or draw your ecological footprint breakdown.
- How many global acres would take to support your lifestyle?
- Why do you think eating animal-based products affects your footprint? Explain.
- Why do you think eating processed, packaged and not locally grown food affects your footprint? Explain.
- Regardless of it being a status symbol, sense of permanency, etc., owning a home has always been a goal that most people strive to achieve. With the rise of environmentally friendly behaviors, do you think this is changing? Explain.