Ecological Footprint

Ecological footprint is a term that describes how large a land and water area is needed for a person or a group of people, used to attain nutrition, materials and energy created as well as what is needed to process waste. This term was developed by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees in the beginning of the 1990’s. According to the WWF, humankind’s ecological footprint exceeds the earth’s ability to produce by 25%.

Ecological footprint is used at present widely as a measure of sustainable development because it is so easy to understand. It us usually measured in hectares, more specifically global hectares. One global hectare means a hectare sized area that produces earth’s average productivity. Through the ecological footprint it is possible to measure how sustainable one persons goods, services, businesses, industrial areas, territorial, and nations consumption is.

The Finns ecological footprint is among the world’s largest. In WWF’s Living Planet report 2006- it was the third largest right after United Arabic Emirates and USA. In the year 2003, the whole world’s ecological footprint was 2.2 global hectares per person, when the earth’s biological capacity, the producing area was 1.8 hectares per person. One Finn’s ecological footprint was 5.2 hectares.

The Ecological footprint is also able to use in picturing as an earth, when one earth is equal to the whole world’s biological capacity one certain year. For example we could also count how many earth’s are needed if all the people in the world would live like Finns. The earth’s biological capacity was estimated for the year 2003 to be 11.2 milliard/billion hectares. In February 2006, the population of the earth was 6.5 billion. At this population 4.5 earths would be needed to fill all human kinds needs if everyone’s ecological footprint would be as great as Finns. The United States footprint (9,6 ha), 5.6 earths would be needed. However, if everyone would live like the Indians, on average (footprint 0.8 ha), one half earth would be enough for mankind.

China also lives above its natural resources. If China intends to follow the US in use of its natural resources, it would need the resources of the entire earth. China already uses 15% of the world’s biological capacity, which includes among others use of water, earth, and wood.