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What is an ecological footprint?

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The term is something used in our daily concerns to a sustainable environment. The green energy and the environmental goals all are clustered with ecological footprints.

However, the rapid development towards sustainability also comes with the notion to measure the progress of such an effort. The problem is there is no such reliable indicator for concrete proof of the measuring value. Thereby ecological footprint comes into action and acts as a facilitator for sustainable growth.

An ecological footprint is a tool to determine the sustainability of natural resources. The ecological footprint can be used to measure the land area needed for the individual population to produce, consume, and absorption of the generated waste.

An ecological footprint is defined as a measurement to calculate the burden on nature created by a certain group of population. The major issue is the process to resolve the created burden by the population on nature.

The ecological footprint was first brought by William E.Rees, a Professor Emeritus of the University of British Columbia and a former director in the School of Community and Regional Planning at UBC in 1992. The concept was used to understand the ecological perspectives in the global economic change with the use of human carrying capacity and natural capacity.

In 1996, the ecological footprint methods and calculations were developed by Wackernagel and Rees for their pathbreaking work known as “ Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth.”

Rees and Wackernagel later stated that ecological footprint represents the land area that is necessary for the existing levels of resource consumption as well as waste discharge by the population to sustain.

The ecological footprint is also related to carrying capacity. It means indefinitely support for the population in a certain habitat without damaging the ecosystem permanently.

So how ecological footprint and sustainability are coined with each other.  Sustainability means a process for generating equilibrium on the human-ecosystem interface and is simply measured by the ecological footprint that is consumed by the given population.

In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development coined sustainability development as “ that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

The importance of ecological footprint is needed for sustainable growth to wisely use the existing natural resources without future needs getting compromised.

With various definitions of the ecological footprint, in a simplified term, measurement of the sustainability of the consumption of people. The use of ecological footprint shows the relationship between development and environmental impact.

Nonetheless, the ecological footprint has been accepted without its flaws. In 2008, Fiala. N criticized the tool and labeled it as bad economics. The reason for its loss to the original idea for measuring sustainable consumption and estimating mainly the production inputs for the given level of consumption.

Bad environmental science has also been coined to ecological footprint due to its calculation assumptions of the ecological footprint. The effect of sustainability is also hindered due to the lack of correlation between land degradation and the ecological footprint.

Sustainable development was measured by the two indicators- Human Development Index (HDI) and Ecological Footprint.

In my opinion, the argument shows that sustainability is not an easy term to be measured and represent with the available scientific parameters. Even though ecological footprint has been considered as the most relevant tool along with the human development index, the complexity will always be surrounded by the measurement of sustainability as well as its acceptance.

Source:- Ecological Footprint.

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