Saturday, May 10, 2003


A friend from grad school sent me a link that has a pretty sobering quiz about your "ecological footprint" that is determined by your consumption lifestyle and commuting/travelling habits. There are some very interesting facts about how much arable land there is to sustain human development.

My footprint is 34 acres. If everyone lived like me, we would need 7.6 planets. This hearkens back to my January post about the Chinese standard of living, and what that rise will do to our use of arable farmland...

A full spreadsheet to calculate the impact of your household is available here, in English and metric systems.

What is lacking is a lot of detail on what to do about it. There is no information on what habits are most destructive. I would imagine that jet travel is pretty bad, and contributes to much of my trail through this world... what would be most useful is an idea of what standard of living is implied by a footprint that "used up only one planet." The question could then be phrased: "Are you willing to give up your current standards, and live under the following restrictions?" And I suspect that the answer to that would also be pretty sobering. Politicians already know this, even if subconsciously -- and they know that the political system is completely unable to deal with this kind of problem.

It will be interesting to see how this kind of 'pop' science, as done by NGOs and the United Nations, interfaces with the emerging sustainability science initiatives of the mainstream global change science communities, both in academia, and among various scientific professional and governmental organizations, like the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme, the World Climate Research Program, the International Human Dimensions Program, and the regional global change research institutes like START, the Asia-Pacific Network, and the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research.