How Many Earths Do We Need?
How much Earth is there to go around? What if all citizens of the planet were able to realize the "American Dream" and live like we do in North America?
I discovered a terrific organization yesterday that does a great job of explaining the concept of an ecological footprint. The organization is called the Global Footprint Network. Here's how they describe it. "Ecological Footprint measures how much land and water area a human population requires to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb its wastes under prevailing technology."
In looking at the graph below (from the Global Footprint Network web site), we can see that our worldwide ecological footprint at the time I was four years old (1961) equalled about half of the world's capacity. Since that time, our world footprint has grown dramatically. Today, we are at the point where our footprint now exceeds the Earth's capacity by 25%! Not a good thing.
When you take a look at the ecological footprint by region (below), you'll see that a typical resident of the United States has a shoe size that is twice as big as the second largest per captia consumer of earth resources, the European Union. That takes us back to the original question. Is the American Dream a desireable or reasonable possibility for the rest of the world? Simply put, no, it is not. The biocapacity of the planet is currently 1.75 hectares per person. If the entire world population were to consume natural resources at the level that we do here in the United States, we would need nearly five and a half planet Earth's to sustain ourselves! (I would encourage you to visit the Global Footprint Network web site to learn more.)