#What if….we really decide to look for a fair and balanced human impact on the planet?
Written by S.Maida
Often who is engaged to find out a way to fix the problems related to the overexploitation of the planet, start to think bottom-top looking for smart solutions which can lead to a new global ecological balance . This behaviour is certainly positive and it can surely drive to positive trends… Anyway what about the top-bottom question: “Are governments, politics and institutions committed in pursuing a global strategy involving every country on the planet, having the purpose to get a real equilibrium to make really sustainable our lives?”
I’m afraid the answer is no. Every country perhaps has own strategies (I’m not sure all of them). In the best hypotesis shared within restricted groups of states (like UE f.i), but not supported by strong policies to reach the goals. The UN 2030 Agenda is a fantastic guideline for everybody at planetary level, but unfortunately too many people don’t know it yet; moreover many governments are still stucked in the culture of the pure profit, and so they are still going in opposite directions. Honestly , very likely we are taking the big risk to not delivery the expected result by SDG’s, more or less as happened with the MDG’s in 2015! …but now time is much less!
This piece of paper is part of a study running in Maidatelier. The purpose is inspiring stakeholders to design possible routes based on clear figures, to control the human impact on the planet in order to achieve the “equilibrium” (EQidx equal or below 1). The study can help governments to set goals, but overall it can help everyone to be aware on the entity of challenges expecting the humanity in the next future.
Baseline date of the study come from:
Source: Global Footprint Network, www.footprintnetwork.org
One of the main goals of the study, is to make simple what ecological sciences deliver in a finest way. All in all everyone who isn’t a scientist, need to catch the heart of concepts avoiding extra details. That’s happen f.i for normal people, managers and generalists (those who are not specialist). Therefore here I have tried to figure out what the meaning of “Human Impact Balance” is, using a very simplified formula which deliver a rating index herein called EQidx (Equilibrium index). I have here just tried to simplify the huge work done by the Global Footprint Network (always on progress) which calculate every single factor as accurately as possible; the result leads to a slightly more approximate index but easier to understand an equally significant in terms of size. Hereinafter:
The formula above state that we are in Human Impact Balance in a certain area whenever the ecological footprint (EFc in the common formulas) doesn’t exceed biocapacity. In that situation, the ecosystem must be considered in natural equilibrium, that is, capable of regenerating all the resources consumed without negative effects on the future available resources. So countries reporting EQidx <1 have ecological reserve and they are in “natural equilibrium”, those ones having EQidx >1 are in ecological deficit instead.
For the purpose of this study this formula was developed only at one further stage, just to allow us to analyse in a simple way the scenarios that may arise. Thus, the ecological footprint is broken down into the ecological footprint per capita (country average) multiplied by the resident population, while the biocapacity is broken down into the available surface by surface bio-efficiency index
Rating index showing which is the Human Impact Balance situation related to a specific moment (usually a specific year, f.i 2020); this could be calculated for the entire world, at country level, or rather outside of this study even for specific regions. Basicly it shows the relationship beetween Biocapacity ( capacity of producing and regenerating natural resources) and Footprint ( in terms of consumed resources due to the human activities), calculated in Global Hectares so as done by the Global Footpint Network. The Global Footprint Network is the main source of data considered in this study.
Ecological Footprint come from the Footprint per capita (average of country) multiplied for population:
- Population (Pop) is simply the number of inhabitants residing in a given country. Some approximation in the “current data” is due to difference of data update date, in the simulation you find the latest available (January 2021). In any case, each data refers to a period between 2015 and 2020, thus resulting very close to the current real figure.
- Footprint per capita (FPcap) is the measure of how much area of biologically productive land and water the average individual in a country requires to produce all the resources it consumes and to absorb the waste it generates, using prevailing technology and resource management practices. The Ecological Footprint here is measured in global hectares.
- The Surface (Sur): to be accurate, it should include all the productive areas, both lands and water surfaces; in this study to simplify we want to consider the official land surface of every country. To do that, an adaptation of the data supplied by the Global Footprint Network was done, considering both the difference of bio-productivity and the water surface, part of the Efficiency factor as stated below. All data related to surface come from geograficamente-konan.blogspot.com.
- The Bio-efficiency index (EFFidx) come from calculations done by the Global Footprint Network and it’s based on the productivity of different soil types. The bio-efficiency index in this study is definitely the factor that transform hectares into equivalent global hectares (gha), allowing to easily compare ecological footprint versus biocapacity
After the basic theory, here we come to the main scope of this study:
“To build meaningful scenarios helping us to understand how states have to move forward and also to understand how we should or can act on the factors that determine the natural balance. The final goal is to bring our planet to an EQidx=1 instead of the current 1,58.
After having an idea of the situation in each country, the question arises: what are possible solutions?
The answer is not simple, but very complex instead. It is impossible to give a magic solution for each country anyway the ways to follow are clearly marked and defined by 3 macro-chapters. They respectively concern the 3 factors on which we can act: The Ecological Footprint, The Biocapacity and the Population.
Act on Ecological Footprint
Today it’s the most followed path by society, in particular by both citizens and businesses, especially those that embrace CSR. It is often a bottom-top way, which starts from the civil and productive base on the trust of a rediscovered ethical spirit, to then give impulse and develop also institutional and political actions. Here we find the best expression of civil change. The solutions applicable in this area are many; just for supply examples you can take a look at the website I love clean San Diego what simple kind of actions, citizens, businesses and also institutions can take to reduce their impact on ecological footprint. These actions can be divided in
- Quantitative: generally when it comes to reducing consumption (water, food, land, etc.), for instance when it exceed the real needs.
- Qualitative: generally when it comes to changing one’s behaviour; f.i. directing it towards the purchase of less impacting products and services or rather towards a more efficient techniques of resources-management.
To start a positive route for acting on the Ecological Footprint I suggest to take a look in a fantastic tool developed by the Global Footprint Network: the Footprint Calculator. It will get you aware about your current lifestyle in terms of consumptions and consequent Footprint.
Act on biocapacity
Acting on biocapacity can also be based on individual behaviours, but mostly the best results can only be achieved through correct territorial planning, which means that it is overall a responsibility of public institutions.
Biocapacity also has a quantitative aspect, which is mostly unchangeable: the available land and sea surface. (in this study all is reporterd to only land surface). For this reason, in the model proposed in this study, the possible actions to improve biocapacity are always to be referred to the area of bio-efficiency. What does it mean? It simply means that the available surfaces can be managed more or less efficiently from the point of view of “biocapacity production”. The Bio-efficiency index (EFFidx) clearly demonstrates that.
Just think how much more productive a hectare of land returned to agricolture can be after demolishing unused buildings! How many unused buildings are there around? Humanity despite that continues to build new buildings by removing green spaces; this is just an example of wrong behaviour which leads to the opposite result. To go deeper inside in possible solutions to increase biocapacity, take a look at Nature Research Journal.
Acting on the size of the population is perhaps the hardest thing to accept culturally. Anyway we have come to a point, after centuries of continuous growth, that the current population level has become unsustainable. The simulations in this study demonstrate this quite clearly. Looking at the data, the only alternatives come from drastically reducing the individual ecological footprint (and therefore accepting to profoundly change lifestyles) and to exponentially increase biocapacity ( too hard to do in many advanced countries). This area cannot be left to the individual dimension; serious demographic and family planning policies are needed and expected from all the major institutions instead, as well as a major cultural change. This chapter will be one of the greatest challenges facing the world insitutions in the future. To go deeper inside the topic, take a look at this great website and project: TOP- The overpopulation project
Thanks for your donation, this work is voluntary and unpaid. Every small donations allow me to continue to work in order to get people aware on how to build together a sustainable world!
- Global Footprint Network: thanks for the huge work done in the opendata platform, main source of the data baseline of this study.
Global Footprint Network National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts, 2021 Edition Downloaded [download date] from https://data.footprintnetwork.org.
Quest’opera è distribuita con Licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione 4.0 Internazionale.
This study is covered by Creative commons license CC BY 4.0