August 22, 2012

Ecological Footprint By Country

Ecological Overshoot: Business-as-usual (red line) shows why scientists are looking for
 other habitable planets to move to after Earth is finished

The Global Footprint Network, like this blog, is not buying anything having to do with the status quo and promoting high consumption lifestyles. The GFN and NBA also share a common vision, which is "sustainable, one-planet living". In order to achieve this, lifestyle changes will be required in high-consumption nations.

The information the GFN produces allows us to see where different nations fall when it comes to ecological footprint (resources used), and biocapacity (biological productivity, or resources available).

Each person's fair share of the earth's resources would amount to 2.1 hectares (5.1 acres) if resources were shared equally. For comparisons sake, in 2008 the United Arab Emirates had the highest global footprint of about 9 hectares (23.7 acres), while Malawi had the lowest footprint at 0.5 hectares (1.2 acres).

The Global Footprint Network, while addressing the ecological overshoot represented by the graph above, states:
"Individuals and institutions worldwide must begin to recognize ecological limits. We must begin to make ecological limits central to our decision-making and use human ingenuity to find new ways to live, within the Earth’s bounds.
This means investing in technology and infrastructure that will allow us to operate in a resource-constrained world. It means taking individual action, and creating the public demand for businesses and policy makers to participate.
Using tools like the Ecological Footprint to manage our ecological assets is essential for humanity’s survival and success. Knowing how much nature we have, how much we use, and who uses what is the first step, and will allow us to track our progress as we work toward our goal of sustainable, one-planet living."
The following graphs track the per-person resource demand (Ecological Footprint), and biocapacity in the order of the top 10 countries from which NBA's visitors originate. Footprint varies with consumption and production efficiency.

Biocapacity varies each year with ecosystem management, agricultural practices (such as fertilizer use and irrigation), ecosystem degradation, weather, and population size.

An overall ecological deficit is shown by red shading, while an overall surplus is shown by green.  If your country is not in this list you can find a national footprint graph for your region at the GFN website.

1. The United States

2. Canada

3. UK

4.  Australia

5. Phillipines

6. Russia

7. India

8. Germany

9. Netherlands

10. Brazil

This information shows that the lifestyles of many countries is beyond the level of sustainability. It also shows we all need each other. Countries with an ecological deficit must procure resources from countries with ecological surpluses.

As individuals we have to take responsibility for the size of our own ecological footprints. We can approach living within the constraints of global ecological limitations, and only consume our fair share.

You can calculate your personal ecological footprint at the Global Footprint Network.

All those scientists peering into space are discovering that good planets are hard to find. I figure our best bet is taking care of the one we have.


  1. Interesting! I checked my country and it's an ecological surplus country. Which isn't to say that we don't consume too much and waste resources. It's just that we have a low population density and lots of forests :) But we are in this together.

    1. Canada is also one of the ecological surplus countries for similar reasons. But we are also a large-footprint country as we currently are taking more than our global fair share.

      If everyone had an ecological footprint the size of the average Canadian we would need another planet to provide the resources. Canadians have to cut consumption.


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