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Our Human Footprint

Changing our Success Criteria will be an important part of coming to terms with Our Human Footprint. This is a way of describing how much land it takes to maintain our lifestyle as we are presently living it. If you have any sense of equity or justice then this will be very important, for what you don’t know may not be as important as what you don’t know that you don’t know.

Maintain the Consumption

  • A Canadian study in 1994 found that in a high income country (like Australia) about 4 to 6 hectares of land are needed to maintain the consumption of the average person (what we eat and own, how much energy we use etc.). However, there is only enough ecologically productive land area in the world to give everyone about 1.7 hectares each. That means for each of us to live the way we do, another one or two people in the world go completely without.
  • Australia’s population is 18 million. Our relatively luxurious standard of living deprives 36 million people elsewhere of the ability to meet their basic needs. Another study in 1994 discovered that for carbon dioxide emissions to come down to safe levels, every person in the world would be able to use only 1 litre of carbon based fuel each day. On average that would mean either 10 km by car, 50 km by bus, 65 km by train or 10 km by plane per day.
  • Most of us travel a lot further than that, especially when we include interstate and overseas holidays. And that doesn’t even factor in the amount of energy we use in day to day living and to produce all the things we buy.
  • Some had a lovely Christmas and the kids are back at school. No doubt they have good memories of presents and holidays. Perhaps as the credit card begins to arrive they are counting the cost to themselves of all their spending. But what out the cost to others, who have no money to spend and no opportunity to travel, because they’ve used up their share?
  • If you are at all concerned and feel like you would like to do something about it, there is something that you can do. You can start by calculating your own footprint and having a look at what parts of your life you can change or reduce. Sometimes the change can be innovation rather than sacrifice.
  • The two links provided, the first a simple calculation with 13 questions, the second is a more comprehensive household spreadsheet both from the website Redefining Progress – www.rprogress.org:
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