6.3 Ecological Footprint
2. List factors that contribute to ecological footprints.
3. Calculate your ecological footprint and identify ways to reduce it.
View: “The Story of Stuff” http://www.thestoryofstuff.com
Optional reading: Is Humanity Fatally Successful, by Prof. William Rees (UBC)
Assignments: Calculate your Ecological Footprint from one of the websites on VISTA before class
Your salmon-farming case study will be due Monday Oct 26th at the start of class
Be sure to read these notes over before class as we will go through them quickly to give you time to work on
your salmon farming project.
Ecological footprint (EF) – a concept created by Dr. William Rees (UBC) and his former graduate
student Mathis Wackernagel
Ecological footprint represents the land area necessary to
provide resources as well as to discharge waste into. It
can be calculated for a single person or for a whole
How to calculate EF: Compare how much land is available versus all the things we need to get from
Globally: There are six types of ecologically productive
a) land available
1. Arable and pasture land (for crops and animal grazing)
4. Energy land (land required to extract and process fossil fuels,
perform all other energy-harvesting activities AND to absorb CO2
produced by burning fossil fuels)
5. Built-up land (taken by all the buildings and roads)
6. Land left undeveloped for all other species
If we assume humans take 88% for the first 5 uses that leaves
12% for biodiversity (for the other 25 million species on the
This leaves ~ 2ha/person on the planet and if we want any land
for recreation (0.3 ha/person) we are left with 1.7 ha to support
the needs of one person
1.7 ha = 4.2 acres or roughly the size of two big soccer fields or two baseball fields
When your ecological footprint is calculated 1 earth = you only using 1.7ha.
Question: If you need 5 ha to support all your activities, if everyone needed that much land how many earths
would we need?
Five categories 1. Food 2. Housing 3. Transportation 4. Consumer goods 5. Services
1.Consider the land needed to grow the food you eat
2. The land base required for construction of housing and location
e.g., lumber How many hectares of forest are required to build an average home?
In much of Scotland, which was once covered in forests, they have chopped down all the trees a long time
ago so many houses are made of concrete. Where does concrete come from?
3. Transportation costs associated with everything you consume.
e.g., grapes from Chile
toys from China
clothing from India
4. Energy associated with the manufacture of for production of consumables or products.
e.g., fibres needed for clothing (cotton, wool) or artificial products like gore-tex
FYI: (E.F. of a t-shirt) http://truestitches.blogspot.com/2007/04/ecological-footprint-of-t-shirt.html
all electronic products
5. Services such as banking, education, hospitals, government have costs associated with supplying employees
with the tools they need to provide the service. e.g., paper, computers
This map shows how much land each country is taking up in relation to their ecological footprint.
You can find more maps here: http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=322
The average footprint world-
wide is: 2.2 hectares (~25%
overcapacity) according to the
WWF in their 2006 Living Planet
Americans: 9.6 ha
Chinese: 1.6 ha
Canadians: 7.6 ha
QUESTION: To support the
world population in the average
Canadian lifestyle we would
need how many extra planets?
The above figure and data come from the Living Planet Report http://assets.panda.org/downloads/living_planet_report.pdf
Bill Rees says we, Homo sapiens, are going to suffer due to the same things that have made us such a
“We are large, warm-blooded social mammals with correspondingly large demands and an
inherent tendency to expand…. The self-oriented aggressive-defensive behaviours that served so
well… early in our evolution are maladaptive in the ecologically full world today”
Why are Homo sapiens so successful as a species?
We are extreme omnivores (eat just about anything)
We have dominated and over-exploited virtually every ecosystem on the planet.
Our use of technology doesn’t separate us from our need to use resources
from all these ecosystems…it just makes us better at our exploitation.
We also have powerful myth-making abilities, which allows us to better cope with
mysterious and frightening phenomena and to provide social cohesion
What are the two biggest myths harming us?
1. Our key to
prosperity is ever 2. Due to our use of
increasing economic technology we can have
growth through unlimited economic
liberalized trade expansion without relying
policies. on the environment
1. How much more stuff can we create/buy/ 2. Where does all our “stuff” come from,
sell to feed the economy and how much if not from the environment?
stuff do we really need?
Please watch “The Story of Stuff” in this HIPPO learning module.
THE REALLY BIG QUESTION: What can be done to reduce the impact of humans on
What can we do as individuals?
What can we do as a society?
Identify at least one way you can lower your ecological footprint and act on this!
Is there hope for the future?
“Our best chance for survival lies in collective self-restraint and
mutual commitment to the common good. This is an unaccustomed
mode of human political behaviour. .. We can love, we are
compassionate, we can show empathy for other people and even
other species. Of course, some people are better at these things than
others, but these are the human
qualities that we must draw out in our schools and universities, in
government and the private sector.” -Bill Rees
Case Study Part 2 and
As a group (the original group you chose to belong to) you will prepare a one-page position paper
on salmon farming.
This paper should include short paragraphs explaining the major impact of salmon farming on
each of your interest groups. Include citations to indicate the source of these ideas.
The final paragraph will be your group recommendations to the government with a clear
explanation of your reasoning. (You must come to a consensus)
Be sure to include the names of all group members on your paper.
List all references cited. Refer to http://www.zoology.ubc.ca/bio1/ How to Cite and List
References for formatting appropriate of citations and references for Biological Sciences.
This assignment is Due Monday Oct. 26th.