Ecological Footprint Analysis Of Iran Environmental Sciences Essay
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: Environmental Sciences|
|✅ Wordcount: 2987 words||✅ Published: 1st Jan 2015|
Nowadays by increasing the population of the world, more than ever we are and should be more concerned about our resources compared to our consumption. If we look at the research we can realize that our consumption is overshooting the Earth’s natural capacity to product our needs as well as digesting our waste. To evaluate a measurement to study how sustainable countries develop and how much they care about the environment and its capacity some scientists developed a model which is based on a simple question; Do we fit our planet by continuing our current lifestyle?
This method is called Ecological Footprint.
Definition of Ecological Footprint (EF)
The concept of the Ecological Footprint was introduced by Rees (1992) and elaborated by Wackernagel and Rees (1996, 1997) among others.
The EF can be compared with the productive biological capacity of the available land and the sea to this population (WWF, 2005). The EF measures the demand for natural resources. For its creators, the EF is a measure of the impact of the population expressed in terms of the appropriate area; it is the surface of ecologically productive territory in the diverse categories (arable lands, pastures, forests, sea and CO2 absorption area), necessary to supply the resources of energy and matter that a population consume and to absorb its wastefulness considering its current technology (Wackernagel and Rees, 1996).One characteristic term of this methodology is the biocapacity or interest from natural capital. Thus, the biocapacity measures the bioproductivity or biological productivity in an area. The average biological productivity of a hectare of the earth’s productive surface area is called “global hectare” (GHA) and is used as the common unit of comparison. Bioproductivity is the ability of a biome (e.g., arable land, pasture land, forest land, productive sea) to produce biomass, which is defined as the weight of organic matter, including animals, plants and micro-organism (living and dead), above or below the soil surface.
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Thus, the biomes have different levels of bioproductivity. Some of it is built or degraded land. Biocapacity is dependent not only on natural conditions but also on prevailing land use (e.g., farming use, forest use). The use of bioproductive area as an aggregate unit is a powerful and resonant means of measuring and communicating environmental impact and sustainability. It is crucial to note that the biocapacity represents the theoretical maximum sustainable capacity for a year. While ecological overshoot by definition reveals the degradation of natural capital, the ecological remainder does not guarantee the sustainability of production. Rather, as the Footprint of production approaches the biocapacity and the ecological remainder narrows, the likelihood that the country will experience environmental stressor degradation escalates, at least over longer periods of time. In the EF, by comparing the demand with the available supply it is possible to estimate the ecological sustainability of territories or countries. A nation’s ecological footprint correspond to the aggregate land and water area in various ecosystem categories to produce all the resources it consumes, and to absorb all the waste it generates on a continuous basis, using prevailing technology.
Methodology of Footprint Calculation:
FUNDAMENTAL ASSUMPTIONS OF ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT ACCOUNTING
Ecological Footprint accounting is based on six fundamental assumptions (Wackernagel et al.
â€¢ The majority of the resources people consume and the wastes they generate can be tracked.
â€¢ Most of these resource and waste flows can be measured in terms of the biologically productive area necessary to maintain flows. Resource and waste flows that cannot be measured are excluded from the assessment, leading to a systematic underestimate of humanity’s true Ecological Footprint.
â€¢ By weighting each area in proportion to its bioproductivity, different types of areas can be converted into the common unit of global hectares, hectares with world average bioproductivity.
â€¢ Because a single global hectare represents a single use, and all global hectares in any single year represent the same amount of bioproductivity, they can be added up to obtain an aggregate indicator of Ecological Footprint or biocapacity.
â€¢ Human demand, expressed as the Ecological Footprint, can be directly compared to nature’s supply, biocapacity, when both are expressed in global hectares.
â€¢ Area demanded can exceed area supplied if demand on an ecosystem exceeds that ecosystems regenerative capacity (e.g., humans can temporarily demand more biocapacity from forests, or fisheries, than those ecosystems have available). This situation, where
Ecological Footprint exceeds available biocapacity, is known as overshoot (deficit).
What does a “per person national Footprint” actually mean?
A per person national Footprint measures the amount of bioproductive space under constant production required to support the average individual of that country. For example, a five-hectare per person Footprint means that an average individual in that country uses all of the services produced in a year by five hectares of world-average productive land. This land does not need to be within the borders of the individual’s country as biocapacity is often embodied in goods imported from other countries to meet consumption demands.
What is included in the Ecological Footprint? What is excluded?
To avoid exaggerating human demand on nature, the Ecological Footprint includes only those aspects of resource consumption and waste production for which the Earth has regenerative capacity, and where data exist that allow this demand to be expressed in terms of productive area. For example, freshwater withdrawal is not included in the Footprint, although the energy used to pump or treat it is.
Ecological Footprint accounts provide snapshots of past resource demand and availability. They do not predict the future. Thus, while the Footprint does not estimate future losses caused by present degradation of ecosystems, if persistent this degradation will likely be reflected in future accounts as a loss of biocapacity.
Footprint accounts also do not indicate the intensity with which a biologically productive area is being used, nor do they pinpoint specific biodiversity pressures. Finally, the Ecological Footprint is a biophysical measure; it does not evaluate the essential social and economic dimensions of sustainability.
The statistics shown the next page are extracted from “ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT ATLAS 2009”, Published 24th November 2009 by GLOBAL FOOTPRINT NETWORK, RESEARCH AND STANDARDS DEPARTMENT, Oakland, California, United States of America
Interpretation of Data:
As we can see in the tables the Total Ecological Footprint of Iran is 2.66 compared to its Total Biocapacity which is 0.99. It means that for this country the Total Ecological Footprint is roughly 160% more than its Total Biocapacity which is by definition a biological overshoot and can lead to degradation of natural capital or resources. In other words, our demand is much higher than our demand and this can be a warning for us at least in longer periods of time and there should be decisive measures to reduce the factors which contribute to higher Footprints.
How to improve the situation:
In simple words it can be said that to improve the situation beside any rules or policies which governments can take, all people can take effective steps to reduce their stressors on environment by decreasing their consumption as well as their waste.
There are some simple ways suggested by experts:
A) Reduce your Carbon Footprint
A1) Use cleaner transport
* Walk, bike, or take public transit whenever possible.
* Avoid allowing your car to idle. If you’ll be waiting for more than 30 seconds, turn off the engine (except in traffic). And don’t take the drive-through-park the car and walk inside instead.
* Have your vehicle serviced regularly to keep the emission control systems operating at peak efficiency. Check your car’s air filter monthly, and keep the tires adequately inflated to maximize gas mileage.
* Avoid short airplane trips-take a bus or train instead.
A2) Add energy-saving features to your home
* Install compact fluorescent bulbs in all your home light fixtures-but remember, compact fluorescents contain mercury, so look for low-mercury models and be sure to dispose of old bulbs safely through your local hazardous waste program.
* Weatherproof your home. Make sure your walls and ceilings are insulated, and consider double-pane windows. Eliminate drafts with caulking, weather strips, and storm windows and doors.
* Insulate your water heater. Even better, switch to a tankless water heater, so your water will be heated only as you use it.
* Choose energy efficient appliances.
A3) Adopt energy-saving habits
* Keep thermostat relatively low in winter and ease up on the air conditioning in summer. Clean or replace dirty air conditioner filters as recommended to keep the A/C operating at peak efficiency.
* Unplug your electronics when not in use. To make it easier, use a power strip. Even when turned off, items like your television, computer, and cellphone charger still sip power.
* Dry your clothes outside whenever possible.
* Make minimal use of power equipment when landscaping.
* Defrost your refrigerator and freezer regularly.
* Choose green electricity. Many utilities give you the option to purchase electricity generated by wind and solar power for a small rate surcharge.
* Purchase carbon offsets to make up for the energy use you can’t eliminate.
B) Reduce your Food Footprint
* Eat more local, organic, in-season foods.
* Plant a garden-it doesn’t get more local than that.
* Shop at your local farmer’s market or natural foods store. Look for local, in-season foods that haven’t travelled long distances to reach you.
* Choose foods with less packaging to reduce waste.
* Eat lower on the food chain-going meatless for just one meal a week can make a difference. Globally, it has been estimated that 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions are associated with meat consumption.
C) Reduce your Housing Footprint
C1) Choose sustainable building materials, furnishings, and cleaning products.
* Explore green design features for your building, like passive solar heating, a rainwater catchment or grey water recycling system, and recycled materials.
* Choose efficient appliances, including low flow shower heads, faucets, and toilets.
* Choose furnishings that are second-hand, recycled, or sustainably produced.
* Plant drought tolerant plants in your garden and yard.
* Use biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning products.
C2) Adopt water-saving habits
* Take shorter, less frequent showers-this not only saves water, but the energy necessary to heat it.
* Don’t use the garbage disposal. Compost instead.
* Run the dishwasher and the laundry machine only when full.
* Wash cars rarely, or better yet, take them to a carwash. Commercial carwashes use less water per wash than home washers, and they are also required to drain used water into the sewage system, rather than storm drains, which protects aquatic life.
* Avoid hosing down or power-washing your deck, walkways, or driveway.
* Regularly look for and fix leaks.
D) Reduce your Goods and Services Footprint
* Buy less! Replace items only when you really need to.
* Recycle all your paper, glass, aluminium, and plastic. Don’t forget electronics!
* Compost food waste for the garden. Garbage that is not contaminated with degradable (biological) waste can be more easily recycled and sorted, and doesn’t produce methane gases (a significant greenhouse gas contributor) when stored in a landfill.
* Buy recycled products, particularly those labelled “post-consumer waste.”
Ecological Footprint: A measure of how much biologically productive land and water an individual, population or activity 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 is usually measured in global hectares. Because trade is global, an individual or country’s Footprint includes land or sea from all over in the world. Ecological Footprint is often referred to in short form as Footprint. “Ecological Footprint” and “Footprint” are proper nouns and thus should always be capitalized.
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Global hectare (gha): A productivity-weighted area used to report both the biocapacity of the Earth, and the demand on biocapacity (the Ecological Footprint). The global hectare is normalized to the area-weighted average productivity of biologically productive land and water in a given year. Because different land types have different productivity, a global hectare of, for example, cropland, would occupy a smaller physical area than the much less biologically productive pasture land, as more pasture would be needed to provide the same biocapacity as one hectare of cropland. Because world bioproductivity varies slightly from year to year, the value of a gha may change slightly from year to year.
Overshoot: Global overshoot occurs when humanity’s demand on nature exceeds the biosphere’s supply, or regenerative capacity. Such overshoot leads to a depletion of Earth’s life-supporting natural capital and a build-up of waste. At the global level, ecological deficit and overshoot are the same, since there is no net-import of resources to the planet. Local overshoot occurs when a local ecosystem is exploited more rapidly than it can renew itself.
Land type: The Earth’s approximately 11.9 billion hectares of biologically productive land and water are categorized into five types of surface area: cropland, grazing land, forest, fishing ground, and built-up land. Also called “area type”.
Ecological deficit/reserve: The difference between the biocapacity and Ecological Footprint of a region or country. An ecological deficit occurs when the Footprint of a population exceeds the biocapacity of the area available to that population. Conversely, an ecological reserve exists when the biocapacity of a region or country exceeds the Footprint of its population. If there is a regional or national ecological deficit, it means that the region or country is either importing biocapacity through trade, liquidating its own ecological assets, or emitting wastes into a global commons such as the atmosphere. In contrast, the global ecological deficit cannot be compensated through trade, and is equal to overshoot.
Carbon Footprint: When used in Ecological Footprint studies, this term is synonymous with demand on CO2 area. The phrase “Carbon Footprint” has been picked up in the climate change debate. Several web-calculators use the phrase “carbon Footprint”. Many just calculate tonnes of carbon, or tonnes of carbon per Euro, rather than demand on bioproductive area. The Ecological Footprint encompasses the carbon Footprint, and captures the extent to which measures for reducing the carbon Footprint lead to increases in other Footprint components.
Biological capacity, or biocapacity: The capacity of ecosystems to produce useful biological materials and to absorb waste materials generated by humans, using current management schemes and extraction technologies. “Useful biological materials” are defined as those used by the human economy. Hence what is considered “useful” can change from year to year (e.g. use of corn (maize) stover for cellulosic ethanol production would result in corn stover becoming a useful material, and thus increase the biocapacity of maize cropland). The biocapacity of an area is calculated by multiplying the actual physical area by the yield factor and the appropriate equivalence factor. Biocapacity is usually expressed in global hectares.
Natural capital: Natural capital can be defined as all of the raw materials and natural cycles on Earth. Footprint analysis considers one key component, life-supporting natural capital, or ecological capital for short. This capital is defined as the stock of living ecological assets that yield goods and services on a continuous basis. Main functions include resource production (such as fish, timber or cereals), waste assimilation (such as CO2 absorption or sewage decomposition) and life-support services (such as UV protection, biodiversity, and water cleansing or climate stability).
“ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT ATLAS 2009”, Published 24th November 2009 by GLOBAL FOOTPRINT NETWORK, RESEARCH AND STANDARDS DEPARTMENT, Oakland, California, United States of America
E C O L O G I C A L E C O N O M I C S 6 6 ( 2 0 0 8 ) 6 2 8 – 6 3 7, Sustainability of nations by indices: Comparative study between environmental sustainability index, ecological footprint and the energy performance indices
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