Lab: Ecological Footprint

1.  The environmental impact imposed by our lives is a results of three different factors, as discussed in the class (I = P x A x T) (see lab manual). What have you observed about these three factors in the world in which we live?

Looking at this equation, it is very accurate that population, affluence, and technology would affect our environment.  It’s the question of which of these factors contributes the most impact.  However, usually larger populations should consume more, but usually it’s these larger populations that are poor and therefore cannot consume as much as they would want to.  So countries such as India, China, and Africa aren’t consuming as much as America and Europe.  However, as our society changes technology becomes an important part for both the poor and rich countries, which can be helpful or unhelpful to our environment.  It seems that our world is not acting worried about our planet.  Computers are made out of easier materials, so that it doesn’t take much for it to break and you’re at the store getting a new computer.  We care more about the economy and spending than health care for the poor countries.   The people on this Earth are being wasteful.

2.  What trends can you identify about changes in these factors in the U.S. and developing countries in the last half century?

The industrial revolution is a huge factor of why we Americans as well as other countries have damaged our planet.  It’s about speed, quality not quantity.  Technology has affected everyone, rich and poor.  We all need technology.  Technology seems to be more focused on saving our planet, so they hope.  Paper mail is becoming less now, due to e-mail/Internet.  Cars are built more efficiently to decrease the pollution of the air.   Trying to stabilize our population, so that we can actually aid every person of their needs or make it easier for the country itself. Protecting endangered specieshas become a more important stress now.  As science has improved, we’ve better understood the importance of animals and plants.  We as a people are going to have to be more frugal with our money.  While we need to keep our economy up top, we need to consider our future and the environment.

3.  What changes in these factors are likely to occur in the next half century?

Technology will always be going forth.  If we keep stressing the importance of allowing us to survive on this planet and making sure we use our resources wisely, so we don’t lose any of the important ones, than technology will lean more onto aiding the environment and our society, instead of the economic side.  Our animals and plants will be protected, if we can stress the importance of what these species can do for us.  Many cars companies are pushing for these fuel efficient vehicles to be driven around than our past cars that released a lot of pollution into our atmosphere.  It’s very difficult to see the social and economy factors change for our generation, at the time being.

4.   Do you agree more with ‘exemptionalists’ or ‘ecologists’ in this debate and why?

I am mostly in favor with the exemptionalists.  We as humans have the reasoning and common sense to solve these difficult issues.  I understand that ecologists seem that over population is dangerous for a stable ecosystem.  However, we can definitely transform the conditions of our environment to suit our needs.  It’s happening!  Many species are dying, resources depleting, but here we are living, breathing, and seeming to be well.  Ecologists seem to not trust human reasoning/ intelligence.  We cannot be overly worried about our environment.

5.  Do you think the concept of carrying capacity applies to humans as well as other animals? Explain whether yes or no and why.

I feel as if the carrying capacity applies only to animals, not humans, because humans can reason, think scientifically, and can create technology.  Animals do not have the human intelligence to think scientifically, create technology, or reason.  It is up to us to aid them as well as our society.  There should be no worry on the population of people on this Earth.  The worry is the animals.  We need to keep them under control when it comes to their population.  They are one of the most important parts of our food web, as well as our survival.  If we have too many animals, then our natural resources become more difficult to obtain, meaning instability.  

6.  Does the concept of ecological footprint developed by Wackernagel and Rees  relate to the Ehrlich Equation? Explain.

This concept of ecological footprint relates very well to the Ehrlich Equation.  The equation calculates the three major factors  that would impact the environment and according to Wackernagel and Rees they included productivity, which correlates with consumption and population.  Also, how much space we have goes hand in hand with the population.  Ecological footprint analysis accounts for the estimate of consumption/waste which can be affected by population, affluence, and technology.

7.  Go to the Ecological Footprint Quiz.  Answer the questions noti... 


Your Answer

Change #1

Change #2

Change #3

1. Country United States of America
5. Climate zone Temperature or Mediterranean warm to hot lowland desert
6. Home size 2000-2500 sq.ft.
7. Energy resources in the house Electricity
Natural gas, propane
Electricity Natural gas
heating oil wood or biomass
Electricity Natural gas
heating oil wood or biomass
Electricity Natural Gas
8. % renewable energy used 8.29% 8.29% 10%
9. Travel - distance and mode (each year) 25,000 automobile
10,000 airplane
10. Energy savings features compact fluorescent bulbs solar panels extra installation, installing blinds compact fluorescent bulbs, extra installation
10b. Energy saving habits Turn off lights when leaving the room, turn off computers, Dry clothes outside when possible, unplug small appliances, keep thermostat low Turn off lights when leaving the room, turn off computers, Dry clothes outside when possible, unplug small appliances, keep thermostat low, minimal use of power equipment when landscaping  Turn off lights when leaving the room, turn off computers, Dry clothes outside when possible, unplug small appliances, keep thermostat low, minimal use of power equipment when landscaping
11. Location of your home older suberb
12. Carbon offset credits No
13. Type of diet Omnivore Vegetarian
14. Source of food Supermarkets some, natural food stores for others
15. Organic food most of the time
16. Quantity of food eaten 2 large meals and ⅔ light medium sized snacks per day
17. Has a garden no yes
18. Home type a house
19. Type of construction materials not sure no yes
20. Furniture a few a fair amount a fair amount
21. Water savings features Low flow shower heads and faucets
21b. Water saving habits Wash cars rarely, runs clothes and washes only when full, avoid hosing down decks, walkways, and driveways Look for and fix leaks regularly, wash cars rarely, runs clothes and washes only when full, avoid hosing down decks, walkways, and driveways
22. Use of biodegradable cleaning products sometimes
23. Spending / savings I am frugal, regularly saving money for future
24. Buying new things I tend to use things until I seriously need to replace them
25. Number of garbage cans more than 2 1 or 2
26. Recycling Electronics: a fair amount
Aluminum:almost all
Glass: almost all
Plastics: almost all
27. Purchase of recycled products (e.g. paper etc…) sometimes almost always Almost always
Your Total Ecological 174.54 171.94 146.88 143.15
Footprint 4.50Earths 4.43 3.79 3.69

Total footprint: __157.22acres_

8.  How does your footprint compare to the average ecological footprint in the U.S.? Explain difference using comparison for all categories - carbon, food, goods and service, and housing.

Carbon Footprint: 26.69/91.43

Food Footprint: 52.59/65.74

Housing Footprint: 32.64/31.58

Goods & Services Footprint: 42.62/57.66

After taking this test, I have realized I am more resourceful towards the environment than the United States of America.  It’s surprising that even though my scores are mainly lower compared to the States, I seem to have a larger housing footprint than the states.  I just don’t seem to have very many good material/products to reduce my electric or water bill.  I’m not overly into eating food.  I just try to stay healthy, and frugal when it comes to spending.  I’m not a huge consumer, which decrease my negative impact on the environment.  

9.  Start the quiz again, change ONE response and calculate a new footprint.  Record the change in the table above (use the column titled Change #1 in the table). Explain the new result here:

After my second go at this quiz, I considered what would happen if I used more energy resources, and shockingly it decreased my total ecological footprint to 171.94 acres and only using 4.43 Earths.  It’s seems that adding heating oil, and wood or biomass would decrease my carbon footprint, because they are so natural and use less energy than electricity, that it would balance it out, and cost me less when my electric bill comes.

Carbon Footprint: 44.09/91.43

Food Footprint: 52.59/65.74

Housing Footprint: 32.64/31.58

Goods&Services Footprint: 42.62/57.66

10. Start the quiz again, select a different variable, change its response, and calculate footprint.  Record the change in the table above (use the column titled Change #2 in the table).  Explain the result.

A third time, I chose to change more than just one variable.  I kept all four energy resources in the house, from my second choice in addition to adding energy saving features such as solar panels, extra installation.  I also adding have a 15 acre garden, having natural, recycled material for type of construction materials, in addition to having a fair amount of all natural furniture, and few garbage cans.  This in turn again decreased my footprint to, 146.88 acres, and 3.79 Earths.  I was able to decrease my carbon and housing footprint, due to the furniture, energy savings features, and better energy saving habits.  The food footprint increased, only because I added a garden to my home. However having a garden, makes me less of a shopper, which in turn would decrease my goods and services footprint.

Carbon Footprint: 40.82/91.43

Food Footprint: 52.59/65.74

Housing Footprint: 26.70/31.58

Goods&Services Footprint: 26.77/57.66

11. Start the quiz again, select a different variable and change its response (use the column titled Change #3 in the table to record it).  Complete the quiz to determine a new footprint.  Explain the result:
Last time, what could I do to improve?  First let’s change the climate zone to warm to hot lowland desert.  Here we’ll just use electricity and natural gas.  I have 10% renewable energy used.  We’ll just have compact fluorescent bulbs and extra installation.  We will turn off lights when leaving the room, turn off computers, dry clothes outside when possible, unplug small appliances, keep thermostat low, minimal use of power equipment when landscaping.  Changing my diet to vegetarian.  Wash cars rarely, runs clothes and washes only when full, avoid hosing down decks, walkways, and driveways, and look for and fix leaks regularly to save on water.  Last but not least, almost always purchase recycled products.  What do you know?  I have again decreased to 143.15 acres and only 3.69 Earths.  While I had more ways of saving energy, I had fewer energy features to aid me.  Food was for sure decreased when I changed to a vegetarian diet.  Housing increased, manly for the same reason my carbon footprint increased.  Goods and Services increased probably because, recycled products don’t last as long as non-recycled products.
Carbon Footprint: 42.51/91.43

Food Footprint: 29.75/65.74

Housing Footprint: 35.66/31.58

Goods&Services Footprint: 35.13/57.66

12.  In what ways do you expect your Ecological Footprint to change (or remain the same) during the next 10 years of your life?  Why?
I expect that in ten years, I’ll be able to lower my ecological footprint, because I’ll probably be consuming less, due to school or work.  I will be eating less, which means my food footprint will decrease.  It all depends on what kind of home I’ll have.  I don’t see myself with a lot of energy features on my house/apartment, but I will be very smart about energy saving habits.  I assume most every one of these footprints can decrease if I can stay frugal and open minded about this changing world.
13.  In the lab you discussed footprint of several countries. Why do you think the ecological footprint for people in Bangladesh is so small and why is it so large in the U.S. Explain your answer in details.
I think that with people from Bangladesh, are more frugal and resourceful than Americans.  Even though Bangladesh has a large population, they are not rich enough to consume a lot.  They only have enough to survive.  They can not over satisfy themselves, like we Americans.  Technology also is not as high in Bangladesh, meaning they don’t really aid or harm their homeland/environment.  However,technology is affecting the United States in either helpful or unhelpful ways; it’s hard to tell.  Affluence is a huge factor of our environments impact.  Affluence ties well with the economy, because that is where the money comes from.  If you can have loads of money and tons of products, it’s in human nature to spend.  Shopping is almost a recreation.  Not many Americans consider it a threat.  Population would be next.  After all if you do have a large population that would make sense that they would consume more, but again the economy determines that.  Finally, technology because it is very debatable to figuring out how it affects our planet.  In some places, it’s aiding our environment to be use less fuel or to save that certain species or habitat.  Remember, money has a huge factor to this, and like I keep saying your economy determines your how much money you have.
14.  Write a summary of what you learned and reflect on the implications for our society if we persist on our present course of consumption. Using the concept of the Ehrlich Equation, identify pathways to take to make constructive changes in your society’s environmental impacts and reduce its Ecological Footprint.

In Conclusion, I have learned that the economy determines too much of our world.  Economy determines our spending, economy determines if we aid the environment, and economy determines the survival of a population.  Some how there needs be an equality, sustainable development, for each category: economy, environment, and society.  Some how we need to realize the change that’s happening on this planet.  We need people to realize how much we are really impacting the Earth.  We need to change!!! We need to some how, be less uptight about our economy and raise up the awareness of our society/population and the environment.  To those people who do believe in carrying capacity, and are worried for us human beings and animals we should listen to them. Consuming aids our economy, but hurts the environment.  We need to be aware of those countries with large populations, but low income/bad economy and aid them.  Stop making it about me, I, or you, but starting making it US!  If we really want to help our environment, be free to share helpful technology that will improve fuel efficiency, protect our endangered species, removing deadly gases out of our atmosphere,  and other environmental projects that are going on.  Farmers should be considered for what they do and not be told to move their crops somewhere else.  They are a huge factor to our survival.  There can be great things happening, such as a healthy Earth if we accept that change needs to happen within our society, and that we can work together to keep the human race surviving.  

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