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The ecological footprint from a systems perspective of sustainability

The ecological footprint from a systems perspective of sustainability Summary The Ecological Footprint (EF) is a method for estimating the biologically productive area necessary to support current consumption patterns, given prevailing technical and economic processes. By comparing human impact with the planet's limited bioproductive area. this method tests a basic ecological condition for sustainability. The ecological footprint has gained popularity for its pedagogical strength as it expresses the results of its analysis in spatial units that can easily be communicated. Many EF estimates have been performed on a global, national and sulrnationallevel. In this paper. we review the method and critically assess it from a sustainability perspective based on first order principles. We examine: • Which aspects of sustainability are already covered by existing EF assessments; • Which further aspects ofsustainability could be made accountable through the EF (such as areas needed to assimilate waste streams that are not yet accounted for in present assessments); and • Those aspects ofsustainability that cannot be accountable through the EF. Thereby needing complimentary auditing tools. Since the EF is a measure of renewable biocapacity, we argue that some dimensions of ecological sustainability should not be included in the EF. These include human activities that should be phased out to obtain sustainability, such as emissions of persistent compounds foreign to nature and qualitative aspects that represent secondary uses of ecological areas and do not, therefore, occupy a clearly identifiable additional ecological space. We also conclude that the EF is useful for documenting the overall human use or abuse of the potentially renewable functions and services of nature. Particularly, by aggregating in a consistentway a varity of human impacts, it can effectively identify the scale of the human economy by companson with the size of the biosphere. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology Taylor & Francis

The ecological footprint from a systems perspective of sustainability

17 pages

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References (32)

Publisher
Taylor & Francis
Copyright
Copyright 1999 The Parthenon Publishing Group Ltd
ISSN
1745-2627
eISSN
1350-4509
DOI
10.1080/13504509.1999.9728469
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Summary The Ecological Footprint (EF) is a method for estimating the biologically productive area necessary to support current consumption patterns, given prevailing technical and economic processes. By comparing human impact with the planet's limited bioproductive area. this method tests a basic ecological condition for sustainability. The ecological footprint has gained popularity for its pedagogical strength as it expresses the results of its analysis in spatial units that can easily be communicated. Many EF estimates have been performed on a global, national and sulrnationallevel. In this paper. we review the method and critically assess it from a sustainability perspective based on first order principles. We examine: • Which aspects of sustainability are already covered by existing EF assessments; • Which further aspects ofsustainability could be made accountable through the EF (such as areas needed to assimilate waste streams that are not yet accounted for in present assessments); and • Those aspects ofsustainability that cannot be accountable through the EF. Thereby needing complimentary auditing tools. Since the EF is a measure of renewable biocapacity, we argue that some dimensions of ecological sustainability should not be included in the EF. These include human activities that should be phased out to obtain sustainability, such as emissions of persistent compounds foreign to nature and qualitative aspects that represent secondary uses of ecological areas and do not, therefore, occupy a clearly identifiable additional ecological space. We also conclude that the EF is useful for documenting the overall human use or abuse of the potentially renewable functions and services of nature. Particularly, by aggregating in a consistentway a varity of human impacts, it can effectively identify the scale of the human economy by companson with the size of the biosphere.

Journal

International Journal of Sustainable Development & World EcologyTaylor & Francis

Published: Mar 1, 1999

Keywords: ecological footprint; sustainability; principles; indicators; measures; the Natural Step; backcasting

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