My Ecological Footprint

After retaking the quiz to determine my personal footprint using the ecological footprint calculator on the Global Footprint Network website, there is still an obvious need for me to change my ecological footprint.  I took another run through the quiz because after receiving a score of needing 10.3 planet Earths “if everyone lived like me” on the Basic Information version of the quiz, I felt that there were many aspects of my lifestyle I could not express in that basic form.  Thus, the basic format did not make considerations for certain distinctions which would more accurately define my footprint, such as the fact that I rarely buy meat or fish from a grocery store.

Almost all of the meat and fish I prepare at home are a product of my personal hunting and fishing harvests.  These are wild animals that are not costing the Earth in the usual, and more expensive, way a farm raised animal would.  Yes, I do expend fossil fuel in pursuing them and I do puchase goods that are the tools for my harvest, but there is no way wild game costs the Earth as much natural capital as farm raised animals  

Retaking the quiz in the Detailed Information format made an enormous difference in my footprint.  The detailed format brought my ecological footprint down to the need for 4.4 planet Earths “if everyone lived like me.”  According to this figure, it requires 19.7 acres of the Earth’s productive area to support my lifestyle.  I still have some reservations about not being able to go even more in depth with the way I feel I work to conserve and preserve our natural capital, and with the assumptions that are made because of the country in which I live.  I agree that America is a throw-away society, but, like in all aspects of society, it is not fair to stereotype by nationality.  Also, the fact that my footprint jumps from 10.3 to 4.4 between the two versions of the quiz makes me hesitate some as well about the accuracy of the final tally.

However, for the simplicity of the quiz, I realize some assumptions must be made.  That being said, there are still changes I need to make to improve my ecological footprint, obviously, because we don’t have 4.4 planet Earths – we have one.  If I want this one planet to be a livable place for my children’s children and grandchildren, then I need to adjust my worldview from a mix of planetary management and stewardship to at least a mix of stewardship and environmental wisdom if not making a total lifestyle commitment to environmental wisdom is not possible.

I can make changes to certain aspects of my lifestyle that will benefit my footprint, such as purchasing more organic foods.  I like my toys and gadgets, but I have subdued my obsession with these things.  When the urge arises in the future, the better option would be to buy used.  I am already a diligent recycler inside and out of the home, but there is still much more I can do to reduce the amount of unnecessary waste and the amount of natural capital that is necessary to produce, dispose, or recycle it.  I can use less fossil fuels in my home and on the road by using my mountain bike for the commute, keeping an even closer eye on my energy saving thermostat, reducing the amount of time energy spent manicuring a park like acreage and allowing the growth of more native plants, and substituting the motorcycle for the truck on longer journeys – now if I only had a sidecar for the dog!  I draw the line at my house though – because I like it.  I won’t trade it in to pitch a tent somewhere just because the dog and I are the only ones using this space.  I am making the effort to consolidate more individuals under the same roof however, so I guess that is a work in progress.

Thoughts on “How Much is Clean Water Worth?”

“How Much is Clean Water Worth?” is a fascinating feature article written by Jim Morrison for the Feb./Mar. 2005 issue of National Wildlife, the magazine of the National Wildlife Federation.  There are some staggering, almost unfathomable, numbers in the form of dollar amounts calculated when it comes to the value of our global ecosystem – something that really should need no dollar value as it is invaluable to all of us using this planet.

However, how does a controversial 1997 Nature report estimating the annual dollar value of the global ecosystem to be $33 trillion grab you?  That’s ($33,000,000,000,000.00) 14 zeroes in dollars and cents if you’re counting – and I was.  Apparently it grabbed some the wrong way:

One report by researchers at the University of Maryland, Bowden College and Duke University called the estimate “absurd,” noting that if taken literally, the figure suggests that a family earning $30,000 annually would pay $40,000 annually for ecosystem protection.

But, if not taken literally, how can we begin to make exponentially important decisions about the future of our society as a species, and the managing species, on this planet.  If we continue to ignore stewardship of our natural resources as a society by not assigning an economic value to something that is invaluable, when will the price tag to correct our mismanagement exceed our natural capital?  Or have we already reached a point where we are writing checks our collective butts can’t cash?

The article is packed full of amazing examples of stewardship and recognition of our natural capital in the form of monetary valuation that gives me some new hope in our society.  Examples of restoring what nature had intended all along; restoring for not only natural instrumental benefits, but the intrinsic social, economical, and ecological benefits as well.

If the planet is still offering us the chance to fix our mistakes in stewardship, and if the best way to recognize the benefits of fixing those mistakes is by assigning a dollar figure to enhance the understandability of the big picture, then, I say, give me a price gun and I’ll help price tag the place.

What did it cost you to read this rant?  Time.  What did it cost the earth in natural capital to provide you the opportunity to read this rant?  Time.  If, as the old saying goes, time is money – which is more valuable to me?  And do you really want to know my answer?