A Project to track our Ecological Footprints

A Project to track our Ecological Footprints

by Yash Saboo May 9 2018, 3:33 pm Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 43 secs

‘Development’ is shorthand for committing to well-being for all. ‘Sustainable’ implies that such development must come at no cost to future generations. In other words, development is required to occur within what the planet’s ecosystem is able to provide season after season, year after year. It needs to be enabled within the means of nature.

We are definitely using more than our fair share of the world's resources. So how can we measure that “fair share” in order to move toward a more environmentally responsible lifestyle?

One simple way to assess this is Ecological Footprint and Human Development Index (HDI). Ecological Footprint less than 1.7 global hectares per person makes those resource demands globally replicable. The United Nations considers an HDI over 0.8 to be “very high human development.”

Measuring these two variables reveals that very few countries come close to achieving sustainable development, despite growing adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and other policies that strive to increase well-being without sacrificing the environment.

Source : Greenbiz

Kate Meyer, a doctoral student at Australia’s Curtin University has just completed a paper she calls “Planetary Accounting,” which she thinks could help form an underpinning for long-term environmental and social sustainability. Meyer is a mechanical engineer who has spent the bulk of her career as a sustainability consultant in the built environment. She has delivered many highly innovative solutions for the built environment that use first principle physics and simple processes to achieve substantial environmental benefits.

Kate conceived the concept of Planetary Accounting almost a decade ago. The theory involves that there’s a limited “quota” of environmental assets available to human society — and she has made an attempt to put numbers on it. Just as carbon has been limited, taxed, and traded since the 1990s, Planetary Accounting could allow all critical limits on resources and emissions to also be counted.  

“Planetary accounting allows us to understand the impact [of] human activity at any scale, from my own household activities or our neighborhood’s activities, through to big corporate activities, city-wide activities, or national activities,” Meyer explains.

By establishing the reduction of usage of the most important environmental elements like carbon, oxygen, phosphorus, ozone, water, the hope is to reduce the risk of exhausting to where the very Earth system (the planet’s interaction of physical, chemical, and biological processes) is threatened.

Meyer envisions to list how much of each environmental asset a given product or service consumes (and its sustainable benchmark) by attaching the same (literally and/or through a smartphone app) to both products and services. She calls it “planetary facts label”. This would be very helpful in contrast to today’s often vague and non-scientific eco-labels.

“It could say, ‘If you have this, this is only 10% of an average per-capita daily allowance of nitrogen,’” Meyer continues. “So that you can put things into context.”

Meyer, in 2014, left her corporate career to pursue this project full time using an academic platform to provide scientific rigor, transparency, and robustness to the system. The Planetary Accounting framework will be available as a Springer book publication in 2018.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.