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ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE EXERCISES

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ESA21: ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE EXERCISESA brief summary of ecological footprints and the usefulness to individuals and governmentsJournal article examining ecological footprint of human race and available natural capitalActivity: Determining Your Ecological FootprintOnline calculator for determining your ecological footprint and making comparisonsESA 21: Environmental Science ActivitiesESA21: ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE EXERCISESTable of Contents:Ecological FootprintActivity: Determining Your Ecological FootprintEcological Footprint Estimating your overall impact on the environment is a daunting task when you consider all the variables involved. Environmental scientists have developed a tool that does justthis however, and presents the information in a manner that iseasily visualized despite the underlying complexities. It is known as an “ecological footprint”, and it describes the area of land needed to supply the resources used and wastes produced by each individual. Nature’s ability to provide resources and process wastes is knownas “natural capital”, and the goal of sustainable living is to use resources wisely so as to avoid depleting natural capital, enabling it to be available to future generations. Ecological footprint analysis allows us to examine per-capita (per-person) utilization of natural capital (globally or by nation), the amount of natural capital available (globally or by nation), and the surplus/deficit in natural capital globally or in individual countries. We can then examine the impact of humans on the Earth’s natural capital on the whole or and by individual nation. Ecological footprints are calculated by examining the amount of land used for:(a.) Cultivating food crops(b.) Grazing livestock(c.) Growing timber (d.) Harvesting fish and other organisms from oceans(e.) Housing, infrastructure (roads, bridges), transportation, shopping, energy production(f.) Sequestering in trees the carbon dioxide produced by driving, electricity usage, etc.By summing all of these land areas, an individual’s ecological footprint can be calculated. So how much natural capital is there per person? If we take the current global population and divide it by the number of acres (or hectares, in metric measurement) of biologically productive land, we find that there are currently 4.7 acres of productive land on the planet per person. Therefore, in order to live sustainably each person on the planet should have an ecological footprint of 4.7 acres of less. While individuals in developing countries often have footprints at or below this value, citizens in highly industrialized countries often exceed it by sizable amount. Where is the connection between ecological footprints and biodiversity, you ask? In order for natural ecosystems to persist and support the diversity of other organisms on the planet, area must be set aside from development and utilization. As the human population grows and demands on resources become ever larger, the ability to preserve large areas of natural habitat become more problematic, and biodiversity initiatives suffer. In addition to preserving biodiversity, reducing humanity’s ecological footprint has a number of other positive results. To learn more about this, consult the materials below.Ecological Footprint Accounts: Moving Sustainabilityfrom Concept to Measurable Goal (PDF) (204 KB)A brief summary of ecological footprints and the usefulness to individuals and governmentsRedefining Progresshttp://www.redefiningprogress.org/programs/sustainabilityindicators/ef/efbrochure.pdfTracking the Ecological Overshoot of the Human Economy (PDF) (157 KB)Journal article examining ecological footprint of human race and available natural capitalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2002)http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/142033699v1.pdfActivity: Determining Your Ecological Footprint In this exercise, you will utilize an online calculator to examine your ecological footprint, compare it to the average footprint in your country and other countries, and critically examine ways to reduce it. We will utilize an online Ecological Footprint Quiz for our analyses. Link to the calculator using the URL below, and follow the directions provided in the Activity Sheet.Tracking the Ecological Overshoot of the Human Economy (PDF) (157 KB)Online calculator for determining your ecological footprint and making comparisons Redefining Progress and earthdaynetwork http://www.earthday.net/footprint/index.aspESA 21: Environmental Science ActivitiesActivity Sheet Ecological FootprintName:Lecture Professor:Calculating Your Ecological Footprint:Begin by selecting your country and language from the map. On the next page, enter the required information about your age, size of your city, weather, and gender. Select the blue arrow to proceed to the next page. Proceed through the sixteen questions, choosing from the provided options. After advancing from the final page, you will be provided with your ecological footprint for food, mobility (transportation), shelter, goods/services, and your total footprint. Enter the results in the table below, and calculate the percentage for each category by dividing the value in each category by the Total Footprint and multiplying by 100 (to convert proportion topercentage).Footprint Area (acres) Percentage of TotalFoodMobilityShelterGoods/ServicesTotal FootprintHow did your Total Footprint compare to the average for your country? Did this surprise you?How many Earths would be needed to support the human population if everyone lived like you?Click the link entitled What about other Species beneath the COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS heading on the right side of the page. Review the material in the window that opens. Enter a value for setting aside land for biodiversity that falls within the range recommended by conservation biologists (30-70%) and hit the Calculate button. Enter the results in the table below. Now change to a value you consider realistic, not to exceed 12%. Enter the results in the table below.Percent ofBiosphere set asidePer-capita allotment (acres)Number of Earths required Recommended RealisticIn light of this information, do you think we should take significant action to reduce our resource consumption to save room for other species? Explain your answer.Analyzing Changes:Return to the Ecological Footprint Calculator, and use the Back button (or its equivalent on yourbrowser) to go back to the questions.


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