AP Environmental Science
20 January 2015
Human Ecological Footprint and Sustainability of the Earth
Nowadays, the human society thrives and prospers on the usage of Earth’s finite stock of nonrenewable resources (Rauch 2014). Although the current model of the human society does provide individuals a relatively comfortable lifestyle, such practice of resource consumption is not sustainable in the long run. Human’s increasing ecological footprint is directly damaging the sustainability of the Earth and affecting the wellbeing of future generations. Human’s rapid population growth, reliance on nonrenewable resources such as fossil fuel, and wasteful usage of slowly replenishing resource like water and soil all contribute to the depletion of the Earth.
Rapid population growth further increases human’s already unsustainable ecological footprint. Today, humanity uses the equivalent of one and a half planets to provide the resources needed to support the entire population (Global Footprint Network 2014). However, if the human population size continues to grow at an exponential rate, human would eventually run out of available resources. Humans have already entered a stage of ecological overshoot as the rate at which resources are being used exceeds the rate at which wastes can be recycled, by either artificial or natural means, back into usable resources (Global Footprint Network 2014). A larger population does nothing but puts more stress on the amount of resource available to humans as a whole. Although efforts in population control have significantly slowed down population growth in certain regions of the world, population growth in many lessdeveloped countries is still
unsustainable. As human population grows even larger, the demand for resources will continue to increase and results in even greater ecological footprint that threatens the Earth’s and its inhabitants’ ability to flourish.
The fact that the human society is constructed based on environmentpolluting fossil fuels also explains the growing ecological footprint. In a typical human community, economy, society and environment are viewed as three separate, unrelated parts that function on their own
(Sustainable Measure 2010). Even though through education, people now have a generally better understanding of the relationship between these three building blocks of humanity, many human practices still resemble the traditional view of community. Governments still provide subsidies to ecologically degrading industries, especially the oil business, for the money and employment opportunities these industries generate. Countries with the biggest ecological footprints also tend to have the highest consumption of oil (National Geographic 2014). Structuring a community using an unsustainable social model may be economically successful, but in reality, the damages done to the environment will ultimately deplete the resources that these communities depend on.
In addition, by the time resources become too scarce for human demands, the economy would also be struck with serious problems. Focusing on only the shortterm benefits and overlooking the longterm impacts of our current social structure already have and will result in more irreversible changes in the Earth’s livesupport system.
Furthermore, human’s wasteful usage of slowly replenishing resources such as water and soil puts a strain on the Earth’s biocapacity, or the planet’s biologically productive land areas
(Global Footprint Network 2014). The nation of Denmark has to import a large amount of grains because its cropland cannot yield sufficient amount of food for the entire population (National
Geographic 2014). As human lives depend on the products of agriculture, the protection of arable land becomes an important issue. However, soil is being constantly degraded as modern farming practices reduces the soil’s