Human demand outstrips nature's supply

The Ecological Footprint is an indicator of human pressure on nature.

It measures how much land and water people need to produce the resources they consume (like food and timber), provide land for infrastructure, and absorb the CO2 they generate – and then compares this to biocapacity, nature's ability to meet this demand.


Contributing factors to humanity's Ecological Footprint
© Mauri Rautkauri / Michel Gunther / Edward Parker / Jorge Sierra /WWF-Switzerland / A. della Bella / Quentin Bates / WWF-Canada / WWF
Figure 16: Ecological Footprint by component, 1961–2007 The Footprint is shown as number of planets. Total biocapacity, represented by the dashed line, always equals one planet Earth, although the biological productivity of the planet changes each year. Hydropower is included in built-up land and fuel wood in the forest component.
During the 1970s, humanity as a whole passed the point at which the annual Ecological Footprint matched the Earth’s annual biocapacity. This situation is called “ecological overshoot”, and has continued since then.

An overshoot of 50% means it would take 1.5 years for the Earth to regenerate the renewable resources that people used in 2007 and absorb CO2 waste.

Put another way, people used the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support their activities.

The current overshoot is largely due to carbon emissions.

CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are far more than ecosystems can absorb.

The carbon footprint has increased by over 30% since the first Living Planet Report in 1998, and now accounts for over half of humanity’s Ecological Footprint.

Not all people are equal consumers

The Footprint of high-income countries is 3 times that of middle-income countries, and 5 times that of low-income countries.

The countries with the biggest Ecological Footprint per person are: United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Denmark, Belgium, United States, Estonia, Canada, Australia, Kuwait, Ireland.
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