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April 27, 2004

Ecological Footprints

Small Dead Animals looks at EO Wilson's calculations on ecological footprints. And comes to the correct conclusion that we already seem to have run out of land, although there's a couple of minor errors in the calcs.
There is a much more important criticism of these footprint calculations, not just the one about adding everything and the kitchen sink into it. There's so many acres that are needed to grow food, so many for housing, so many for CO 2 recycling (which is why high tech societies, which use a lot less for food than low tech ones get larger footprints than those low tech societies ).
The real problem is that if each person requires 10 acres ( or whatever ) and there are a billion people, then we require 10 billion acres. Rubbish, bollocks and even WTF.
That acre of corn that's going to feed those 10 people over there is also recycling the CO2 emissions of those 20 people over there. That rainforest that is providing the lungs of the planet ( sheesh ) is also providing the brazil nuts that someone covers in chocolate. The acres of space that are needed to recycle sewage are also providing the nutrients to grow that corn. Solar cells on the roof mean I am generating power from the same fraction of an acre that I inhabit.
Land can be used for many different purposes at the same time. So one cannot add my 10 acres and your 10 acres until we get to 5 times the earth's surface.
Even if the concept had any validity, it would still be necessary to work out how much land is used exclusively and not multiply. And greenies don't like to do hard math like that. Until you see a calculation that takes multiple uses of land into account at the same time reject the whole concept as ludicrous, even deliberately misleading.

April 27, 2004 in Environmentalism | Permalink


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