When I discovered the impact of my ecological footprint, the results shocked me. I found that to sustain my lifestyle in terms of the resources that I take from the environment, and if everyone in the world consumed at the same rate that I do, it would take 2.1 earths (3.5 global hectares per person) for us to survive. As you can see, that is quite clearly more earths than we have access to.
This got me thinking about Canada as a whole. What impact does my country have on the entire world? If I thought I was bad, according to the Global Footprint Network, the average Canadian consumes 8.8 global hectares per capita. That’s about twice the amount I consume! This means that if every global citizen lived as the “average Canadian” lived, we would need 5.1 planet earths to sustain the human race.
It’s important to realize what aspects contribute to our personal resource consumption, and how we can make better decisions surrounding that consumption. My “number”, although lower than the national average, is still by no means responsible. It’s still too high to be considered sustainable. My global hectare number is high despite the facts that I live in a small room in residence at university, I rarely ever eat breakfast, I never consume any fish products, I do not have my own vehicle, when driving I always carpool and I walk to most places unless I am unable to.
All of this, and I still consume twice the amount of resources that I should.
Canada, however, consumes new products every single day that come from forests, wildlife and the ocean. Canadians use personally-owned vehicles for their transportation, as well as buses, trains, and airplanes. While I may not use these things every day, Canada sure does. Canadians have access to essentially everything they could possibly wish for!
And because it is so easily available, of course there is an excess. Humans are a species fueled by simplicity; what will make their lives easier is desired, no matter what the impact will be to other lifeforms on earth.
Other countries are not as fortunate to have such commodities available so easily. Therefore, because it is more difficult or less bountiful, they will not consume as much. People cannot consume what they do not have. Unfortunately, some places in the world do not have access to even basic needs. Some don’t have enough food or water so they consume much less.
But that does not mean they are unaffected by the negative impact overconsumption has on the environment. In fact, they feel it just as strongly, but they do not contribute nearly as much. This is incredibly unfair, but there is no quick and easy solution, nor is there a way to exclude them from the consequences.
The questions then become: How do we as Canadians manage our quality of life without using more than our fair share? And how do we equally distribute this quality of life globally? Is this even possible?
Planet Raves is The Aquinian’s newest environmental column, featuring reflections from students in environmental studies classes.