Pressures on the Environment
Since the 1950s:
- World population has more than doubled, while the global economy has grown nearly sixfold.
- Carbon dioxide emissions are up fivefold, giving way to global climate change.
- Water and timber use has tripled.
- Paper usage has risen sixfold.
- Air and water pollution have increased.
- World grain stocks are declining.
- Oceans are being over-fished.
- Extinction of plants and animals continues to rise.
- 60% of people in developing countries lack sanitation.
20% of the world's population consume 80% of the world's natural resources.
The high levels of consumption experienced on a global scale are reflected - on a smaller scale - in Ireland. Our 'ecological footprint' is already 1.23 times the size of the land available.
In preliminary calculations by the UCD Environmental Institute, based on a standard methodology, the average size of Ireland’s ecological footprint is 2.38 hectares per person, or a total of 86,325km2 - some 1.23 times the size of the State (70,394km2).
Features such as low population density and a high percentage of productive agricultural land have allowed Ireland to retain a relatively small footprint for a developed country. However, as this preliminary footprint measurement includes only four categories of domestic consumption (fossil fuels, built-up land, food and forestry), the results may be regarded as conservative.
Ecological footprinting provides a means of demonstrating the importance of consumption patterns. We need to take heed of the results in order to reduce our footprint and set course for a more sustainable lifestyle, if future generations are to enjoy the way of living we enjoy today.
The Choice Is Yours
There are two paths now that you can choose to go down. Doing nothing will mean consumption will continue to spike, but bringing some sort of sustainability into your life will go a long way to stem the tide.
The decisions to change to a more sustainable lifestyle rests with every one of us, either as an individual or as a member of an organisation. As a consumer or an investor in business, you are in a key position to make informed choices for sustainable living.
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