China’s Ecological Footprint

China’s total Ecological Footprint has dramatically increased in the past 15 years and surpassed that of the United States in the early 2000s. China is now the nation with the world’s largest total Ecological Footprint. Two factors that drive increasing total Ecological Footprint are increasing per capita Ecological Footprint (a measure of increasing consumption) and population growth.

It is widely known that China has the world’s largest population. Over the last 30 years, however, China’s population growth rate has stabilized and started to decrease.

On a per capita basis, China’s Ecological Footprint ranked 81st in the world, at 2.5 gha. This is less than the world average per capita Ecological Footprint of 2.7 gha but still larger than the world average biocapacity available per person, 1.7 gha. If everybody lived like the average Chinese, we would need 1.5 Earths.

Chinese Ecological Footprint Reports 

WWF China Ecological Footprint Report 2014 [Downloads]

WWF China Ecological Footprint Report  2012 [Downloads]

WWF China Ecological Footprint Report  2010 [Downloads]

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Do we fit on the planet?

Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.6 planets to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth one year and seven months to regenerate what we use in a year.

Moderate United Nations scenarios suggest that if current population and consumption trends continue, by the 2030s, we will need the equivalent of two Earths to support us. And of course, we only have one.

Turning resources into waste faster than waste can be turned back into resources puts us in global ecological overshoot, depleting the very resources on which human life and biodiversity depend.

The result is collapsing fisheries, diminishing forest cover, depletion of fresh water systems, and the build up of carbon dioxide emissions, which creates problems like global climate change. These are just a few of the most noticeable effects of overshoot.

Overshoot also contributes to resource conflicts and wars, mass migrations, famine, disease and other human tragedies—and tends to have a disproportionate impact on the poor, who cannot buy their way out of the problem by getting resources from somewhere else.

*Click the image to enlarge.

Ending Overshoot

The Earth provides all that we need to live and thrive. So what will it take for humanity to live within the means of one planet?

Individuals and institutions worldwide must begin to recognize ecological limits. We must begin to make ecological limits central to our decision-making and use human ingenuity to find new ways to live within the Earth’s bounds.

This means investing in technology and infrastructure that will allow us to operate in a resource-constrained world. It means taking individual action, and creating the public demand for businesses and policy makers to participate.

Using tools like the Ecological Footprint to manage our ecological assets is essential for humanity’s survival and success. Knowing how much nature we have, how much we use, and who uses what is the first step, and will allow us to track our progress as we work toward our goal of sustainable, one-planet living.