What is Ecological Footprint
Ecological Footprint (EF) is a measure of the impacts of human activities in terms of resources consumption and generation of waste on their environment. It is measured in terms of a productive land area, specified in hectares, that is required to provide these resources and to assimilate waste generated. On the supply side of resources, EF represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to support human activities. EFA is a scientific tool, which helps identify and generate awareness in the magnitude of our consumption patterns.
This awareness can enhance sustainability through a change in attitudes and also assist strategy and policy design for the purpose of reducing our immediate impacts on the environment as well as building of more equitable relationships across our society. The principle of equity is an important dimension of sustainable development, and EFA allows us to gauge the distribution of our planet’s finite resources towards human activities (Wackernagel and Rees 1996). These have become important considerations since the aggregate production and consumption patterns are unsustainable.
A study calculating EF of nations has shown that humanity is exceeding its ecological limits by 50%. In other words, it now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year (WWF 2012). There are clear indications that EF will continue to increase in the future driven predominantly by an increase in world population and increasing per capita consumption.
Ecological Footprint of Mauritius
In 2008, Mauritius had an EF of 4.55 gha/person, which exceeded the world’s biological capacity of 1.68 gha/person – Source. This implies that if every person would have consumed like the average Mauritian in 2008, we would need 2.7 planets to maintain all human activities.
Of greater concern is the fact that Mauritius has an ecological deficit of 3.99 gha/person since its bio-productive capacity was only 0.56 gha/person (Ewing, et al. 2010). This means that, on average, Mauritians, and by extension all socio-economic activities carried out in Mauritius, can only maintain their high levels of consumption by appropriating resources from elsewhere. This raises ethical questions concerning the fair allocation of resources among members of the family of human beings.
Ecological Footprint Analysis in the EFS schools
Ecological Footprint Analysis (EFA) was undertaken by the 3 EFS pilot schools from 2011-2014. By measuring the ecological footprint of the school and through team-learning activities to find remedial actions to reduce, where necessary, the EF, students and teachers gained direct experiential understanding of key sustainability principles and develop their dialogue with place, e.g. the school environment. This also encouraged them to develop their school as a Community of Practice through the ‘learning-by-doing’ methodology, and by engaging the relevant stakeholders of the school community.