Footprint: Rich vs Poor

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Global map of national Ecological Footprint per person in 2008
© Global Footprint Network, 2011
Higher income, more developed countries generally have a higher Footprint than poorer, less developed countries.
The size of a person’s Ecological Footprint depends on development level and wealth, and in part on the choices individuals make on what they eat, what products they purchase and how they travel

But decisions undertaken by governments and businesses have a substantial influence on the Ecological Footprint too. For example, individuals generally have no direct control over the size of the built-up land footprint. The same is true for the way in which a country produces its electricity or the intensity of its agricultural production.

This “inherited” part of the Ecological Footprint can be influenced through mechanisms such as political engagement, green technology and innovation, and other work toward large-scale social change. Governments and businesses therefore play an important role in reducing the Ecological Footprint of each person.

If everyone lived like an average resident of the USA, a total of four earths would be required to regenerate humanity’s annual demand on nature.

A focus on emerging economies: BRIICS countries

The rapid economic expansion of Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa – the so-called BRIICS group – merit special attention when looking at the Ecological Footprint and the pressure on biocapacity.
High population growth in the BRIICS group along with increasing average consumption per person are contributing to an economic transformation. As a result, the BRIICS economies are expanding more rapidly than those of high-income countries. This growth will bring important social benefits to these countries. The challenge, however, is to do this sustainably.

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