What’s the impact of your lifestyle on the health of the planet? What’s going to be left over for your kids?
You’ve probably heard that Americans consume something like 80% of the natural resources of the planet, even though we account for only about 20% of the world’s population. It’s a ridiculous statistic, not because it isn’t true, but because it’s hard to wrap one’s brain around it.
The group Redefining Progress created a quiz that makes the numbers above easier to grasp.
It attempts to measure one’s “ecological footprint.” The name refers to the number of acres needed to maintain one’s lifestyle. As you can imagine, beef eaters require many hundreds of acres of grazing land to keep the cows alive, whereas vegetarians can survive on maybe an acre’s worth of garden. Food choices, transportation choices, housing choices all figure into the total.
The thing is, there are only so many productive acres on the planet. The more you use, the fewer there are for someone else. And even if you live a somewhat green lifestyle — conserving gas and electricity, making earth-friendly purchase decisions, etc. — chances are you’re still burning up two to three times as many acres as Europeans, and eight to ten times as many as people in the Middle East.
The Sierra Club offers suggestions for reducing individual resource consumption.