The ecological footprint is a concept used to calculate the area of land required to meet consumption and waste demands. As well as land and bodies of water required for food, forestry required to absorb carbon dioxide emissions and land used for waste disposal are taken into account. Calculations can be made for any unit of consumption (e.g. the individual) and have been made for the world as a whole, for individual nations and for towns and cities. Unfortunately, there are wide discrepancies in methodologies, making comparisons between cities very difficult: estimates of London's ecological footprint range from 125 to 293 times the size of London itself.52 Nevertheless, suffice it to say that even at lower estimates, the footprint of London (and that of most cities) extends well beyond its geographical area.
That cities' footprints are far greater than the cities themselves is neither surprising nor necessarily problematic. One would expect an area of dense population to exact disproportionate demands on the planet in terms of area and less peopled regions produce food for ones more so. Agriculture is configured in such a way. However, problems become clear when we look at consumption on a wider scale. For example, Europe's ecological footprint represents an area more than twice the size of the continent. (Americans' needs per capita are nearly twice those of Europeans). And, as a planet, we consume more than the Earth can sustain. Since the early 1980s, we have been living in 'ecological deficit'. In 2001, we used 1.2 times the biocapacity of the Earth.53
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