The Popular Appeal of the Ecological Footprint Analysis
EFA has also gained great popular acceptance. It seems to resonate better with the public than do more abstract and impersonal sustainability indicators. Attributes of EFA that help to communicate biophysical reality to the public are as follows:
- The method is conceptually simple and intuitively appealing. Even sceptics recognize that that they have a positive ecological footprint.
- EFA personalizes sustainability by focusing on consumption—everyone is consumer and must ultimately take responsibility for his/her own ‘load’ on the planet.
- EFA consolidates measurable energy and material flows into a single concrete variable, the corresponding appropriated land/water (ecosystem) area.
- Productive land/water area itself is a powerful indicator that anyone can understand.
- Eco-footprint estimates can be compared to finite local and global ‘supplies’ of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems (i.e., people and populations can compare their demands to available bio-capacity).
- The ‘ecological deficit’—the difference between domestic bio-capacity and a larger eco-footprint—requires little explanation and many people see it as more important than the fiscal deficits with which their governments are often preoccupied!
Most important, EFA seems to serve as an important consciousness-raising tool as illustrated by the popularity of EFA-oriented web-sites that offer simple calculators that visitors can use to estimate their personal eco-footprints. To reiterate, EFA encourages people to reflect on, and take responsibility for, their personal consumption habits.