Scientific Attributes

Scientific Attributes of the Ecological Footprint Analysis 

The scientific success of EFA derives in part from methodological strengths of the method that are both scientifically well-founded and that reflect thinking people’s intuitive sense of reality. On the technical/scientific side, EFA has several qualities that reinforce it’s credibility as a sustainability indicator:

  • acknowledges that humans are biophysical entities that make constant metabolic demands on their supportive ecosystems and that all our manufactured capital and related cultural artefacts impose a parallel and much larger industrial metabolism on the ecosphere;
  • recognizes the crucial role of natural capital and natural income (biophysical stocks and flows) in economic development and sustainability;
  • accepts that the economy is a fully contained, growing, dependent, sub-system of the non-growing ecosphere;
  • recognizes the second law of thermodynamics as the ultimate governor of material transformations and economic activity and that beyond a certain (optimal) scale, the growth and maintenance human enterprise must necessarily accelerate the entropic disordering and dissipation of the ecosphere;
  • is closely related conceptually to Howard Odum’s the embodied energy (emergy) analyses and the ‘environmental space’ concept of European analysts.; and
  • corresponds closely to and incorporates all the factors in Ehrlich’s and Holdren’s well-known definition of human impact on the environment: I = PAT, where ‘I’ is impact, ‘P’ is population, ‘A’ is affluence (i.e., level of consumption) and ‘T’ is a technology scalar.