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Fussabdruck, Nachhaltigkeit und Zeit - ein Glossar       D - E - F
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Fossil Energy
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Unser "Fussabdruck" ist der Druck, den wir auf die Erde ausüben. Unser Umwelt-Gebrauch-Gewicht (Environmental Resource Use footprint) umfasst alle Rohstoffe, die wir gebrauchen, ausbeuten, aufbrauchen oder schädigen, wie auch die Abfälle, die wir erzeugen, inklusive Treibhausgase. Unser UGG-Fussabdruck umfasst alle Lebewesen (Artenvielfalt) wie auch Mineralien, Wasser, Böden und ein normales Klima. Die meisten dieser Ressourcen sind nicht-erneuerbar und viele Schäden sind unwiderruflich.

Our impact on the earth can be represented by the equation                     I = P x A x T
Impact (our footprint)
= Population (size) x Affluence (wellfare) x Technology.
A valid quantification of humanity's Environmental Resource Use (or "impact" or "footprint") is difficult and debatable. The increasing Environmental Resource Use can be observed by the quantifiable decrease of resources, increasing damage, deforestation, pollution, and climate change.

The "Ecological Footprint" is the theoretical concept by Wackernagel and Rees, accountinging for the consumption of biological i.e. renewable resources only.
The Environmental Resource Use footprint comprises all resources that humanity consumes, water, topsoil, minerals, biodiversity, fish, a normal climate, and so on. I have no measure for the weight that we exert upon the planet but it is absolutely sure that we have overshot the earth's carrying capacity by far. Most of these non-renewable resources are being depleted at a very high rate. Once gone, they can never be replenished or recreated. They will be gone forever, leaving nothing for our children.

"Nachhaltigkeit" ist ein Zustand des Gleichgewichts zwischen Naturverbrauch und der regenerativen Kapazität der Erde. Unser Lebensstil ist nachhaltig wenn wir nicht mehr lebende und tote Materie verbrauchen als die Erde durch natürliche Prozesse wiederherstellen kann und wir nicht mehr Abfälle produzieren als die Natur durch natürliche Prozesse bewältigen kann.

"Development" is - for all practical purposes - an increase in the standard of living that people enjoy. Development always entails an increase in resource use and waste production. "Sustainable Development" is therefore not possible. It is a delusionary concept that makes believe development could occur without increasing our Environmental Resource Use footprint .

"Overshoot" is a situation where resource consumption and waste production are higher than the earth's carrying capacity. Overshoot is only possible because we deplete resource stocks that the earth has accumulated in the past at vastly different environmental conditions.

"Carrying capacity" is the number of people with a certain "footprint" that the earth can support for a long time, say many thousands of years. Humans with our shape and intelligence have lived more or less sustainably for some 100,000 to 200,000 years (4,000 to 8,000 generations). Overshoot started with the advent of agriculture and began to increase at the onset of our industrial age around 1750. Dramatic increase in overshoot started in the 20th century, especially after 1950.

"Technology" cannot increase the earth's carrying capacity. On the contrary. It may on first sight reduce pollution and reduce resource use in some areas of life. But ultimately it increases resource consumption since technology uses resources itself. One dangerous and delusive technology is "genetic engineering". Proponents claim GE is needed to feed future populations but they forget that increased crop outputs require increased inputs. Another GMO illusion is the expectation that GE could increase crop sizes as populations grow.

"Economic Growth" is expansion of human activity, i.e. the increase in production and consumption, normally accounted in Gross Domestic Product growth over one year. The GDP is the total monetary value of all economic activity, i.e. agriculture, manufacturing, so-called services (which include such very resource-intensive activities as transportation). The GDP does not distinguish between goods and "bads", i.e. work to repair accidents or outright harmful activities.
So-called "sustainable growth", "immaterial growth", "different growth", "decoupled growth" are theoretical fiction, designed to maintain the growth paradigm that is cherished by most opinion leaders.

"Resource Efficiency" means the lowest possible use of resources (materials) for a given product or service. Increasing a sub-optimal resource efficiency means using less material and this will lead to a short-term reduction of GDP. The savings are normally being used elsewhere and the resource use rebounds to previous levels.

"Population Growth" is the surplus between births and deaths in one year, presently approx. 75 million people a year. Provided all other conditions stay equal, the global population is expected to rise from 6.7 billion in 2008 to approx. 8.5 to 9.0 billion by 2050.

Climate Change is a result of overshoot, i.e. man-made greenhouse gas emissions that cannot be absorbed by nature. Economic growth increases greenhouse gas emissions. The argument that mitigating climate change would only marginally reduce economic growth is doubly mistaken. Money and investment cannot deal with floods and droughts and landslides. And it fails to understand that growth actually increases the problem. Reducing the climate change problem to energy questions does not recognise the general resource and overshoot picture.

"Energy" is the resource we need to live and to work. We gain our energy from food, which is produced by natural processes. Stone age people took approx. one Human Energy Equivalent from nature, additional to food energy. Since there were few people, nature could easily regenerate.

"Fossil Energy" is the sun's energy that nature has accumulated over hundreds of millions of years, when there were no humans around. The exploitation of fossil energy, especially in modern time, has allowed humanity to grow in numbers and in per capita resource consumption to our present overshoot situation.

"Peak Energy" is the maximum extraction rates from fossil energy stocks. It is expected to happen any time soon. After that, the reduced fossil energy flows will lead to reduced industrial and agricultural production, and reduced mobility and transportation of goods. We will have to demechanise and relocalise and use the remaining oil very wisely for those societal tasks and products that have oil as a non-replaceable resource base.

A "Crisis" is a dangerous maximum, that can last a short instance or a number of years. After the crisis the situation can get either better, or so bad that collaps or death follows.

The "Energy Crisis" is a perceived shortage of fossil energy. The real energy crisis lies in the fact that temporarily abundant fossil energy availabilities have led to the present situation of exorbitant resource use, pollution, destruction of nature and overpopulation.

Hope and Optimism are good when they serve to keep us motivated. They are deadly sins when they prevent people from using the the means we have and instead make them wait for yet-to-be-invented-or-developed future technology. Compare: Hope - the "gift-wrapped curse" from Pandora's box of evils

The Reality Principle means that we must work with the methods and technolog that we really have.

Crystalline Intelligence is a thought pattern that has become rigid because of socio-economic conditioning. As a result it fails to recognise or it denies factual scientific findings that are in conflict with beliefs, hopes, or paradigms.

Economics is the study of allocation of scarce resources among unlimited and competing uses. This widespread definition acknowledges that resources are not unlimited. Economic theory normaly assumes that people act rationally and that they always want more. The discipline of economics normally teaches that economic growth is desirable and sustainable. They don't tell us when we would have enough.

Ingenuity refers to technological intelligence. In the environmental debate it is often used inconnection (investment in ) eduction and research. The expectation is that ingenuity and research will produce new technologies that are hoped to deal with pressing environmental problems. The Financial Times recently suggested that "disordered ingenuity of the market" could be a solution for energy shortages. There is no guaranty, however, that investment in eduction and research will produce the hoped for solution.

The "Precautionary Principle" means "better safe than sorry". The risk of applying a new technology should not be taken if any adverse effects are irreversible. The possible costs of a technology gone wrong cannot be measured and /or held in balance against the expected (economic) advantages of it use.

"Environmentalism" is an attitude and/or activity that is meant to reduce human impact upon the environment. In its ultimate form in wants to avoid the demise of mankind because of the depletion of our resource base. An analysis of the goals and methods of many well-meaning people and organisations leads to doubts about the effectiveness of their theories and actions. The effects could be contrary to the aims.
UmverkehR, for instance, aims at reducing overshoot by promoting public transport. The net result appears being an overall increase in traffic and resource use. Organisations like UNEP, WWF, Ecological Footprint Network, or The Global Marshall Plan are arguably counterproductive to the goal of achieving a state of sustainability. We will try to explain why and how. contributions and feedback

Science is knowledge that is based on verifiable facts and processes which can turn hypothetical causes and effects into accepted "truths". Scientific research and debate, for instance, has lead to the recognition of man-made climate change and its likely effect of global warming and increasing weather extremes, floods and droughts.

Religion refers to the belief in God(s), eternal life, heaven, or other supranatural matter. By definition, a belief can not be proven or verified. A religion is a collection of beliefs, often laid down in venerated scriptures.

Our Time Horizon is two or three generations. Humans with our physical development have lived more or less sustainably for some 4000 to 80000 generations (100,000 to 8,00,000 years). Current environmental data indicate that serious resource shortages and even total environmental collapse can happen any time soon. It can be triggered by a rupture in the biological food chain or in the supply chain of natural and processed resources, on which modern life and infrastructure depends. It can happen in five, ten or 25 years. The exact moment is not really important but it's closer than most people think. The question that begs an answer from our opinion leaders is when do they think that we will have had enough economic growth. When all people have a car? Before or after the burning of the last barrels of oil? When all lands above sea level is used by humans and no resources left for nature and wildlife?

A Virus is a bug that infects an organism and hampers its normal ways of functioning. Psychological reasearch has inferred the existence of a growth virus. Statistics indicate that the growth virus is spread by formal education as well as by societal habits. It is highly infectious and has a high prevalence, especially among opinion leaders. In combination with the process of chrystallinisation the affection is hightly resistant to reason and science.

Helmut Lubbers, September 2008

  • Ecologocal Footprint" compared to "Environmental Impact"
  • Ecological Footprint and Happy Planet Index
  • Area-based Sustainability - William Rees 1995
  • sustainability
  • ecological footprint - wikipedia
  • Rees interview on ecological footprint
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