I admit it, I’m a bad Earthling
April 24, 2003
I know Earth Day was Tuesday, but I figure it’s not too late to exploit it for a column, since I’m exploiting the Earth’s resources daily for my consumptive practices, you know, like eating.
Earlier this week, I was cajoled into logging onto a Web site to take the Ecological Footprint Quiz. Naturally, I flunked, as would just about anyone who doesn’t sleep under a tree, beat their loincloth on a rock by the river and subsist on roots and berries.
I answered a few questions, and the Web site calculated how much productive land and water goes into supporting my lifestyle.
Now I have something new to feel guilty about: electricity.
I think I scored pretty well in the mobility categories, at least compared to the average American squanderer of Mother Earth’s bounty. I don’t drive a lot of miles or fly regularly, making most of my daily travels via foot, bicycle or mass transit.
I checked the smallest of living quarters (500 square feet or less) in a multifamily building, but confessed to electricity and running water.
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My food footprint was my downfall. Yeah, I stomped out some serious acreage with my eating habits – regular helpings of meat (oh, sure, blame me for what the cows consume), plenty of processed and packaged food, and virtually nothing that’s locally grown. Is it my fault nothing is grown locally?
My total ecological footprint: 11 acres.
By comparison, the average in my neck of the world, according to the Web site, is 24 acres, which made me feel better.
However, worldwide, 4.5 biologically productive acres exist per person, according to the Web site.
It concludes by informing me: “If everyone lived like you, we would need 2.4 planets.”
Yeah, up Uranus.
To make myself feel better, I retook the quiz under the guise of a Red Mountain homeowner with a family of four. Clearly, the quiz creators didn’t have this kind of excess in mind.
The largest home category is 2,500 square feet or larger, which really doesn’t do justice to a 12,000-square-foot manse with a five-car garage, heated swimming pool and electric everything.
I figured in more driving (won’t be walking to town from up there), fessed up to a low gas-mileage SUV and plenty of jet-setting. This time, my total footprint came to 34 acres. If everyone lived like me in my Red Mountain home, we’d need 7.6 planets, and that calculation doesn’t even take into account my two other houses.
I took the quiz one last time, clicking Africa on the Web site’s map of the world and selecting Ethiopia, or Ityop’iya, as my home country, though I suspect few Ethiopians log onto the Internet. Fortunately, I was able to take the quiz in English instead of Pyccknn.
I indicated I ate meat infrequently, which basically allowed for some eggs, and very little processed food. I said there were seven people living in my hut of 20 square meters (about 216 square feet). No electricity, no running water, no cappuccino maker.
Natch, I walk, bike or use animal transport.
As a hypothetical Ethiopian, my total footprint came to one hectare, which is 2.47 acres. In comparison, I was informed, the average ecological footprint in Ethiopia is .8 global hectares per person, which is about 1.9 acres. Worldwide, however, there are 1.8 biologically productive hectares per person.
“If everyone lived like you, we would need one planet,” the Web site concluded.
But I don’t want to live like that. I’m a bad, bad Earthling.
To check your footprint, log on at http://www.earthday.net/footprint, click where it says Earthday network at the top of the site, then click on the right-hand column where it says: Click here to take the Ecological Footprint Quiz.