Becoming aware of the impact humans make

By Kelly Davila

People entering the Library Auditorium on Thursday, Sept. 19 would have stumbled onto a thought-provoking question: “Do We fit On the Planet?” Those who were interested to find out the answer attended the forum that was held by Mathis Wackernagel of the Global Footprint Network.

“85% of the world’s population live in countries that use more than what they have,” Wackernagel said.

Using the humorous analogy of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s footprint, Wackernagel illustrated the notion of biocapacity: calculating how much we take to how much we have.

The Global Footprint Network, based in California, works to create innovative ways to “shift toward a sustainable economy.” Their mission statement, along with interesting facts on biocapacity and ecological footprints, could be obtained from the information-stacked leaflets that were handed out prior to the lecture.

While Wackernagel’s self-made graphics earned him chuckles from the audience, they served to well illustrate his overall message about global impact. That is, that humans seem to be living beyond their means.
One of the best ways to demonstrate exactly how many resources are being used is to calculate individuals’ ecological footprint.

“The ecological footprint is a resource accounting system,” Wackernagel said. “It is photography, it is not speculation about the future.”

The idea of using more than what we have is evident from situations such as fishing before the fish can regenerate or cutting down trees before they have sufficient time to grow. Present day graphs and statistics made by the Global Footprint Network all point to one thing: the biocapacities of people have run out.
The childhood game of musical chairs was Wackernagel’s tool used to explain how humanity has arrived to this point in time in which there is a deficit in resources.

“Everyone was promised cake but they had to play musical chairs, that is what we are playing in the real world,” Wackernagel said. “For us, nothing is at stake.”
Joseph Godffreda, freshman management major, agreed and further expressed his view on how few people seem to care about their environment.

“This is the sort of thing the word needs to get out about, not many people would listen but it needs to be said,” Godffreda said. “You look around and you don’t see any effects. Mainly Americans, we kind of live in a fantasy world. We don’t see the effects of what we are doing, is having on the environment.”
The forum left the audience with a final contemplation, “what happens when an infinite-growth economy runs into a finite planet?”

As Wackernagel stated, there is time to create with methods for conserving resources. The impact of over-use will not affect us in the future. It is affecting us today.