The factors driving population growth have brought us better lives in many ways. Yet as our world fills with people, population growth has begun to threaten our well-being. We must ask how well the planet can accommodate 7 billion of us—or the 9 billion forecast by 2050. Already our sheer numbers are putting unprecedented stress on natural systems and the availability of resources.
Resource consumption exerts social and environmental pressures Besides stimulating population growth, industrialization increased the amount of resources each of us consumes. By mining energy sources and manufacturing more goods, we have enhanced the material affluence of many of the world’s people. In the process, however, we have consumed more and more of the planet’s limited resources.
One way to quantify resource consumption is to use the concept of the ecological footprint, developed in the 1990s by environmental scientists Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees. An ecological footprint expresses the cumulative area of biologically productive land and water required to provide the resources a person or population consumes and to dispose of or recycle the waste the person or population produces. It measures the total area of Earth.
An ecological footprint expresses the cumulative area of biologically productive land and water