Eating Earth Our Mother Earth has about 22 billion acres of usable land. This is contains about 3.3 billion acres of farmland, 8.4 billion acres of pastureland and 10.1 billion acres of forestland. Not all of the land is fertile, which will affect its ability to …Read more. Earth Day Our earth is the playing field, the staging ground, the backdrop of all this human drama. In the words of the late Carl Sagan, "Every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every …Read more. Earth Day "May there only be peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life." —United Nations Secretary-General U Thant, 1971 …Read more. Earth Day Our earth is the playing field, the staging ground, the backdrop of all this human drama. In the words of the late Carl Sagan, "Every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every …Read more.more articles
Carrying Capacity of Spaceship Earth
Estimates of the Earth's carrying capacity vary according to which population you're measuring because some populations live more sustainably than others. Some scientists say that not only are we living beyond Earth's carrying capacity, but we are also eating up future generations' ability to live within Earth's means. We are literally emptying the Earth's bank account rather than living off the interest, as our ancestors have done, and leaving a "balance due" for future generations.
British geographer Ernst George Ravenstein is credited with first estimating the carrying capacity of the Earth to around 6 billion. Presently, at 6.5 billion, at least a billion of our population does not receive enough food energy to carry out a day's work. Even through Ravenstein was operating on statistics from last century, he hit fairly close to home.
Before Ravenstein, the English clergyman Thomas Robert Malthus argued that human population always increases more rapidly than food supplies and that humans are condemned to breed to the point of misery and starvation. The 200 years since Malthus' essay was first published have proven him wrong. We can artificially increase food production above birth rates and even decline in numbers in the presence of plenty.
The World Hunger Program at Brown University estimated based on 1992 levels of food production and an equal distribution of food that "the world could sustain either 5.5 billion vegetarians, 3.7 billion people who get 15 percent of their calories from animal products (as in much of South America), or 2.8 billion people who derive 25 percent of their calories from animal products (as in the wealthiest countries)."
Clearly we have passed all sustainable estimates and are now entering the "borrowed time" area of the population chart.
This is not a new chapter in human history. We have faced starvation before and triumphed. According to Lester Brown, "In the 15th century, Icelanders realized that overgrazing of their grasslands was leading to soil erosion. Farmers then calculated how many sheep the land could sustain and allocated quotas among themselves, thus preserving their grasslands and a wool industry that thrives today."
Here are some steps you can take to reduce your ecological footprint.
—Measure your ecological footprint at MyFootprint.org.
Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and founder of the Wallkill River School in Orange County, N.Y. You can contact her at Shawn@ShawnDellJoyce.com. To find out more about Shawn Dell Joyce and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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