Modeling global average productivity to compare environmental tradeoffs and human-induced stressors in the environment Thomas Dietz (Michigan State University), Eugene Rosa (Washington State University) and Richard York (University of Oregon) studied the impact of humans on the environment in a recent study, "Driving the human ecological footprint," published in the February issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The researchers focused on the ecological footprint, a measure of how consumption may affect the environment by taking account of food and fiber production, energy use, and human use of land for living space and other purposes.
Population size and affluence have long been hypothesized to be primary drivers of environmental impact, however doubts over their relative impact remained due to a lack of extensive testing and contradictory arguments in regards to the impact of affluence. In the study Dietz and colleagues estimate the relative importance of the hypothesized drivers of environmental impact at the nation-state level. They then utilize their results to project future levels of stressors.
Restricting their data to countries of at least one million people, Dietz and colleagues calculated basic forms of consumption, including crops, meat, energy, and living space, using data from the World Wide Fund for Nature. United Nations reports were used to measure human well-being, population, and urbanization, while data from the World Bank were used to determine economic influences. The relative importance of each hypothesized driver on environmental impact was then estimated and used to project future levels of stressors. They found that increased affluence exacerbates environmental impacts and, when combined with populati
Source:Ecological Society of America