Impact of the American Lifestyle on the Planet Essay

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The Impact of the American Lifestyle on the Planet

Haven’t you heard this BIG news? Maybe you haven’t, perhaps distracted by recent headlines surrounding the war or Santa Claus. Well, only last week more definitive evidence came forth which demonstrates that bigfoot does exist. It is we. Yes, those of us in the United States, on average, have the biggest feet on the planet. Surprised? I am not writing here about shoe size—the literal interpretation—but rather the individual impact that our lifestyles have on the planet. This metaphorical footprint has been shown to be a very useful way to evaluate the impact each one of us is having.

You see, several researchers have recently determined to what extent the way in which we live has
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Through the accumulation of hordes of data from a broad spectrum of sectors of the worldly economies, these scholars have quantified the impact every nation is having on the planet. Released this past week, the Ecological Footprint of Nations, an update to their first book published in 1996, provides us with some stark conclusions. The per capita ecological footprint for each nation indicates how much land is required to maintain the "average" way of life—here again, defined by resource consumption and waste production. The amount of land required is referred to as the ecological footprint (EF). On a global basis, the average human EF is 5.6 acres; an acre is roughly the size of a football field without the end zones.

And while this may not seem too outrageous, the eye-opening aspects of the statistics are revealed when looking both at the wide variation that exists among nations as well as at what the Earth can reasonably provide for us. Consider that the people in the United States have an EF of 9.7 acres, number two in the world behind the United Arab Emirates (an oil- and gas-rich country with a population of less than 1% of ours). Yet, our value isn’t even twice the global average, so what is the big deal? Well our nation’s EF is more than four times Brazil’s, more than two times Germany’s and Japan’s (two of the more "developed" nations in the world), and more than ten times

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