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South Australia's


Living Well Within

the Means of Nature
is the
The Ecological Footprint allows us to examine our use of
renewable resources and identify ways to live more sustainably.
The Ecological Footprint can be measured for an

individual, a business, a city or a country.
The Footprint is a balance sheet for renewable resources
for a given year. One side of the sheet measures the
amount of renewable resources available to us.

The other side of the sheet measures the amount
of renewable resources required to produce what
is consumed and to absorb our wastes.

and what
In this way, we can compare what we are using
from the environment with what is available.
It is possible to use more renewable resources than are
available to us in the short term, but this ‘ecological

does it
overshoot’ leads to the destruction of our natural
environment. For example, it is possible to cut down
trees or harvest fish quicker than they can regrow.

Much like a bank account, we can use more than
just the interest, spending our renewable resources
at an increasing rate, but this means there will be
progressively less interest in future years.
Many of the products and services we consume
are imported. Therefore, we are indirectly using
renewable resources in other parts of the world.
As a result, the Ecological Footprint includes the impact
of imports, and excludes the impact of exports1.
We can compare our Footprint to the amount of
renewable resources available per person worldwide,
Energy Land
to gain an understanding of the sustainability
of our lifestyles in the global context.
Built Land
1. Our exports are accounted for in the Ecological Footprint
of the nation that imports our goods and services.

Farm Land*



* Farm Land includes fishing grounds, croplands and pasture.

The Ecological Footprint is measured in global hectares. The difference

between a hectare and a global hectare relates to its biological productivity.
For example, a hectare of land in the Simpson Desert has a fraction of
the biological productivity of one hectare of land on the Adelaide Plain.
Hence, a hectare on the Adelaide Plain represents considerably more ‘global
hectares’ than a hectare in the Simpson Desert.
A global hectare represents one hectare of biologically productive space with
world-average productivity.
Humanity's Ecological Footprint The Ecological Footprint provides us
with important information about our
Human Demand on Biosphere relationship with the environment.
1.4 Increasing Data 1961 - 2001 However, it only addresses one
1.2 aspect of that relationship. Hence,
Number of Planets

1.0 Footprint must be used alongside

0.8 tools that measure the preservation
of habitats and species, sustainable
freshwater use and the effective
management of hazardous substances.
Annually, the Global Footprint Network2 develops Ecological
1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 Footprint accounts for every country. As such, South
Australia's Ecological Footprint has been calculated using
an established international methodology, to enable us to
Species Populations Decreasing compare ourselves with other countries and regions.
1.4 Data 1961 - 2001
1.2 The Ecological Footprint helps us to measure our performance
in one aspect of the environmental sustainability challenge
Index (1970=1.0)

1.0 - that is, human use of renewable resources versus availability.

0.8 It is not a complete environmental sustainability indicator.

0.6 There are three key areas of environmental sustainability

that this international measure does not include:
0.2 1. Footprint does not assess what renewable resources
are required to sustain other species.
1970 1980 1990 2000 The type and amount of resources used in our economy
is well accounted for, and we can determine the
productive land and water areas required to provide
us with these resources. We don’t have enough
Ecological Footprint Wallet Card information about the needs of plants, animals
and other species to make such assessments.

2. Footprint does not directly account for freshwater use.

This is because reliable data comparing the demand
on, and availability of, freshwater is unavailable for a
majority of countries and regions. As a consequence,
an accurate method for the inclusion of freshwater in
Footprint accounts has not yet been determined.

The exclusion of freshwater likely results in an

underestimation of South Australia’s ecological
overshoot, given our arid climate.

3. The Ecological Footprint does not include inherently

unsustainable practices, such as the disposal of nuclear
waste or the emission or discharge of hazardous
chemicals. These substances cannot be broken down and
reincorporated into the environment by our renewable
resources; hence a Footprint value cannot be given.
The footprint methodology assumes that these should
either be eliminated or handled in closed loops that
do not permit their release into the environment.

Likewise the extraction of non-renewable resources (e.g.

coal, metals) is not included in the Ecological Footprint,
as they cannot be replaced in a reasonable timeframe.

2. The Global Footprint Network was established in 2003 to develop standards for the
accreditation of Ecological Footprint accounts and advance the tool internationally.
Standards for Ecological Footprint accreditation will come into effect in July 2006.
Our Ecological Footprint is 7.0 global hectares
(gha) per person. This is a little lower than the
Australian average of 7.7 gha per person.

The world average Ecological Footprint is 2.2 gha
per person, 20% more than what is available
on the planet. South Australians use 3.9 times
what is available per person on the planet.

This shows that South Australians are consuming
considerably more of the Earth’s renewable resources
than the citizens of many other countries.
However, the residents of some other countries are still
able to enjoy an excellent quality of life with a much smaller
Ecological Footprint than the average South Australian.
The United Nations Human Development Index suggests
that the average Italian has a very similar standard
of living to the average Australian, yet they have
The SA Footprint by Consumption Type
an Ecological Footprint around half the size.
Fishing Grounds Consumption of food represents 36% of the total
Energy Land Ecological Footprint for South Australia. The consumption
Goods 23% of other goods and services makes up a further 35%.

Mobility 11% Pasture However, almost everything we consume requires

Food 36%
the use of energy during its production. For example,
Services 12% producing the food we eat requires the use of energy
for agricultural machinery, energy in its manufacture
Housing 18% Cropland and packaging, and energy to deliver it to retailers.
The release of greenhouse gases through the use of energy
in the production of everything we consume represents over
half of the total Ecological Footprint for South Australia.
* Energy Land refers to the amount of land required
to sequester (soak-up) the carbon dioxide emitted
as a result of our use of energy.

Figure 3: Matching human development and Ecological Footprints

Human Development Index3

USA Aust UK Italy

0.9 S Korea Development
Minimum acceptable level of development
Biocapacity available per person

0.6 India
0.5 Nepal

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0
Ecological Footprint
3. A United Nations measure of quality of life
the link
with South
South Australia's Strategic Plan requires us to reduce
our Ecological Footprint within ten years.
There are a number of other targets in South
Australia’s Strategic Plan that are of significance
to South Australia’s Ecological Footprint.
A strong link exists between the Ecological Footprint
and greenhouse gas emission targets, as emissions
comprise 58% of South Australia’s Footprint.
The South Australian Government’s commitment
to achieve a 60% reduction in emissions by
2050 will lead to a reduced Footprint.
There is also a significant relationship with the economic
growth target (exceed the national economic growth rate
within ten years). Our challenge is to find ways in which
economic growth can improve our quality of life, without
resulting in increased demands on renewable resources.
In moving toward environmental sustainability, we can still
seek to create the best possible quality of life for South
Australians. As a result, there is an important link between the
'Improving wellbeing' objective in South Australia’s Strategic
Plan and the objectives of the Ecological Footprint target.
Targets that are likely to have a positive impact on
the Footprint include zero waste, increasing the use
of public transport, reducing energy consumption
and increasing renewable energy production.
can we The Ecological Footprint is most useful as a tool for
communication about environmental sustainability.
It helps to simplify the concept and is a starting point

use the
to provide practical direction for lifestyle change.
In 2006, strategies will be developed to reduce our Ecological
Footprint in collaboration with industry and community partners.
This will provide directions for action between now and 2014.

Ecological Relationships between the Footprint and other targets

in South Australia’s Strategic Plan will be explored
during the development of reduction strategies.

South Australia’s Ecological Footprint will be periodically
recalculated to track progress toward the 2014 target.
The Government is particularly interested in the continual
improvement of the Ecological Footprint, both in its
accuracy and its potential use for policy assessment.
To this end, the South Australian Government has
become a partner in the Global Footprint Network.
A number of research projects are being undertaken
both within Australia and internationally to improve
Ecological Footprint accounting and to improve
its utility for policy and decision-making.

If you’d like to calculate your personal

Ecological Footprint, take the survey
at www.ecofoot.org (takes 10 minutes).
Then visit the Sustainable Living Choices
website at www.sustainableliving.sa.gov.au
to discover ways to live well, sustainably.

For further information contact

Sustainability and Climate Change Division
Department of the Premier and Cabinet
GPO Box 2343
Adelaide SA 5001
Phone: (08) 8204 2014

Printed with soy-based inks on 100% post-consumer recycled,

process chlorine free paper.
ISBN 1 921018 59 3
FIS: 2449.06, Printed May 2006