Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ecological Footprint Redux

The Boyle Street Bear has evolved.  I took this photo at the beginning of my mid-day walk, the results of which are on the previous couple of posts.  I saved the best for last.  When I saw that my pile of bear poop had been run over, the first thing that came to mind was the concept of an ecological footprint.  This concept grew out of a Canadian student's Ph. D. dissertation around 20 years ago.  I remember studying a concept in my college ecology classes over 40 years ago that was a kind of premonition of the ecological footprint.  That concept was labelled "carrying capacity."  We would talk about a particular habitat's or ecosystem's capacity to support a given number of a particular species of plant or animal.  The concept could be useful in discussing very small, localized ecosystems all the way up to the whole Earth and its carrying capacity for people.  We would talk about what can happen when the carrying capacity is exceeded.  We would argue about what Earth's carrying capacity for people might be.  That would depend, of course, on the particular life-styles of the people, but we all recognized (unlike many capitalists) that the Earth is finite with respect to any particular resource you might want to name - water, minerals, etc.  The Earth's population has since exceeded any of the predictions we made back in 1962!
So, as I approached the flattened poop in my comfortable pair of winter boots, I thought about my own ecological footprint, or at least a few of its features.  I know there are enough cows in Plumas County to supply boot leather to the entire human population of the county.  What I don't know is whether ANY of our locally produced cow skin becomes boots.  If so, it may well get shipped to some Asian country on gigantic freighters to be made into shoes in factories unsafe for the people who work in them, then shipped back by freighter or airplane to be marketed to us.  My $150 boots might bring $1 to the factory and who knows, maybe $50 to various advertising entities, shoe store overhead, etc., etc., and here I am thinking about the cows in my neighborhood that might be the source of the leather.  My ecological footprint is frankly embarrassing, although there's a limit to what I can do about it in the short run.  I call the photo and this blog post "ecological footprint redux" because it reminds me of many elements of our impart on nature, the tire print not the least of these.  Another is the composition of the poop.  It is obviously mostly apples from a nearby tree planted by humans which tempts the local bears to abandon their natural food supply and stroll into town to gorge on fruit trees we've planted.  And then there's the pavement beneath the poop.  The wars fought to keep the oil flowing.... Oh my.  Happy New Year.   Oh, this marks 365 blog posts for 2013.  This also marks 1500 posts since the blog began.  I love round numbers.  Actually, I love all numbers.  I'm going to celebrate tonight.  Are you?  My resolution: do some sensible things in 2014.

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