Review

Humanity’s unsustainable environmental footprint

Science  06 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6188, pp. 1114-1117
DOI: 10.1126/science.1248365

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Abstract

Within the context of Earth’s limited natural resources and assimilation capacity, the current environmental footprint of humankind is not sustainable. Assessing land, water, energy, material, and other footprints along supply chains is paramount in understanding the sustainability, efficiency, and equity of resource use from the perspective of producers, consumers, and government. We review current footprints and relate those to maximum sustainable levels, highlighting the need for future work on combining footprints, assessing trade-offs between them, improving computational techniques, estimating maximum sustainable footprint levels, and benchmarking efficiency of resource use. Ultimately, major transformative changes in the global economy are necessary to reduce humanity’s environmental footprint to sustainable levels.

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