Punes Civic Sanskriti: Why your “handprint” could help offset the growing ecological footprint


Earth Overshoot Day for 2021 was July 29th. Calculated every year by the Global Footprint Network, the Earth Overshoot Date is the date on which mankind’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year, their Ecological Footprint, which exceeds what the earth can handle, regenerate its biocapacity in that year .

The footprint is the demand for food from farms, fisheries and pastures, for shelter, clothing and infrastructure. This includes the land area needed to absorb the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.

The biocapacity of a state or country refers to the biologically productive lands and seas, such as forest areas, pastures, farms and fishing areas. A key component of the ecological footprint is the carbon footprint, the area of ​​land that is required to sequester carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels and cement production.

Since the 1970s, mankind’s ecological footprint has exceeded the earth’s biocapacity. Worse still, the annual date by which we collectively consume all of our biocapacity has steadily decreased. It was November of the 1970s, October of the 1980s, and September around the turn of the century.

Now we need 1.7 earths to meet our needs and desires. Traveling into space won’t solve our problem; we have to live more easily on our own planet!

The ecological footprint can be calculated at different levels, for example for a person, an organization, a city or a country. The footprint or impact of all countries is not the same. It is influenced by the climate of a place (which requires heating or cooling of buildings), the nature of the economy, production and consumption systems, and the way people live.

India’s ecological footprint is not currently exceeding its biocapacity, but it may soon. However, there are huge differences in how different people consume and how well they are. There is a large part of the population whose essential nutrition, health care and adequate housing needs are not met. A decent standard of living was achieved for a smaller number. However, many people, especially in urban areas, now consume too much – some voluntarily, others thoughtlessly and still others out of compulsion because low-carbon options are not yet fully developed (e.g. in public transport or cycling).

This poses a number of different challenges.

First, how should production, consumption, and especially economic and government systems be organized to improve people’s standard of living and well-being? This can include, for example, strengthening the public distribution systems for rations, upgrading housing, access to education, public transport, etc. A second challenge is switching to renewable energy and moving to a circular economy with sustainable

Materials and recycling. Such changes can help reduce consumption on a systemic level.

Yet another is how individuals can think about their lifestyle and change their behavior to be a little easier on the planet. Individual and collective action is required.

I want to share the concept of the “handprint”. The handprint is a symbol, yardstick and obligation for positive action towards sustainability. Handprint also stands for care and cooperation for a sustainable future.

While the footprint is a measure of human pressure on the earth’s resources, the handprint measures what we can do individually and collectively to restore the planet’s balance between consumption and carrying capacity.

The handprint concept was developed and adopted in 2007 at a conference on education for sustainable development in CEE. It was inspired by a 10 year old Srija student who was participating in an environmental project at her school in Hyderabad.

There is a lot to do with everyday activities like avoiding food waste, promoting organic matter, recycling waste, composting, hiking, cycling, landscaping, plantations, water management and solar water heating. While technologies and solutions in these familiar topics are well known, it often takes creativity and perseverance to get them off the ground.

Dealing with one’s own life and lifestyle, dealing with the neighborhood, a community, a school or college or a workplace and working with the local government offer many opportunities for handprinting activities. We all need to become handprint action heroes.


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