Bill Rees Footprint and Farmland Loss

ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT: The average area of productive land or water required to produce the goods consumed and to assimilate the wastes generated.
William Rees, Prof. Emeritus UBC, developed this metric over many years for countries at all levels of development.

Per capita footprints range from less than 0.5 hectares for the poorest countries to more than 15.0 hectares for the wealthiest. (Canadian average = 8.0 hectares = 20 acres) The world average is 2.75 hectares, but it is alarming to note that the world’s per capita bio-capacity was only 1.63 hectares , when the world population was 7.75 billion, producing a per-capita deficit of 1.12 hectares. Early in 2022 world population passed 8 billion!

In spite of these alarming facts, most people are only now beginning to feel uneasy with the proposition that the solution to all problems is endless growth – in population, production and consumption. In Ontario, many advocacy groups organize demonstrations in opposition to the Provincial Governments bill 23, the “More Homes Built Faster Act”, legislation that purports to address inflating house prices by limiting the power of conservation authorities, and others, to prevent development and highway construction in areas at risk of flooding and other weather hazards – i.e. The Green Belt. Controls put in place after the tremendous damage and loss of life caused by Hurricane Hazel in 1954, are being recklessly abandoned. At the same time, population growth, that generates housing demand and increased prices, continues to be promoted and facilitated by both federal and provincial governments.

A little arithmetic makes it easy to “connect the dots” and see the folly:

Area of Ontario is 1.076 m sq. km = 107,600,000 hectares.
Ontario population passed 15 million in November 2022. Having doubled since 1971 and quadrupled since 1941!

Per capita footprint 8 hectares x 15 m population = 120,000,000 hectares – which exceeds total provincial area by 11.5% and would be a challenge even if 100% of Ontario was “productive land” .

Less than 7% of Canadian land area is ‘farmland’ and 80% of what there is happens to be concentrated in the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) states that less than 5% of Ontario is agricultural land and documents an average daily loss of 319 acres to sprawl in 2022, an increase from the average daily loss of 175 acres in 2016.

William Rees YouTube presentations:

As stated in the first paragraph, Bill Rees developed the concept of ecological footprint and has made a number of YouTube presentations that can be readily accessed via Google. The following Hyperlink will access a 30 minute presentation followed by a question period.

Bill Rees Presentation to The Canadian Association for the Club of Rome

Alec Adams

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