I've been writing an informal essay on the true cost of everything and as per the question asked at the end, I want to approximate the average human's impact on habitat destruction/human sustainability.

With this, I then aim to elaborate how much action would need to be taken by how many people in order to counter the effects.

Is this even measurable?

  • How do you define "our habitat"? The Earth, perhaps? May 23, 2017 at 11:42
  • Good question! I guess constrained to Earth is a good place to start.
    – ljs.dev
    May 24, 2017 at 0:21
  • 2
    Do you mean something like the ecological footprint I described in this answer?
    – THelper
    May 25, 2017 at 6:41
  • Great answers/questions there. In this case, I'm looking for more than just the consumption of land area, which I understand that one to be. ie, one could have their designated area, but be leaching toxins into the water table, affecting all. Likewise, effecting positive impact to air quality benefits the whole. So after a net impact value, from which people can be measured to degrees under or over this.
    – ljs.dev
    May 26, 2017 at 23:31
  • 1
    On page 91 of the 2010 Ecological Footprint Atlas (pdf) they explicitly state "some demands, such as [...] toxic release are excluded from the calculations." But, the Chemical Footprint Project could be a way to fill that gap.
    – LShaver
    May 28, 2017 at 15:20

1 Answer 1


An individual environmental footprint is not strictly measurable in a physical scientific sense, unless you live a life which is completely detached from others. The normal human existence is so deeply entwined with the lives of others that you cannot measure the precise impact of your own actions.

There are so many different ways in which we (speaking as a middle aged white western European here) are destroying the planet.

If you want to know about the impact of humanity, averaged over all people, then the Earth Overshoot Day is a good guide. This year in fell on day 235, meaning that the average per person resource use is 50% too much.

The Paris Agreement sets out a frame work for trying to decide how much each nation should do to address the climate emergency angle of sustainability. This deals with the tricky question of how the economic cost of not destroying the ecosystems that sustain life should be shared out.

The bottom line is that just about everybody needs to make significant change. Good luck, I hope those two references are useful.

PS: there are many calculators which can give you an idea of where your individual choices can make an impact. The World Wildlife Fund has some good suggestions on their Measure Your Impact page, and they recommend a footprint calculator provided by the Global Footprint Network.

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