It was almost eight hours after my son was born that I first had the presence of mind to ask my husband if I could see the certificate that the birth center had made us to celebrate the birth of our son. The ‘name’ slot was blank still at that point (my husband later filled it in), and the only identification was a beautiful tiny footprint. It still makes me smile to think of that tiny footprint.
As I looked at my son’s footprint for the first time, the last thing that was going through my mind was our ecological footprint – which is a measure of our impact on the planet.
Instead, my mind was busy racing through what I imagine to be the average post-labor neurotic mom’s thought cycle:
He’s still sleeping. Let me make sure he’s still breathing. How do they know he is getting enough colostrum? When will my milk come in? Why is he still sleeping? Why am I crying? Is he still breathing? He’s still sleeping. Let me make sure he’s still breathing. Etc. etc.
A very different set of questions raced through my head earlier this week when my employer, World Wildlife Fund, shared some insights into our collective ecological footprint. It brought me right back to thinking about those tiny footprints.
Our footprint is huge. Let’s make sure people hear about this. Our kids deserve better than the planet we are leaving them. What will it take to get people to start voting with the planet’s future in mind? Can we get the media to cover this? Our footprint is huge. Let’s make sure people hear about this. Etc. etc.
The US has big feet. Here are just some of the scary facts from WWF’s Living Planet Report:
- Planet Earth has a scary overdraft — we’re using 50 percent more resources than the Earth can provide. In other words, it takes the Earth 1.5 years to produce the goods and services, and absorb the CO2 emissions, that we use and produce in a single year.
- Biological diversity continues to be lost: Populations of species continue to decline, with tropical and freshwater species experiencing the biggest declines.
- If everyone in the world lived like the average US resident, then we’d need more than four Earths to keep up with humanity’s consumption and carbon emissions. If everyone lived like the average resident of Indonesia, on the other hand, only two-thirds of the planet’s resources would be used.
And here’s the good news:
- Despite these challenges, we can create a prosperous future that provides food, water and renewable energy for the 9 or 10 billion people who will be sharing the planet in 2050 (when my son will be 40)
- The future of the planet and of all the people who live on it is entirely dependent on the actions of people, the businesses they interact with, and the governments that represent them. (The future is particularly influenced by policies of wealthy, influential countries like ours in the US).
- How we eat and how we get our energy are central to reining in our footprint and keeping biodiversity
So what can we mothers do to help turn this around?
- Measure your own ecological footprint
- Make your home more efficient and when you replace appliances, or cars, find the most efficient at toptenus.org
- Consume less, and more efficiently. When you do have to consume, use your position as a consumer to choose products made in an environmentally sustainable manner, like MSC certified sea food and FSC certified forest products.
- Ask your local elected officials to prepare for climate change and become more sustainable.
Got any ideas that you can share with others on how you’re keeping your footprint small? If so, I’d love to hear them, so please share them in the comment section. Thank you!
About Keya Chatterjee
Keya Chatterjee is a Climate Change and Environment expert, and Director for International Climate Policy at World Wildlife Fund. Her work focuses on the environmental crisis facing the planet, and what policies and measures should be taken to ameliorate the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. Keya’s commentary on climate change policy and sustainability issues has been quoted in dozens of media outlets including USA Today, CNN, and NBC Nightly News. Keya resides in Washington, DC with her husband Andrew and her son Siddharth. She enjoys practicing yoga, biking, and spending time with her friends and family. She is working on a book about how to have a baby without raising your carbon footprint to be published in 2013 by Ig Publishing. Keep up with Keya's writing on the nexus of climate change activism and motherhood at www.keyachatterjee.com.