About 1970, human demand for material resources exceeded the sustainability threshold of our global ecosystems for the first time in history. Since then, world population has more than doubled and resource demand has continued to accelerate. People are now using resources 60% faster than Nature can replenish them, resulting in major increases in social inequality and ecological destruction across the planet.
During this period, analysts in science and policy have sought a data-driven framework that moves beyond material extraction and exponential growth and grounds economies within their own ecosystems. A leading approach is carrying capacity—
the level of resources that an environment can ‘carry’ or sustain to meet the needs of its species. Applied to human beings, carrying capacity measures the ecological relationship between the basic needs of a region’s people and their support systems.
There is much evidence that farmers and planners have used this principle since the earliest days of human civilization to generate and allocate resources for people in small habitats. But no civilization or nation has ever used this metric — the equilibrium between a population and its available resources — as a means of measuring value or shaping public policy on a large scale.
EDA’s Research Team conducts long-term analysis on the optimal size of a population that can be maintained sustainably within a bioregion. We compare the carrying capacity of food, water and energy in these areas with their coinciding political boundaries. From this data we develop case studies of these ecodistricts — based on regional systems design, social ecology, equitability and sustainability — in support of pending State and local legislation. We’re also applying this approach to projects in other selected countries.
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