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Production, Consumption and ecological footprints

Production and consumption occur when we transform natural objects (or 'resources') into human biomass, consumable products (or 'goods and services') and waste. During production, we reshape or relocate objects by applying energy to them (either as heat or mechanical force). During consumption, we change these products by taking energy away from them (either directly, through eating or burning, or indirectly, through the wear and tear of use). Waste is an inherent part of the process. Waste energy is lost as heat, and waste materials are lost as gases (e.g. car exhausts), liquids (e.g. sewage) or solid waste (e.g. garbage). In this chapter we look at New Zealand's production and consumption patterns as reflected in our economic activities, our use of energy and our generation of solid waste.

The global scale of resource conversion, especially by the affluent fifth of the world's population, is much greater now than it was a mere century ago (Holway, 1992). New Zealand's pattern of resource conversion is fairly similar to Australia and the affluent societies of the northern hemisphere. In terms of productive land use (i.e. pasture and cropland, timber forests, roads and urban areas), New Zealand uses about 5 hectares of land per person to provide a year's supply of goods and services (see Chapter 8). This is a big 'ecological footprint'. The global average is a bit over 1 hectare per person (World Resources Institute, 1996). If everyone presently alive aspired to our level of 'land affluence' the world would need 28 billion hectares of productive land. That is twice the Earth's land area and about five times the area currently used for production.

The 5-hectare footprint is based solely on productive land use. When other resources are also considered (such as marine fisheries area and additional forest growth needed to absorb our carbon dioxide emissions) New Zealand's footprint becomes larger still-9.8 hectares according to a recent study commissioned by the Rio Summit's Earth Council (Wackernagel et al., 1997). Among the activities that contribute to a society's ecological footprint are its energy use (see below, and also Chapters 5, 6 and 7), its generation of wastes that must be absorbed by land, air or water (see below and Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8), its use of forest products, such as paper and firewood (see below and Chapter 8), and its use of farm products-particularly animal products (see below and Chapters 7 and 8).

Livestock production contributes greatly to the ecological footprint because large areas of land are required for fodder crops and pasture and large amounts of waste are generated by the animals themselves and the industries that process their products (see Chapters 5, 7, 8 and 9). For example, a cow must eat five plant calories to produce one milk calorie, and 10 plant calories to produce one calorie of beef (Bender, 1997). Societies whose food energy comes mostly from starchy plants rather than livestock have smaller environmental impacts because they only require about a quarter the land area to produce the same number of food calories (Breirem et al., 1989; Cohen, 1996). This has a marked effect on the extent and patterns of land and water use and habitat replacement.

At present about 17 percent of the world's population lives in high-income countries where, on average, animal fat makes up more than 30 percent of the total calorie intake. In contrast, Africans typically derive only 6 percent of their calories from animal products (Bender, 1997). The implications of this for global sustainability are shown in Table 3.1 which gives an estimate of how many people could have survived on the world's 1990 agricultural output if everyone ate, respectively, like North Americans, Europeans, Japanese, Bangladeshis or subsistence horticulturalists. New Zealand would fall between Europe and the United States in this table, based on our high levels of fat consumption (Public Health Commission, 1993).

Table 3.1: World population supportable in 1990 under different dietary regimes 1.
Population that could be fed if everyone shared the dietary preferences and food system efficiencies of:
the United States 2.3 billion
Europe 4.1 billion
Japan 6.1 billion
Bangladesh 10.9 billion
Subsistence only 15 billion

Source: Bender (1997)

1The actual world population in 1990 was 5.3 billion.

The percentage of animal fats in the New Zealand and North American diet has actually gone down in the past decade but, even so, from a global perspective, the 'New Zealand way of life' is not sustainable. The whole world could not afford to follow our dietary and land use patterns. Given the limitations of not only land area, but also water supply, the typical Western diet could support a maximum of less than 2.5 billion people-less than half the world's current population (Cohen, 1996). Even if the land did exist to provide everyone with butter, milk and meat, utilising all of this space for livestock production would effectively crowd the world's natural ecosystems and wild species out of existence. Whatever its economic sustainability, such a 'standing room only' scenario would not be sustainable environmentally.

New Zealand, then, is in a relatively privileged position compared to most of the world-a fact borne out by other ecological footprint indicators, such as our use of energy and generation of waste. New Zealand's energy use is comparable to that of other developed countries and slightly below the OECD average (see Table 3.2). Combining our household and industrial energy use, the average New Zealander requires daily about 120,000 calories of 'primary' energy (i.e. energy at the point of extraction or importation, prior to conversion losses), to yield some 78,000 calories of 'consumer' energy (i.e. energy in the forms of fuel or electricity). Compare this to our body's basic calorie requirement of about 2,400 calories per day.

Our production of wastes is also comparable to that of other OECD countries (see Table 3.2). Combining total household and industrial waste, the average New Zealander generates about 145,000 litres of sewage each year and nearly 900 kilograms of landfill waste (about 400 kg from households and nearly 500 kg from industry), with an additional 900 or so kilograms of construction and demolition waste going to cleanfills (Ministry for the Environment, 1997).

It is important to note, though, that the gross scale of land use, energy consumption and waste production are only rough guides to a society's environmental impact. The type of resource conversion is also important. If hill land is converted into production forest rather than pasture, flooding, sedimentation and soil erosion decline measurably because trees are more effective than pasture at holding soil and water (see Chapter 7). If energy is harnessed from renewable sources, such as wind or sunlight, rather than from burning fossil fuels, the impacts are much smaller because no waste heat or air pollutants are generated. And if sewage is converted into cleaner water through a treatment process fewer pollutants are discharged (see Chapter 7).

The extent to which we can alter our patterns of production and consumption is partly a matter for society to decide through laws, ethics, fashions and customs, and partly a matter of economic feasiblity. Economic feasibility is heavily constrained by markets (e.g. customer desires), resources (both natural resources and the creative ingredients of human knowledge and labour) and by the legacy of past practices such as the infrastructure, technology and attitudes of the main economic sectors . To understand our current production and consumption patterns, then, it is important to briefly examine the development of New Zealand's economy and its current state.

Table 3.2: Living standards and production and consumption patterns in New Zealand and selected OECD countries.
Indicator Unit measured * Year New Zealand Australia Canada Japan Mexico Norway Turkey United Kingdom United States All OECD** World**
Economy
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per person 4, 6 Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) in US$ 1995 16,851 19,354 21,031 21,795 7,383 22,672 5,691 17,756 26,438 19,410 A ca 6,000 A
Total GDP (measured as expenditure) 4, 6 Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) in billion US$ 1995 60 350 623 2,730 673 99 351 1,041 6,956 18,946 T ca 24,000 T
Past economic growth 4 average percentage GDP increase per year 1985-95 1.7 3 2.2 3 1.6 2.6 4.4 2.2 2.5 2.2 M md
Present economic growth 4, 6 percentage GDP increase per year 1995-96 1.2 4.1 1.5 3.6 4 5.1 7.5 2.4 2.4 2.4 M md
Primary sector (farming, forestry, fishing etc) 3, 6 as percentage of GDP 1991-94 7 3 2 2 7 3 16 2 2 3 A 6 A
Secondary (manufacturing, building, energy) 3, 6 as percentage of GDP 1991-94 26 28 26 40 29 35 33 28 26 31 A 36 A
Tertiary sector (services) 3, 6 as percentage of GDP 1991-94 67 69 72 58 64 62 51 71 72 66 A 58 A
International tourism 4 as percentage of GDP 1995 3.9 2 1.4 0.1 2.2 1.6 2.9 1.7 0.9 1.2 A md
Trade dependency 6 exports as percentage of GDP 1993 24 15 30 9 8.8 31 9.8 22 7 14 A 16 A
Subsidy equivalents to agriculture 4 as percentage of agricultural production 1996 3 9 22 71 13 71 30 - 16 36 A md
Consumer Prices 4 percentage change over a year 1995-96 2.5 1.5 2.2 0.6 27.7 1.8 79.8 2.5 3.3 4.7 A md
Short-term standardised interest rates 3 percent 1995 8.6 7.4 5.8 0.5 49.2 5.4 98.0 6.5 5.6 md md
Energy and transport
Consumer energy 2 tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE) per person 1993 3.1 3.5 5.7 2.5 1.1 4.3 0.8 2.6 5.4 3.2 A 1 A
Primary energy 2, 4 tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE) per person 1994-95 4.3 5.2 7.9 4 1.5 5.5 1 3.8 7.9 4.7 A 1.4 A
  • Fossil fuels (i.e. coal,oil, gas) 4, 5
percent of primary energy 1995 68 94 74 81 87 53 84 88 86 83 A 85 A
  • Nuclear energy 4, 5
percent of primary energy 1995 0 0 11 15 2 0 0 10 9 11 A 7 A
  • Renewables (e.g. hydro, geothermal, wood) 4, 5
percent of primary energy 1995 32 6 15 4 15 11 16 1 5 6 A 9 A
Energy intensity 2, 4 primary energy (TOE) per million US$ GDP 1994-95 310 280 380 160 480 170 350 210 340 250 A 150 A
Gross CO2 emissions from energy use 4 tonnes per person 1993-95 8 16 16 9 4 8 2 10 20 11 A 4 A
Motor vehicle abundance 2 licensed vehicles per 100 people 1993 55 57 60 51 1 46 6 42 75 50 A md
Motor vehicle use 2 kilometres driven per person per year 1993 7,184 7,986 8,625 5,698 592 5,995 5,211 7,600 14,350 1,345 A md
Consumption patterns and waste
Printing and writing paper consumed 6 tonnes per 1,000 people 1992 47.8 43.3 84.9 75.9 8.1 37.9 3.3 56.2 86.6 58.6 A 14.1 A
Televisions 6 per 1,000 people 1992 443 482 640 614 149 424 176 435 815 528 A 151 A
Mobile cellular phone subscribers 6 per 1,000 people 1992 29 28 35 14 3 65 1 26 43 22 A md
Solid waste generation 2,8 kilograms per person per year 1992-95 400*** 400*** 660 410 310 510 400 350 *** 730 400 M md
Environment and resource use
Land area 5 millions of hectares 1995 27 771 998 38 196 32 78 25 981 3,459 T 13,098 T
  • Farmed land (crops and pasture) 5
percentage of land area 1991-93 52 60 8 14 52 3 47 72 45 37 A 38 A
  • Forested land (natural and planted) 5
percentage of land area 1991-93 28 19 45 67 26 39 26 10 31 33 A 32 A
  • Major protected areas 5
percentage of land in IUCN categories I to V 1994 22 12 8 7 5 17 1 21 13 8 M 7 A
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) 5 marine fishery area in millions of hectares 1995 483 450 294 386 285 203 24 179 971 4,338 T md
Ecological footprint (land and sea area needed hectares per person to supply resources and absorb wastes) 7 hectares per person 1996 9.8 8.1 7 6.3 2.3 5.7 1.9 4.6 8.4 5.7 M 2.3 A
Economy
Population4 millions of people 1995 3.6 18.1 29.6 125.3 91.1 4.4 61.6 58.6 263.1 976.1 T 5,716.4 T
Population density 5 persons per square kilometre (=100 hectares) 1995 13 2 3 332 49 14 81 241 28 28 A 44 A
Urban population 5 as percentage of total population 1995 86 85 77 78 75 73 69 89 76 77 A 45 A
Household size 1 average number of persons per household latest **** 2.9 3 2.7 3 5.1 2.2 4.5 2.7 2.6 2.9 A md
Human development ranking 6 rank in UNDP Human Development Index (HDI) 1993 14 11 1 3 48 5 84 16 2 na na
Health and health services
Infant mortality 4 per 10,000 live births 1994-95 72 57 63 43 170 40 468 62 80 60 M 630 A
Maternal mortality 6 per 100,000 live births 1993 25 9 6 18 110 6 180 9 12 33 A 307 A
Male life expectancy 4, 6 probable longevity at birth 1995 74 75 75 76 70 75 65 74 73 73 A 61 A
Female life expectancy 4, 6 probable longevity at birth 1995 79 81 81 83 76 81 70 80 79 80 A 65 A
Deaths from heart disease (males) 6 per 1,000 males aged over 65 1990-93 35 34 md 21 md 34 md md md 31 A md
Deaths from heart disease (females) 6 per 1,000 females aged over 65 1990-93 34 37 md 26 md 31 md md md 30 A md
Cancer deaths (males) 6 per 1,000 males aged over 65 1990-93 25 25 md 25 md 22 md md md 24 A md
Cancer deaths (females) 6 per 1,000 females aged over 65 1990-93 18 17 md 16 md 16 md md md 17 A md
Road accident deaths 4 per 100,000 of population 1994-95 16 11 11 '10 md 7 14 6 16 12 M md
Suicides (males) 6 per 100,000 people 1989-93 24 21 21 22 md 21 md md 20 21 M md
Suicides (females) 6 per 100,000 people 1989-93 6 5 6 11 md 8 md md 5 7 M md
Doctors 4, 6 per 10,000 people 1991-95 21 22 22 18 16 28 12 16 26 27 M 20 A
Hospital beds 4 per 10,000 people 1991-95 7 9 5 16 1 14 3 5 4 7 M md
Total health spending 4 as percentage of GDP 1991-95 8 9 10 7 5 6 3 7 14 8 M md
Health spending per person 4 expenditure per person in US$ (PPP) 1991-95 1,203 1,741 2,049 1,581 386 1,821 272 1,246 3,701 1,581 M md
Government share of total health spending 3, 4 as percentage of total expenditure 1991-95 76 67 72 79 57 83 50 86 46 78 M md
Food and nutrition
Food versus other spending 1 percent of household spending going on food latest **** 16 19 13 24 37 24 33 19 11 20 M 39 M
Daily available calories 1 calories per person 1988-90 3,460 3,302 3,242 2,021 3,061 3,221 3,197 3,270 3,642 3,421 A 2,582 A
Excess calories 1 percentage above FAO recommendations 1992 39 20 16 24 35 21 36 32 41 34 A 19 A
Pure fats and oils (animal and vegetable) 1 percent of total calorie intake 1980-90 16 14 19 11 13 17 16 11 18 17 A 10 A
Animal products (excl. fish and pure fats) 1 percent of total calorie intake 1980-90 28 31 25 12 14 24 5 27 26 22 A 12 A
Starches (e.g. cereals and potatoes) 1 percent of total calorie intake 1980-90 25 27 26 42 47 32 52 28 24 32 A 57 A
Alcohol consumption 6 litres per person per year 1991 7.8 7.7 7.1 6.3 md 4.1 md 7.4 7 8.1 A md
Grains fed to livestock 5 percent of total grain consumption 1994 47 60 76 46 38 66 31 50 68 60 M 38 A
Employment and unemployment
Primary sector (farming, forestry, fishing) 3 percent of total employment 1994 10 5 4 6 26 6 45 2 3 6 M md
Secondary (manufacturing, building, energy) 3 percent of total employment 1994 25 24 23 34 22 23 22 26 24 27 M md
Tertiary sector (services) 3 percent of total employment 1994 65 71 73 60 52 71 33 72 73 65 M md
Part-time employment 4 percent of total employment 1995 22 25 19 20 26 27 17 24 19 19 M md
Unemployment rate 3 percent of workforce seeking and available for work 1994 8 10 10 3 4 5 8 10 6 8 A md
Income distribution
Household income inequality 6 income ratio of top 20 percent of households to bottom 20 percent 1981-91 8.8 9.6 7.1 4.3 3.6 5.9 md 9.6 8.9 6 M md
Income share of top 10 percent 1 percent of national income latest **** 29 28 24 32 38 27 42 28 33 27 M 32 M
Income share of bottom 40 percent 6 percent of national income 1981-91 16 16 18 22 12 19 md 15 16 18 M md
Income share of bottom 20 percent 1 percent of national income latest **** 5 5 6 11 4 3 4 5 4 5 M 5 M
Women's income share 6 percent of national income earned by women 1993 38 39 37 33 24 41 22 34 40 34 M 32 A
Women's position
Status of women 6 rank in UNDP's Gender Development Index (GDI) 1993 10 9 2 12 46 3 61 14 4 na na
Empowerment of women 6 rank in UNDP's Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) 1993 5 15 6 37 31 1 92 18 9 na na
  • Women in parliament 6
percent of seats held by women 1993 21 14 18 7 14 39 2 8 10 14 M 12 A
  • Women in management 6
percent of all managers and administrators 1993 32 43 42 9 20 31 7 33 42 20 M 14 A
  • Women in professions 6
percent of all professional and technical workers 1993 48 25 46 42 44 58 29 44 53 47 M 39 A
Crime
Police 1 per 1,000 people latest **** 159 222 12 208 md 152 64 238 314 159 M md
Reported assaults (including murder) 1 per 100,000 people latest **** 318 377 162 16 38 96 25 365 450 65 M md
Reported burglaries 1 per 100,000 people latest **** 2,942 1,963 1,674 188 md 74 md 2,404 1,099 1,098 M md
Education and science
Expenditure on education 3, 6 percentage of GDP 1992-94 7 6 7 5 4 7 3 4 7 5 M 5 A
  • Expenditure per primary student 4
US $ (PPP) 1995 2,659 2,985 md 3,960 741 md 832 3,295 5,492 2,985 M md
  • Expenditure per secondary student 4
US $ (PPP) 1995 3,951 4,871 md 4,356 1,477 md 587 4,494 6,541 4,632 M md
  • Expenditure per tertiary student 4
US $ (PPP) 1995 7,337 9,036 11,132 7,556 4,264 8,343 2,696 8,241 14,607 7,447 M md
Pupil teacher ratios (primary) 1, 6 students per teacher 1992 18.5 18.4 17.8 19.7 29.6 12.9 29.3 19.6 20.1 18 M 30 A
Pupil teacher ratios (secondary) 1, 6 students per teacher 1992 13.4 12.4 17.8 17.2 17.7 11 25.6 13.7 12 13 M 20 A
Mathematics achievement score 4 average national score in TIMSS survey ***** 1996 508 530 527 605 md 503 md 505 500 519 M md
Adults with upper secondary school education 4 percentage of 25-64 olds 1993 34 27 28 md md 53 13 54 53 38 M md
Adults with tertiary education 4 percentage of 25-64 olds 1993 23 23 46 md md 27 7 21 32 21 M md
Current tertiary students 3 full-time students per 1,000 people 1993-94 28 23 41 29 15 32 19 18 31 26 M md
Tertiary science enrolment 6 as percentage of total tertiary enrolment 1992 20 26 16 22 34 20 23 28 17 21 A 25 A
Scientists and technicians 4 per 10,000 of the labour force 1991-94 37 64 52 <99 4 69 7 51 74 47 M md
Research and development (R&D) spending 4 US$ (PPP) per head of population 1994 157 305 330 601 382 370 19 379 646 310 M md

Sources:

1 Encyclopaedia Britannica (1996);

2 OECD (1995);

3 OECD (1996);

4 OECD (1997);

5 World Resources Instutute (1996);

6 United Nations Development Programme (1996)

T=total A=average M=midpoint (median) md=missing data na=not applicable

* In most cases, rates and percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.

** Excludes Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and South Korea because of insufficient data.

*** NZ data are for 'residential' waste. Data for Australia and the UK are for 'household municipal' waste. All others are for 'municipal' waste (i.e. waste from households and small businesses disposed of through municipal collections or facilities).

**** 'Latest' data are the most recent available, with most dating from the early 1990s but some dating from the 1980s.