Landscape Ecology and Geographic Analysis Program

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The last several decades humans have spent on Earth will leave a mark beyond artifacts and history. We will leave a measurable footprint that tells a story of not only the conditions we lived in, but also the carelessness of our actions. Eric Sanderson, an associate director in the Landscape Ecology and Geographic Analysis Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society Institute, defines the human footprint as a quantitative measure of humanity’s impact on earth (892).

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Our footprint will be one of trash, pollution, and spilled fossil fuels. Recently, this footprint has been increasing faster than we are able to reverse its effects. Toxins, gas emissions, and harmful wastes have been on the rise since the mid-1800s due to industrialization of countries and the ability to mass produce.

Although the footprint is clearly more visible in larger developed areas such as China, America, and Europe, the effects are global. Sanderson and his team map this footprint by using, “four types of data as proxies for human influence: population density, land transformation, accessibility, and electrical power infrastructure” (892). Population density, in this case, is a measure of the human population per unit area. Areas with a high population density will typically contain more man-made structures, while areas with a low population density will have more open land with grazing animals. Land transformations, “the single greatest threat to biological diversity,” takes in to account the different land uses and the extent to which they modify ecosystem processes (Sanderson 893). Accessibility includes roads, major rivers, and coastlines which “provide humans opportunities for hunting, extraction of resources, waste disposal and pollution” (894). Essentially, the more access humans have to an area,

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