Defining the Concept

Environmental space is the total amount of resources we can use (in a given time period) without compromising the ability of future generations to access the same amount. Based on this definition, environmental space is the share of a person on the total amount of resources on Earth that can be used. Not all resources can be used and not all resources can be used to their maximum extent. Therefore, to calculate how much of a resource is available for a human being necessitates estimations and measurements of the total amount of the available resources and of the total number of people sharing the Earth.

In addition, 'environmental space' includes not only the share of natural resources that each person on Earth is entitled to, but also the share on the ability of the environment to assimilate waste and pollution that a population produces. To calculate how much environmental space one is entitled to, it is important to know how much waste and pollution the environment can absorb. The available environmental space, therefore, means the space within the ceiling of permitted Earth's resources and services for sustainable consumption and utilization and the baseline consumption and utilization to meet our basic necessity.

Another aspect of 'environmental space' is sustainabil-ity as 'environmental space' which is the share in natural resources between people on Earth at a specific moment on the condition that the consumption of that share will not compromise the equal access of the future generations to these resources. This notion of sustainability means that, to calculate the 'environmental space' per person at a particular moment, not all natural resources and environmental services could be put into the share. Reasonable reserves should be set aside for future generations.

'Sustainability' also means equity within and between generations, which entails not only the equal share in amount and quality, but also a fair distribution. It is a big challenge if one looks at the distribution of consumption and wealth between countries. Currently, the population in industrialized countries is less than one-fifth of the world population, but consumes half of the total energy used on Earth and produces more than 80% of the world GDP. When it comes to pollution, the wealthier population also emits for more CO2 both as CO2 emissions per capita and as the total amount of CO2 emitted. An average person in an industrialized country emits 10 times more than an average person in a developing country.

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