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Data Points

Is Your State Consuming More Than Nature Can Provide?

Our never-ending appetite for food, water, and energy is driving the environment into the ground.

Data Points is a new series where we explore the world of data visualization, information graphics, and cartography.

Get too far into financial debt and creditors come calling. Fall into debt with nature and the consequences can be even more distressing: Hotter temperatures, shrinking farmland, and dried up reservoirs are only a few of the problems we're grappling with as a result of overtaxing the environment.

Data from a new report by the Global Footprint Network looks at which American states are running into the red with Mother Nature through such activities as burning fossil fuels, overfishing, and chopping down forests.

Ecological Creditors
Biocapacity exceeds Ecological Footprint by
0
50
100
200
500
>500%
Ecological Debtors
Ecological Footprint exceeds Biocapacity by
0
50
100
200
500
>500%
250 mi
250 km
MA
RI
CT
NJ
DE
MD
DC
WA
OR
CA
AK
HI
MT
ID
NV
AZ
NM
UT
WY
AK
HI
MT
ID
NV
AZ
ND
SD
TX
LA
MO
KS
OK
NE
IL
IN
AR
MN
WI
MI
OH
KY
TN
AL
MS
FL
SC
NC
VA
NY
ME
WV
VT
NH
GA
PA
CO
IA
250 mi 250 km
Biocapacity
Global acres per capita
0
5
10
20
50
100
>100
Ecological Footprint
Global acres per capita
14
16
18
20
22
24
26
NG STAFF
SOURCE: Global Footprint Network

Our analysis looks at each state's ecological capacity—the ability of its environment to provide the resources that the state's residents use everyday, per capita. The numbers take into account how many acres of forest, pasture, cropland, and ocean each state controls. This is what's known as biocapacity. We then compare that to each state's demand for those resources—its ecological footprint.

Ecological creditors are states that use less than their environment can provide. They're staying within nature's budget. Ecological debtors demand more than nature can provide.

Biggest Ecological Debtors
Biocapacity deficit in global acres per person
Does not include District of Columbia
NG STAFF
SOURCE: Global Footprint Netwok

These five states have racked up the most ecological "debt" per person, with Maryland topping the list. Each person in this coastal state would need, on average, 21.8 more acres of land and water to meet their consumption needs. The report goes on to say that Maryland is trying to pay down its debt by conserving wetlands and reducing energy consumption.

Biggest Ecological Creditors
Biocapacity surplus in global acres per person
NG STAFF
SOURCE: Global Footprint Network

Alaska, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska are in the black with Mother Nature. Alaska far outstrips any state in the U.S. when it comes to surplus ecological capacity, with residents leaving 490 available resource acres on the table.

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