Footprint Network Blog - Human Development

Making a Difference: Advising the President of the Philippines

JR Nereus Acosta, Ph.D., Philippines Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection and General Manager, Laguna Lake - 11/24/2015 05:25 AM

This is the fourth post in a series titled “Making A Difference” where we highlight a different voice each week. See our full list here.

Not a day goes by that I don’t wake up and think, “What am I going to face today? What kind of issue will it be: fish kill, pollution from industry, or destruction from a typhoon?”

As the general manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority, I am responsible for managing and protecting the environment of one of the most densely populated areas on earth, the home of 25 million people, in the heart of the Philippines. I also serve as the environmental adviser to the president of the Philippines, one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the world.

The Philippines’ development path has been heavily unsustainable. Over-extraction and over-consumption of the country’s natural resources have made us more vulnerable to climate change-related calamities. Today the country is an ecological debtor—our nation’s citizens demand more ecological resources and services than our ecosystems can regenerate.

The Laguna Lake Basin that I oversee is home to one-quarter of the country’s people, concentrated on 65,000 hectares of land, including Metropolitan Manila. The lake provides 70 percent of fish consumed in Manila. Its watershed directly supports many industries and half a million informal settlers. Flood zones are expanding because of increased deforestation and sedimentation. Since the 1990s, the depth of the lake has gone from 12 meters deep to less than 3 meters deep today.

But I remain optimistic. Our president, Benigno Simeon Aquino III, an economist who values hard data, was the very first leader in Philippine history to create an environment and climate change cluster in his cabinet. And he fully supported two Ecological Footprint assessments to give us the tools and guidance to start making much-needed changes.

In my position, my mantra is there can be no economy without ecology. I am relentlessly pushing the message that employment, equality and education will not find a satisfactory solution without ecology.

Thank you so much for your continued commitment to Global Footprint Network’s work around the world.

Categories: Carbon Footprint, Ecological Limits, Footprint for Government, Footprint Standards, Human Development

New China Footprint Website Launches with Release of WWF’s Living Planet Report China 2015

11/11/2015 08:01 PM

Beijing, China–Global Footprint Network launched the beta version of a new website,, on Nov. 12 to build on and support the growing interest in the Ecological Footprint among partners and practitioners in government and academia throughout China.

The website, a core element of our Footprint initiatives in China, was launched today to support WWF China’s Living Planet Report-China 2015. The report, to which Global Footprint Network contributed, shows that in less than two generations time, China’s per-person demand on nature has more than doubled. This increase in demand went hand in hand with a substantial loss in the abundance of wild species: The average population size of China’s terrestrial vertebrates declined by half from 1970 to 2010.

Global Footprint Network’s new China website aims to serve as a collaboration platform for practitioners in government and academia in China who share the common goal of making Ecological Footprint accounting and related tools as rigorous as possible to fulfill China’s vision of an ecological civilization. The website’s name means “footprint network” in Mandarin.

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Categories: Carbon Footprint, Ecological Limits, Human Development, Our Partners’ Work

Making a Difference: Bringing Sustainable Farming to Iran

Mahsa Fatemi, Research Intern - 11/09/2015 11:58 PM

This is the second post in a series titled “Making A Difference” where we highlight a different voice each week. See our full list here.

Listen to Mahsa speak about sustainable farming in Iran.

Since I was a child growing up in southern Iran, years of severe drought have threatened the vitality of the rich farmland in my native Fars province, Iran’s traditional bread basket. Today, as a PhD student in agricultural development at Shiraz University in Iran, I am exploring innovative ways to help make agriculture sustainable in Iran, especially in the Fars province.

As part of my commitment to revitalizing agriculture in Fars, I am excited to be over 7,000 miles from home, working with Global Footprint Network researchers as an intern in the organization’s Oakland, California, office.

In my internship, I am learning to measure the sustainability of my region’s agricultural practices by using Ecological Footprint accounting to measure demand and supply of natural resources. I’m also very interested in providing the Ecological Footprint as a practical decision-making tool at the provincial level, and even at a more granular scale like the individual farm. 

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Categories: Ecological Limits, Human Development

Committing to a New Future

09/22/2015 09:10 PM

The United Nations launches global goals to achieve humanity’s collective dream: sustainable development

This week marks an extraordinary moment for humanity. Representatives of 193 nations are convening in New York at the United Nations to launch the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals lay out the conditions we need to secure great lives on this one planet for all, regardless of income level, gender or ethnicity.

At a time when global economic uncertainty and human tragedy dominate the news cycle, this unique opportunity to bring the universal dream of sustainable development to the forefront of public attention worldwide is definitely worth celebrating.

We are pleased that the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre has proposed the Ecological Footprint as an SDG metric for Goal 12.2: "by 2030 achieve sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources."

And we can't help but ask the following question: How do we know whether all the SDG activities generate sustainable development? With the United Nations on the verge of adopting sustainable development as its central agenda, how do we know whether all the potential activities on the 169 goals are adding up to sustainable development?

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Categories: Ecological Limits, Footprint for Government, Human Development, Our Partners’ Work

Ecuador’s Vision of “Good Living”

07/02/2015 02:29 PM

Our vision is that all people of the Earth live well and within the means of nature. We are delighted when this vision is shared by others around the world, and honored when we meet individuals equally passionate about sustainability. Last month, we had the pleasure to meet Freddy Ehlers, minister of the Buen Vivir program in Ecuador. "Buen vivir" translates roughly to good living in English. The program promotes finding a meaning to life that makes living it worthwhile, inspired by service to others and respect toward all beings in nature.

Over the course of his 40-year career, Freddy has worked as a journalist, documentary film producer, Andean community secretary general and Ecuadorian minister of tourism. He studied law at the Universidad Central del Ecuador, pursued graduate studies in political science at Davidson College in the United States and received media training at the Radio Netherlands Training Centre in Holland.

We asked Freddy a few questions about his work at the Ministry of Buen Vivir.

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Categories: Footprint for Government, Human Development, Personal Footprint

International Day of Families: Empowering women for a world that works for everyone

05/15/2015 07:12 AM

Today is the International Day of Families, a day marked annually by the UN General Assembly on the 15th of May to “increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.” This year’s focus is gender equality, including education and income-generation opportunity.

As an organization with a vision of a world that works for everyone, we believe that empowering women is one of the most important things we can do in service of global sustainability because it yields huge benefits not only for children and families, but for the world as a whole. 

“When women have the opportunity to participate as equals, lower reproductive rates invariably ensue,” says Global Footprint Network CEO Susan Burns. “The reason this is so important is that we cannot ignore population growth if we are truly committed to people having secure lives in a world of finite resources.”

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Categories: Ecological Limits, Human Development

2014: Year in Review

01/07/2015 11:25 AM

As we are greeting the New Year, we want to take a moment to pause, thank our generous supporters and celebrate what we accomplished over the past 12 months. Here are the highlights.

A major milestone for us was the launch, last June in London, of Phase II of ERISC with our partners in the finance industry. Environmental Risk Integration in Sovereign Credit, a research project that seeks to quantify how environmental risk can impact the balance sheet of nations, is a joint program with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative. We are grateful to participating institutions Caisse des Dépôts, the European Investment Bank, First State Investments, HSBC, Kempen Capital Management, KfW and Standard & Poor’s, who embarked on that journey with us. We are looking forward to announcing first research results and findings in 2015.

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Categories: Ecological Limits, Footprint for Finance, Footprint for Government, Footprint Standards, Human Development, Personal Footprint

Footprint Conversations Around the World

12/17/2014 02:42 PM

Our staff has been busy this past month spreading the word about the Ecological Footprint at conferences and engagements around the world. Click locations below to learn more about our work.


Categories: Ecological Limits, Footprint for Business, Footprint for Finance, Footprint for Government, Footprint Standards, Human Development

A Scientist’s Passage to India

David Lin, Research Scientist - 12/15/2014 11:38 AM

Last month, David Lin, a lead scientist at Global Footprint Network, traveled to India to provide support to Pragyan Bharati, our India director, on our new pilot project there called Sustainable Development Return on Investment. The project aims to empower local villagers to have a more informed voice in shaping development in their communities. Here is a short travelogue by David on his experience meeting villagers with our partners International Development Enterprises-India (IDEI) and Gram Vikas (of India).

When my plane from Delhi landed in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha, I immediately noticed the change in environment. Odisha, located in East India, is a region covered by a dry tropical and deciduous forest, evident even in the most urban areas of the town. The tribal communities we visited were located near the town of Phulbani, about 5 hours by car from Bhubaneswar. The trip was a beautiful one, passing through oceans of green rice fields and tall forests, punctuated by many small towns and villages.

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Categories: Ecological Limits, Human Development

New Pilot Project to Empower Villagers in India

09/29/2014 05:13 PM

For the first time, Global Footprint Network is partnering with other NGOs to support both sustainable and human development at the community level in India. While Global Footprint Network projects often target decision-makers at the national, sub-national, and city levels, this new pilot in India aims to give local villagers a more informed voice in shaping development in their communities. The project, titled "Sustainable Development Return on Investment: Empowering Communities and Measuring Investment Effectiveness," or SDRoI, is a partnership with International Development Enterprises-India, Gram Vikas (of India) and Fundación Escuela Nueva (of Colombia).

Pragyan Bharati (right), Global Footprint Network’s India director, is leading the 18-month project. She holds a doctorate in sociology and is a social development specialist with experience in leading various water and sanitation projects with ONE DROP, UNICEF, and the government of Odisha’s Ministry of Rural Development.

We asked Pragyan a few questions about the new project.

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Categories: Human Development