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Issue 31, February 6, 2013: Charting a Safer Course 

Letter from the Editor: Charting a Safer Course
Bringing the Ecological Footprint to Asia
Q&A with Bloomberg’s Gregory Elders and Curtis Ravenel
BioRegional: Is it possible to build and live in a One Planet Community?
Racing Towards Sustainability
Footprint Briefs
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About Global Footprint Network
Our mission is to promote a sustainable economy by advancing the Ecological Footprint, a measurement tool that makes the reality of planetary limits relevant to decision-makers.

Letter from the Editor: Charting a Safer Course

Happy 2013!

Ten years ago, Global Footprint Network opened its doors with a focused mission: End ecological overshoot and help humanity live within nature’s budget. While we still have a long way to go, we can celebrate great accomplishments for our ten-year anniversary. We’ve engaged with governments and other decision makers while raising the profile of Ecological Footprint accounting throughout the world.

Our work has also won global recognition. Receiving multiple international awards in 2012 and in previous years means more than just a perfunctory pat on the back. It is important validation of Ecological Footprint work, and a measure of how far the world has come in understanding the consequences of resource limitations.

In January, we learned that the Swiss-based Global Journal has named us one of the world’s best 100 NGOs for the second year in a row. The honor is in part a recognition of our accomplishments over the past year. In 2012 alone, we engaged with 18 national governments and several international institutions, conducted numerous presentations and workshops and received multiple awards (the Blue Planet Prize, the Binding Prize for Nature and the Kenneth E. Boulding Memorial Award).

In October, we highlighted the increasingly worrisome ecological debt of the Mediterranean nations at a two-day international conference in Venice, participated in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) meeting in Laos, presented to a working session on the environment in the Greek Parliament, launched a preliminary Ecological Footprint atlas of Francophone nations, conducted a workshop with the Turkish government on Competitiveness 2.0 and Ecological Footprint accounting, and met with government ministries in Colombia after a conference on sustainable tourism.

In November, we hosted Ecological Footprint training in our California office for members of the Ecuadoran Ministry of Environment, participated in a workshop with the Indonesian Ministry of Public Works and a Green Economy event in Peru, and presented at the annual conference of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) in Beirut, where our Arab Atlas of Footprint and Biocapacity was featured in the conference report, “Survival Options.”  


We also completed multiple projects in Asia, including Southeast Asia’s first Ecological Footprint report (in the Philippines, see story below). We launched the E-RISC (Environmental Risk in Sovereign Credit) report in London and New York City. The report demonstrates that resource constraints are material for sovereign credit analysis. See the Q&A below with Bloomberg’s Gregory Elders (Senior ESG Analyst) and Curtis Ravenel (Global Head of Sustainability Initiatives).

Imagine being aboard an enormous ocean-going vessel, moving rapidly in a fixed direction. As a passenger, you assume the captain has a navigator and knows where the risks lie. Now imagine that the ship has collided with a giant iceberg, but because the vessel is so massive, it is not immediately apparent to the captain or to many passengers. Parts of the ship are already reeling from the effects—flooding in several storage rooms, the loss of a few life boats, guardrails torn off the bow. Yet, the ship continues steadfastly in the same direction, where even greater icebergs dot the horizon.

The iceberg, of course, represents ecological limits. The ship is our global economy. We know we have already hit the iceberg—humanity is in ecological overshot, using the equivalent of 1.5 Earths to provide the resources we consume and absorb our carbon waste. The impacts are everywhere to be seen: higher commodity prices, record heat and drought, acidification of the oceans, degradation of ecosystems, more frequent storms and loss of biodiversity.

The challenge is to turn the wheel on such a giant vessel, to chart a different direction. Global Footprint Network has been part of that effort for a decade now, advocating use of the Ecological Footprint as a tool to map where we are and where we need to be going—and engaging decision-makers to use it in charting their futures.

As we enter Global Footprint Network’s 10th year, we will continue to pull on that wheel. Our agenda for 2013 is no less ambitious than last year’s:

  • Launch the first phase of a new project in the United States, called the “State of the States” initiative, which includes analyzing and mapping the Ecological Footprint and biocapacity of all 50 states.
  • Expand our projects that are bringing understanding of ecological limits into the financial world, including Phase 2 of the E-RISC project, with events planned in Switzerland and in San Francisco this spring.
  • Engage with at least three national governments in Latin America, including Ecuador, Peru and Colombia and build on our initial engagements in Asia, in particular Indonesia, Philippines and China.
  • Hold four cross-ministerial roundtables across the Mediterranean, as a follow-up to the launch of our report “Mediterranean Ecological Footprint Trends.”
  • Continuing to strengthen our partnership with global partners, including WWF.

And, of course, we’ll be celebrating our ten-year anniversary with our supporters.

With more national leaders understanding the financial and social risks of not balancing Footprint and biocapacity—their nation’s demand on and capacity to provide ecological resources—we are taking a hold of the ship’s wheel. Perhaps with enough hands on the wheel, we can begin to turn our vessel into clear waters.
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