Footprint Network Blog - 08/2016
Kirsten Balding at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, is a huge advocate of using Global Footprint Network’s Ecological Footprint calculator to teach students about sustainability. “It is a really engaging way for students to measure their consumption of resources,” says Balding. “It’s a very clear and simple way of communicating a complex concept—that also presents solutions too!”
And she doesn’t just refer to the calculator in a single class session of her sustainability course, but refers to the results over the entirety of the course.
From Australia to the United States, university students and teachers across the world have contacted Global Footprint Network over the years to praise and offer ideas for improving the Ecological Footprint calculator.
It’s not only in environmental science courses that the Footprint calculator is proving a thought-provoking instructional tool. Jessica Piekielek, who teaches sociology and anthropology at Southern Oregon University, has taken advantage of the calculator in her Introduction to Cultural Anthropology class to talk about global population growth, development, and social inequality. “I especially appreciate that students can experiment with calculating Footprints based in other countries, so that we can compare results and discuss,” she notes.
On September 25, Swiss voters will head to the polls to decide on a bold initiative to put Switzerland on the path of a green economy. Initiated by members of the Green Party and the Social Democrats, this ballot initiative builds on the Ecological Footprint: If passed, it will incorporate the sustainable use of natural resources into the country’s constitution, and becoming the first country in the world to commit to one-planet living by 2050.
Switzerland currently consumes four times what Swiss ecosystems can regenerate. And if everyone in the world lived like the Swiss, we would need 3.3 planets.
To reach one-planet living by 2050, the Swiss would have to reduce their average per-person Ecological Footprint by more than two thirds, to at most 1.7 global hectares. This is the current capacity of the world’s renewable resources on a per-person basis. (The target would actually fall even further if populations globally continue to rise.)
The Swiss initiative also calls for a “circular economy strategy,” including measures to adopt new product regulations, encourage recycling, and promote research and innovation.
The European Space Agency in Paris hosted the book launch of “SOS TREATY (The Safe Operating Space Treaty) - A new approach to managing our use of the Earth System” (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016) on Oct. 7. Our very own Senior Scientist Alessandro Galli was among the guests as one of the contributors. He co-wrote a chapter on the need to develop and use solid indicators, including the Ecological Footprint, to correctly assess humanity’s pressure on the Earth.
Spearheaded by the Portuguese environmentalist NGO ZERO, the SOS book project gathered a multidisciplinary group of jurists, Earth system scientists, ecologists, economists, social scientists and philosophers. Their task was to explore, each from their own vantage point, a new legal framework alongside a novel accounting system that would help humanity nurture and strengthen a favorable state of the Commons at the scale of the planet, and live in harmony with it. This much-needed conversation is only getting started.