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New Release: National Footprint Accounts 2014

03/25/2014 09:19 PM

Newly published Global Footprint Network data show that high-income countries’ average demands on nature dropped sharply at the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008. In 2010 the per person Footprint started to grow again only in a few high-income countries as governments began spending billions of dollars to stimulate their economies.

During the global financial crisis, middle- and low-income nations’ per capita Ecological Footprint remained largely unchanged, according to the 2014 National Footprint Accounts.

Changes in the Ecological Footprint per person in high-, middle- and low-income countries between 1961 and 2010. China (a middle-income country) is shown separately. The green line represents world biocapacity per person. Biocapacity per person has been declining because the world population has grown more quickly than biocapacity productivity (Global Footprint Network, 2014 NFA edition).

Globally, humanity’s per person Ecological Footprint decreased 3 percent between 2008 and 2009, due mostly to a decline in demand for fossil fuel and hence a decreasing carbon Footprint. Low-income countries, typically characterized by less elasticity in their standard of living, contributed little to the decrease in humanity’s per person Footprint.

Every year, Global Footprint Network updates its National Footprint Accounts, which compare more than 220 nations’ demands for ecological resources and services (their Footprints) against the amount available within their borders (biocapacity). Each country’s performance varies year to year, but one overarching trend has persisted for decades: Global ecological overshoot continues to grow. Ecological overshoot now stands at 54 percent above the planet’s biocapacity. Humanity demands more than 1.5 times more biocapacity than what our planet can renew.

This year’s National Footprint Accounts cover five decades. They track nations’ Ecological Footprints and biocapacity from 1961 to 2010, the most recent year for which complete data sets are available. With the latest data, Global Footprint Network can now show the resource implications of the recent global financial crisis.

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Global Footprint Network’s New Giving Library Overview Video

09/04/2013 04:41 PM

“Sustainability is not just an environmental or moral issue. It’s about the well-being of humanity and our planet,” says Pati Poblete, Asia Regional Director at Global Footprint Network, in our new Giving Library overview video.

The Giving Library’s online video archive educates philanthropists about nonprofit causes. There, potential donors can browse hundreds of American nonprofit videos in which representatives describe their work and impact.

Pati’s video details the Ecological Footprint accounting tool: how much nature can provide, how much we’re using, and who uses what. She explains why this comprehensive, holistic approach incorporates forests, agriculture, and fisheries: “Because the world doesn’t operate in silos. The world is an ecosystem.” As for the necessity of Ecological Footprint accounting? “The core issue is: Humanity is using more than the Earth can renewably provide.”

Hear more from Pati below about Global Footprint Network’s collaboration with its target audience — national governments — including how she convinced the Office of the President of the Philippines to work directly with us.

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Earth Overshoot Day 2013, Around the World

08/24/2013 02:00 PM

As of this week, we are in overshoot. Humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year.

August 20 was Earth Overshoot Day 2013, the approximate date humanity’s ecological resource consumption exceeded what Earth can renew this year. A mere 34 weeks into 2013, we demanded a level of ecological resources and services — from food and raw materials to sequestering carbon dioxide from fossil fuel emissions — equivalent to what Earth can regenerate for all of 2013.

For the rest of the year, we are operating in ecological overshoot. We will maintain our ecological deficit by depleting stocks of fish, trees and other resources, and accumulating waste such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans. As our level of consumption, or “spending,” grows, the interest we are paying on this mounting ecological debt — shrinking forests, biodiversity loss, fisheries collapse, food shortages, degraded land productivity and the build-up of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and oceans — not only burdens the environment but also undermines our economies. Climate change — a result of greenhouse gases being emitted faster than they can be absorbed by forests and oceans — is the most widespread impact of ecological overspending.

Earth Overshoot Day is an annual observance meant to bring attention to the risks of humanity’s growing ecological deficit. Making better choices will better ensure that we can reverse trends and move toward a sustainable future; measuring how much nature we have, how much we use and how much we need will help us make those choices. This year, due in no small part to the critical support of our partners and supporters, that message resonated around the world.

Major world media reported on Earth Overshoot Day 2013. The front page of the print version of the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa featured our infographic of ecological debtor countries as its Page 1 centerpiece. France’s Le Monde and Brazil’s Folha de S. Paulo ran articles explaining Overshoot Day calculations and the implications of humanity’s increasing Ecological Footprint. Mexico’s El Universal, the UK’s Daily Mail, Switzerland’s Tages-Anzeiger, the U.S. magazine Popular Science and the Brazilian science journal Galileu, among many others, also had their own stories, while Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported the story for Liberation and Le Figaro newspapers (both France), FOX News, the Japan Times, Manila Times, Voice Russia and other media outlets. Television and radio — such as the multilingual Euronews television network, CBS radio, Swiss radio, and broadcasters in Ireland, Uruguay, Mexico, Quebec, Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere — carried either live interviews or taped stories on Earth Overshoot Day.

As media reportage provided the context, op-ed and commentary addressed strategies for living in a resource constrained world. Andrew Simms, originator of the Earth Overshoot Day concept and chief analyst at Global Witness, made the case for living within our means in The Guardian (UK). Carter Roberts, President and CEO of WWF-US, urged businesses to “begin producing more with less” in Foreign Affairs. “We have only a 15 to 20-year window in which to turn the tide,” Alessandro Galli, Global Footprint Network Mediterranean-MENA Regional Director, wrote in the Edinburgh Evening News.

This year’s print, airtime and online media and blog space devoted to Earth Overshoot Day were the best yet. And social media was ablaze. Facebook comments and reposts and Twitter #OvershootDay and #EcologicalOvershoot tweets and retweets climbed steadily. WWF’s concurrent #oshoot Vine and Thunderclap campaigns rolled across Twitter to create a collective shout about humanity already exceeding this year’s ecological resource limits.

Other partners such as INKOTA in Berlin, Germany and Swiss Clean Tech in Bern, Switzerland held events to commemorate the day. We heard from many followers as well, including a community college teacher who used Global Footprint Network’s individual Ecological Footprint calculator as a way to introduce her students to ecological resource limits on the semester’s first day of her “Humans and the Environment” course.

Thank you all for your dedication to raise awareness about this annual mark of humanity’s ecological overspending. We look forward to the day when we can celebrate our success together in reversing current trends and moving toward a world that works for everyone.

Categories: Ecological Limits, Our Partners’ Work


UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network Selects Global Footprint Network-DESERTEC Solution

07/03/2013 09:50 PM

Global Footprint Network Mediterranean-MENA Regional Director Alessandro Galli will join Jeffrey Sachs of Earth Institute at Columbia University on a panel, “Practical steps towards green growth in the Mediterranean region,” at the MED Solutions Network’s first conference on Thursday, July 4, 2013, at the University of Siena.

The Mediterranean region has nearly tripled its demand for ecological resources and services over the past five decades, and increased its ecological deficit by 230 percent. Global Footprint Network’s Mediterranean Initiative aims to bring leaders together to develop a regional approach to managing ecological assets consumption and availability.

Global Footprint Network’s joint proposal solution with DESERTEC University Network was one of three selected for presentation at the MED Solutions Network’s first conference, Sustainable Development Solutions for the Mediterranean Region, July 3-5, 2013. The MED Solutions Network is the first regional center of the newly formed United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN) directed by Jeffrey Sachs.

DESERTEC University Network works on green security and trans-Mediterranean renewable energy cooperation. Global Footprint Network-DESERTEC’s solution, Sustainability Compass: Guide for Projects to Reduce Ecological Deficit and Improve Human Development, focuses on developing a framework to measure the sustainable development return on investment (SDROI) of any project, using DESERTEC’s project to build solar panels in North Africa as a case study. The initiative aims to apply Ecological Footprint accounting in combination with assessments of human development (such as the UNDP Human Development Index) to estimate SDROI potential. Alessandro Galli will present the Global Footprint Network-DESERTEC solution at the MED Solutions Network conference on Friday, July 5, 2013.

Through the engagement with the Med Solutions Network, we hope to participate in the regional debate on sustainable development, contribute to the framing of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and engage in new collaborations in the field of sustainable development solutions with other institutions interested in Mediterranean and global sustainability issues.

Follow the MED Solutions Network conference on Twitter @ #MEDSOL13.

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Human Development and the Ecological Footprint

Global Footprint Network - 04/03/2013 06:57 PM

Despite over $150 billion being spent annually in development globally, virtually nobody is tracking whether the achieved progress can last, or whether it is becoming increasingly fragile without the necessary access to nature’s resources.

But this is changing. The United Nations Development Programme’s latest flagship publication, its Human Development Report 2013, prominently features countries’ performance as proposed by Global Footprint Network: how much human well-being do countries generate (as measured by the UNDP’s Human Development Index) at what level of resource demand (as measured by the Ecological Footprint).


The Report reads:

“To sustain progress in human development, far more attention needs to be paid to the impact human beings are having on the environment. The goal is high human development and a low ecological footprint per capita. Only a few countries come close to creating such a globally reproducible high level of human development without exerting unsustainable pressure on the planet’s ecological resources.”

It is a significant step for a leading UN agency to question business-as-usual models of development and explore alternatives. In the past, the report included Ecological Footprint results in its background data table, but this year UNDP used our HDI-Footprint graph to prominently show how far away the world is from meeting the sustainable development challenge, using simple metrics.

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Categories: Ecological Limits, Human Development


Was braucht das «Flugzeug Schweiz» auf seinem Armaturenbrett?

Mathis Wackernagel - 03/06/2013 05:38 PM

Gastautor Mathis Wackernagel bloggt fur ETH-Klimablog

Flugzeuge ohne Treibstoffanzeige auf dem Armaturenbrett sind gefährlich. Fürs Starten geht’s. Aber sind wir mal in der Luft und fliegen ein paar Stunden, so ist es gut zu wissen, wie viel Kerosin noch im Tank ist, und wann wir landen sollten.Erstaunlicherweise aber hat das Armaturenbrett unserer Wirtschaft keine «Treibstoffanzeige».

Obwohl alle Ressourcen, die wir konsumieren, von der Natur kommen, finden wir im klassischen Instrumentarium der Politik keine Anzeige, die uns sagt, wie viel Natur uns zur Verfügung steht und wie viel wir brauchen. Einzelne Angaben kennen wir zwar – zum Beispel wie viel Elektrizität wir verbrauchen, oder wie viele Autos wir fahren. Aber die Nettobilanz? Wie sieht es, aus wenn wir alles zusammenzählen? Und ist das überhaupt möglich?

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Categories: Ecological Limits, Footprint for Government


Prix Nature Swisscanto Sustainability Prize Awarded to Mathis Wackernagel

03/04/2013 07:59 PM

Around 600 guests from government, business, civil society and the arts gathered at a gala in Basel, Switzerland on Friday, March 1, to celebrate stewards of sustainability. The theme of this year’s celebration was “Nature and Culture – the Future We Want!” and the highlight of the evening was the announcement of the 2013 Prix NATURE Swisscanto Prize winners.

This Swiss Sustainability Award recognizes outstanding achievements advancing sustainable development in Switzerland and is presented in three categories: Grand Prize, Generation Future, and Beacons of Hope.

The Grand Prize was awarded to Mathis Wackernagel, President of Global Footprint Network, in recognition of co-developing Ecological Footprint accounting and helping to bring the tool to governments and institutions across the world.

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Categories: Ecological Limits


Global Footprint Network named one of the world’s best 100 NGOs by Global Journal

02/07/2013 07:36 PM

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.

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Categories: Ecological Limits


Bringing the Ecological Footprint to Asia

01/23/2013 11:33 PM

In an era of resource constraints, how can a nation support the long-term success of its economy and the well-being of its citizens, while living within ecological limits? How will leaders react to the fact that their nation, which is in ecological deficit (occurring when the Footprint of a population exceeds the biocapacity of the area available to that population), relies upon other nations that not only are also in ecological deficit themselves but that are also dependent upon other nations that are in ecological overshoot?

These are just two questions that emerge when one examines the combined findings of recent reports on the Ecological Footprint of three Asian nations—Japan, China and the Philippines. All three nations are in ecological deficit (like most others—83 percent of humanity now lives in countries where the demand on nature’s services exceeds what local ecosystems can provide).

In November, Global Footprint Network released “A Measure for Resilience: 2012 Report on the Ecological Footprint of the Philippines,” in collaboration with the Climate Change Commission of the Philippines and the French Agency for Development. It is the first such report for a Southeast Asian nation.

Global Footprint Network’s Asia Regional Director Pati Poblete and Vice President of Operations Geoff Trotter (both far right) presented the first Footprint study of a Southeast Asian nation with (from left) Elisea Gozum, the Philippines Presidential Adviser on Climate Change; Agence Francaise de Development Country Director Lucle Cabellec; France Ambassador to Philippines Gilles Garachon; Miss Earth 2011 Olga Alava; Climate Change Commission Vice Chairman Mary Ann L. Sering; and Climate Change Commissioner Naderev M. Sano. The launch took place at Malacanang Palace, the official residence of the President of the Philippines.(PNA photo Marvie A.Lloren)

The Philippines entered into ecological deficit by the 1960s, and the gap between demand and local biocapacity has been widening over time. In 2008 (the most recent year data is available), Philippine residents’ demand on nature was twice the country’s own capacity to provide biological resources and absorb its carbon emissions.

The report’s findings were presented before the Climate Change Commission, a cabinet-level stakeholder group within the Philippine national government, headed by the Office of the President and various ministries. The Commission enthusiastically and anonymously moved to adopt the findings of the report, which will be disseminated to other government agencies.

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Categories: Ecological Limits, Footprint for Government


Racing Towards Sustainability

Global Footprint Network - 01/18/2013 10:22 PM

Global Footprint Network is advancing the science of sustainability by engaging with governments and other institutions to measure and track their Ecological Footprint. We also know the importance of making sustainability accessible and exciting to the widest number of people. That’s why we are thrilled with the Sky Race World Cup—it provides a fresh and energetic, as well as beautiful, way to symbolize our striving towards sustainability (and ending ecological overshoot).

The Skyrace will feature twenty sailplanes that race 200-300 kilometers through spectacular and remote regions. By emphasizing our reliance on the sun and wind and the potential for further harnessing that power, the Sky Race World Cup transforms a sophisticated engine-less aerial world championship into an inspirational and fun way to envision a future where humanity thrives within ecological limits.

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