“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The United Nations’ HDI is an indicator of human development that measures a country’s achievements in the areas of longevity, education, and income. The Ecological Footprint is a measure of a population’s demand on nature and can be compared to the available biocapacity.
The basic premise of integrating the two into one science-based measurement framework is that sustainable human development depends on achieving great lives for all, within the resource budget available to the population. The latter means adequate access to ecological assets over the long-term. We are increasingly reminded that human welfare is critically dependent on healthy ecological assets.
The graph exemplifies the challenge of creating a high level of human well-being without depleting the planet’s or a region’s ecological resource base. As you can see, the lower right quadrant represents the goal of sustainable development, i.e., high human development, within levels of resource consumption that can be extended globally. Only very few nations have achieved entering this quadrant.
Fortunately, there are many opportunities to manage and use biocapacity more effectively and to invest in those human development programs that move countries and their people closer to the lower right quadrant, that is, global long-term sustainability.
We congratulate UNDP for clearly demonstrating the dilemma humanity faces and for its commitment to find development models that can overcome this current dilemma.
Global Footprint Network is honored in Switzerland
In early March, around 700 guests from government, business, civil society and the arts gathered at the Swisscanto NATURE gala in Basel, Switzerland, to celebrate stewards of sustainability. The theme of the 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, including the financial industry.
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?
Limitierender Faktor unserer Wirtschaft
Ja es ist. Besonders, wenn wir erkennen, was der limitierende Faktor ist. Denn dieser wird zur Währung der Analyse. Es wird immer offensichtlicher, dass der limitierende Faktor für die Wirtschaft des 21. Jahrhunderts die Regenerierfähigkeit der Natur ist. Sie wird «Biokapazität» genannt. Diese Biokapazität ist letztenendlich der limitierende Treibstoff für menschliche Aktivitäten – nicht die raren Erdmetalle. Denn mit mehr Energie können wir tiefer bohren und finden dann noch mehr Erze.
Wieso ist es nicht die kommerzielle Energie, die uns limitiert? Weil auch da die Biokapazität das Nadelöhr ist: Auch für fossile Energie ist Biokapazität – in diesem Fall die CO₂-Absorptionsfähigkeit der Natur – die limitierende Grenze. Denn würde alle schon gefundene Fossilenergie verbrannt, stiege die Treibhausgaskonzentration in der Atmosphäre auf über 1700 ppm, wie dies Wissenschaftler berechnet haben. Klimaforscher aber raten 450 ppm (oder gar 350 ppm) nicht zu übersteigen, um den weltweiten Temperaturanstieg auf zwei Grad Celsius zu beschränken. Anders gesagt: Wir haben auf diesem Planeten schon fünf mal mehr Fossilenergie gefunden als wir verbrennen können, um unter den 450 ppm zu bleiben.
Zu viele fossile Energie, zu wenig Biokapazität
Nun stellt sich die Frage, ob wir genügend Geld haben, um die Besitzer von 80 Prozent der gefundenen Fossilenergie zu entschädigen, und zwar so, dass sie diese Energie im Boden lassen? Und wie funktionierte eine Wirtschaft ohne diese Fossilenergie, die auch noch das Geld für die Entschädigungen produzieren müsste?
Das ist das Dilemma. Wir haben zu viel Fossilenergie und zu wenig Biokapazität. Wenn wir die Weisheit nicht haben, unseren Fossilenergieverbrauch zu beschränken, dann geht’s der Biokapazität an den Kragen. Haben wir aber die Weisheit, dann stellt sich die Frage, ob es genug Biokapazität gibt, um unsere Wirtschaft auch ohne Fossilenergie am Laufen zu halten? Hat unser «Flugzeug» dann genügend Treibstoff?
Biokapazität in der Schweiz
Wie steht es denn mit der Biokapazität in der Schweiz? Die Schweiz braucht viermal mehr Biokapazität als es in der Schweiz gibt. Drei Viertel der von uns beanspruchten Natur stammen netto aus dem Ausland. Das zeigt die Footprint-Buchhaltung. Die Rechnung wurde vom Schweizer Bundesamt für Statistik bestätigt.
Deutschland, zum Beispiel, braucht fast dreimal mehr Biokapazität als es in Deutschland gibt. Die Welt als ganzes braucht 50 Prozent mehr Biokapazität als die Welt hergibt. Auch das dokumentiert die Footprint-Buchhaltung.
Im Zeitalter zunehmender Ressourcenknappheit so viel von der Welt zu wollen, ist eine riskante Strategie. Besonders für Länder, in denen die Kaufkraft pro Kopf relativ zum Welteinkommen abnimmt. Wie dies zum Beispiel in der Schweiz der Fall ist.
Die Zahlen aus der Footprint-Buchhaltung sind bedeutsam. Daher haben wir Regierungen eingeladen, die Zahlen zu prüfen. In der Folge wurde die Footprint-Rechnung vom Deutschen Umweltbundesamt, dem Schweizer Bundesamt für Statistik, wie auch dem französischen Umweltministerium bestätigt. Die Gutachten sind auf dem Internet zugänglich: www.footprintnetwork.org/reviews
Was bedeuten denn die Footprint- und Biokapazitätszahlen? Primär, dass unsere Wettbewerbsfähigkeit gestärkt würde, nähmen wir unsere Ressourcensituation ernst. Oder nähmen wir Artikel 73 unserer Bundesverfassung ernst. Er rät uns, innerhalb der Möglichkeiten der Natur zu leben.
Wäre es für die Passagiere des «Flugzeugs Schweiz» nicht beruhigender, hätte dieses einen Footprint- und Biokapazitätsanzeiger auf seinem Armaturenbrett?
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.
The Ecological Footprint is the world’s premier measure of humanity’s demand on nature. The Grand Prize honors life achievements of individuals or distinguished, lasting efforts of organizations, enterprises or scientific institutions that make a contribution to sustainable development.
The other two nominees for the Grand Prize were director Markus Imhoof, whose latest film, “More Than Honey,” highlighted the great economic importance of biodiversity, and Hans Rudolf Herren, who was nominated for his pioneering work in sustainable agriculture and biological pest control.
The award in the Generation Future category was given to the organization weACT, which hosts on-line organizations where teams can compete to lower their ecological footprint. Singer and writer Endo Anaconda, of the band Stiller Has, won in the Beacons of Hope category, for raising public awareness about sustainability issues.
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.”
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).
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.
Shortly after the report launch, Climate Change Commissioner Naderev Saño represented the Philippines in Doha, Qatar, during the COP 18 climate negotiations. His impassioned plea for nations to act boldly went viral on YouTube. At the same time, his country was being hammered by Bopha/Pablo, a Category 5 super typhoon, making tens of thousands of his fellow citizens homeless and taking over a thousand lives.
“I appeal to all, please, no more delays, no more excuses. Please, let Doha be remembered as the place where we found the political will to turn things around…I ask of all of us here, if not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?” Saño said in his speech.
Mr. Saño has been a strong advocate for implementing the Ecological Footprint, understanding that it is in nations’ own interests to live within ecological limits, regardless of whether global actors take coordinated efforts.
How are the trends identified in these reports to be continued into the future, especially when combined with a growing population? There are three ways nations can run an ecological deficit: 1)by overharvesting local, domestic resources, 2)by depending on the imported biocapacity of other nations, and 3)by using the global commons for sequestering its carbon emissions.
But what does this mean if more and more nations are doing the same thing? At the very least, it means that carbon is accumulating in the atmosphere at an alarming rate and that local ecosystems are being degraded. For example, the Philippines is experiencing deforestation, declining fish stocks, and moderately to severely eroded agriculture land (according to the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture).
It can also mean that nations are putting themselves as risk as they become overly reliant on external trade partners to provide basic commodities.
For example, Japan is highly dependent on biocapacity from other nations to support its population’s needs (over a third of its total resource demand). Our 2012 Japan Ecological Footprint Report, released with WWF Japan in December, reveals that the top three nations from which Japan imports food (China, the United States and Australia) are also in ecological deficit, putting Japan at risk to food price shocks or supply disruptions. Nearly 20 percent of Japan’s total Ecological Footprint is associated with food.
Like the world as a whole, the main driver behind increases in Japan’s Ecological Footprint is carbon emissions, which equaled 64 percent of its total Ecological Footprint in 2008. By the 1990s Japan’s carbon Footprint had grown to nearly three times higher than what it was in 1961. Japan has begun to address these long-term trends; for example, it has reduced its Ecological Footprint since the mid-1990s (though it still remains high) and it adopted the Ecological Footprint as a measurement tool in 2010. It can build on this progress through innovative policy shifts.
Japan’s trading partner, China, has the largest Ecological Footprint in the world, when the total is considered. Its per capita Footprint, however, is 2.1 global hectares (gha), lower than the global average of 2.7 gha. The 2012 China Ecological Footprint Report, launched in December, reveals that this is over two times the available per capita biocapacity available within China’s borders. And it is above 1.8 gha, the biocapacity available per capita globally, which might be considered a necessary—though not sufficient—indicator of sustainability. Since the early 1970s, China’s demand on renewable resources has exceeded its ability to regenerate those resources within its own borders. China’s increasing individual consumption, largely due to a new affluent class in urban centers, has been one of the dominant drivers of higher Ecological Footprint since 2003.
Business-as-usual scenarios plus population growth projections necessarily mean these ecological deficit trends will only be exacerbated.
But by taking stock of their own resource use, nations can begin to reverse these trends. Leaders – and individuals – who understand their countries’ resources needs, limits and dependencies will be better positioned to support the long-term success of their economies and the well-being of their citizens.
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.
Planetaire, the promoters of the Skyrace, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to create a pilot for a TV documentary series called “Wings Over Sweden” (in Swedish: Vingar över Sverige). If adopted, the series will be broadcast in Sweden and internationally, and will follow four sailplane pilots who aspire to represent Sweden in the Skyrace World Cup. Pilots race their sailplanes at speeds nearing 300 kmh, powered only by solar and wind energy.
Four non-profits dedicated to sustainability will appear in the promo film in connection with one of the four pilots, with the support of the Kickstarter community. Global Footprint Network is one of the organizations, chosen from a shortlist of twenty-two. The airing of the TV series has the potential to boost the profile of Ecological Footprint work across the world. The other non-profits are Birdlife, Green Cross and Skärgårds.
The book challenges the dominant thesis of contemporary economics: Growth at any cost. Authors Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill start from the observation that the world economy, as it is currently run, is causing long-term environmental, societal and economic damage. They go on to map out alternative paths toward a steady-state economy (an economy with stable or mildly fluctuating size), one that prioritizes human well-being above growth and places economic activity squarely within ecological limits.
The authors argue compellingly that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a rather poor indicator of progress, ignoring significant aspects of human flourishing as well as externalizing costs such as air pollution or soil degradation. Several alternatives indicators to GDP are taking off. Among those mentioned in the book are the European Commission’s Beyond GDP initiative, the OECD’s Better Life Initiative, the Ecological Footprint, the Genuine Progress Indicator, the U.K.‘s Sustainable Development Indicators, the Happy Planet Index, and the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress launched by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Indeed, the Ecological Footprint is one tool for helping nations move beyond the narrow GDP-focus that is helping to exacerbate the trends of ecological overshoot over the past few decades. As the authors say, “‘We manage what we measure’ is a cliché often uttered in business boardrooms, but it rings true. You could also say that we ‘mismanage what we mismeasure.’” Insofar as we are not measuring our demand on and capacity to provide ecological resources, we are mismanaging not only our economies, but our future.
Dietz is editor of Daly News and was the first director of CASSE (Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy); O’Neill is lecturer in ecological economics at the University of Leeds and the chief economist at CASSE.