Global Footprint Network is pleased to announce that licenses for 2010 National Footprint Accounts are now available. The licenses provide complete the underlying data and calculations for each country published in the National Accounts and are available in a number of editions, some fee-based and some free of charge.
Some 50 square meters of parkland per inhabitant. A food-for-trash program that supports a 70-percent citywide recycling rate: the highest in the world. A public transportation system that carries 1.9 million riders a day, 70 percent of commuter traffic. A vast network of open space, mowed by grass-nibbling sheep, that serves as flood control and offers an attractive alternative to concrete canals.
These are just a few of the attributes that make Curitiba, Brazil something of an Emerald City for green development.
A report on Japan’s Ecological Footprint, which identifies leading areas of ecological demand and offers policy recommendations to address them, has generated considerable interest in the country. The Japan Ecological Footprint Report was released this August in Tokyo to an audience of journalists and environment ministry representatives. Findings have been covered by more than 50 print and online news outlets, including a feature in Asahi, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 8.22 million.
Sustainability is an intrinsic part of people’s ability to live satisfying lives according to the United Nations Development Programme—which is why, for the first time it has included the Ecological Footprint in its annual Human Development Report. (Download the report here.) It has also developed an interactive tool on its Web site that allows users to apply a suite of indicators— including Ecological Footprint—to build their own development index. The tool allows users to create unique country rankings and comparisons based on the indicators they find most important. (Click here to build your own development index.)
Peru’s recently-formed Ministry of Environment has stated its interest in adopting the Ecological Footprint.
As one of the world most geographically and biologically diverse countries, Peru boasts an interesting distinction: it is the only country that falls within a one-planet Ecological Footprint while meeting the UN’s minimum threshold for “high human development.” In recent years the country has experienced its highest economic growth ever and seen significant reductions in poverty. Even so, Peru faces constraints on critical resources, such as water, that threaten these gains. It also faces key social challenges, such as chronic malnutrition and regional poverty rates that top 60 percent in some places. Here, the need is especially keen to increase quality of life in a way that does not spur resource shortages.
A satellite image taken by Google Earth offers this telling visualization of our impact on the planet—a giant green boot print on a snowy field. The image is part of a campaign by 350.org to create art large enough to be seen from space, an effort to draw attention to the scope of the climate challenge. The piece, organized by the Vancouver Public Space Network, was created by more than 100 people who gathered in sub-zero temperatures early one morning holding aloft green umbrellas.
(and waiting for consensus might waste your future) By Mathis Wackernagel
As world leaders head into the final days of climate talks in Cancun, it is time to put to right a misperception that for too long has shackled our approach to this vital issue. The error is simply this: Taking action is a burden some nations will need to shoulder for the good of the world – rather than the single best action each nation can take to further its own long-term interests.
The question by governments of “What’s in it for me?” has up to now been a major stumbling block to international agreement. But if leaders and their administrations truly understood the underlying resource dynamics, they would have the exact opposite approach. They would see it is in their self-interest to act quickly and aggressively, whatever the actions taken by their global neighbors. In fact, each country’s own actions will become more urgent and valuable the less others do.
Why would it be in any individual country’s interest to address a problem whose costs are ultimately born by all of humanity? Consider the nature of the carbon problem.
Climate change, first and foremost, is a consequence of high fossil fuel dependence. Even though climate change is a global problem, the fossil fuel dependence that contributes to it carries growing economic risks for the emitting country. Working our way out of this addiction takes time, and the longer we wait to radically rethink and retool our societies, the less chance we will have to alter course.
But there is another important piece of the picture beyond fossil fuel. Climate change is not an issue in isolation, but rather, a symptom of a broader challenge: humanity’s systematic overuse of the planet’s finite resources.
Our natural systems can only generate a finite amount of raw materials (fish, trees, crops, etc.) and absorb a finite amount of waste (such as carbon dioxide emissions). Global Footprint Network quantifies this rate of output through a measure called biocapacity. Biocapacity is as measurable as GDP – and, ultimately, far more significant, as access to basic living resources underlies every economic activity a society can undertake.
Up to now, we have treated biocapacity as an essentially limitless flow, to the point that our demand for nature’s services now outstrips biocapacity by 50 percent, according to Global Footprint Network’s latest research . This approach has been an integral part of the climate crisis, as with every hectare of forest we clear for raw materials, built-up land or other land-uses (such as grazing or cropland), we reduce the Earth’s ability to absorb CO2 and regulate climate.
Ecological trends suggest, however that we will soon be facing another crunch: biocapacity.
Consider this: No matter which way the future goes, whether we avoid climate disaster or we continue with business as usual, increasing consumption, population and CO2 emission, the pressure on biocapacity will escalate— and having access to biocapacity will earn ever higher premiums.
The Climate Accord vs. the Runaway Scenario
The US President, European heads of state and other G-20 leaders have affirmed the need to stay within a 2º Celsius climate alteration (at a minimum) to avoid widespread calamity. Some climate models point to a 350 ppm limit for CO2 in the atmosphere in order to achieve this – less than the carbon concentration we have today. Yet even if we aim for the more conservative target of 450 ppm, this would call for shifting out of fossil fuel, and a wholesale restructuring of the way we produce and use energy. But hardly anybody admits this mathematical truth.
Even with significant development of wind and solar power technologies, if we want to have the amount and ease of choice around energy availability we have enjoyed up to now, we will need to rely to some extent on fuels from biological sources. Add to that the resources needed to provide for a growing population, a swelling middle class, and the two billion alive today who lack enough to meet basic needs. It is clear, even with a strong climate accord, biocapacity will be under pressure as never before.
And what if we don’t succeed in heading off climate change? Biocapacity will become even more vulnerable and, in all likelihood, subject to staggering declines. With crops failing and drought widespread, the failure of an international cooperation will set a poor stage for negotiating the distribution of dwindling resources. Those countries whose economies depend most on access to massive amounts of resources – especially resources from abroad – will find themselves particularly vulnerable.
Winning – or losing – the Earth Race
In a world facing a biocapacity crunch, the winning economic strategies will be preserving biocapacity on the one hand, and reducing demand for it on the other. And here’s a bit of good news: those also happen to be leading strategies for minimizing climate change.
Many believe the race to develop green technology – what columnist Thomas Friedman has dubbed the “Earth Race”— will bring the spoils of the future to the early movers and adopters, and secure innovative nations and enterprises with positions of advantage on the global stage. This is the carrot pushing green innovation. But there is an even more powerful stick. Those countries and cities trapped in energy- and resource-intensive infrastructure will not be able to adapt in time to meet the emerging resource constraints.
In the face of a failure to reach agreement at Cancun, individual countries will have to do more to curb their resource demand in order to assure their long-term stability and security. The lack of agreement won’t give us a break from taking action—on the contrary, it will force us to work significantly harder.
If our leaders understood this, the discussion at global climate talks would take an entirely new direction. As Cancun draws to a close, we are not calling on leaders simply to do what’s needed for the good of other nations. Rather, we are asking them to come to the table mindful of what they must do to responsibly serve their own.
How can we provide well for the world’s people without bankrupting the natural systems that underlie all economic (and human) activities? The key, according to a new report by the Center for a Steady State Economy and based on input from leading economists, lies in shifting our economic systems from those based on the idea of more to those based on that of enough.
Humanity is now using nature’s services 50 percent faster than what Earth can renew, reveals the 2010 edition of the Living Planet Report – the leading survey of the planet’s health.
The biennial report, produced by WWF in collaboration with Global Footprint Network and the Zoological Society of London, was released today at the Wild Screen Film Festival in Bristol, U.K. Coming just days before leaders of the world’s governments meet in Nagoya, Japan to set a new agenda for addressing species loss, the report details alarming biodiversity declines along with a rapid escalation of human demand that is far outstripping nature’s regenerative capacity.
“The dwindling health of the world’s species is no surprise considering how much of nature’s services humanity is taking for its own use,” said Mathis Wackernagel, President of Global Footprint Network. “Ultimately, enabling biodiversity to thrive will require bringing human demand for nature’s services to a level Earth can sustainably supply.”
Just what do terms like biodiversity, the Ecological Footprint and ecosystem services actually mean? WWF provides lighthearted answers with this animated short film, narrated by British comic Stephen Merchant. The film was shown at the Wild Screen Film Festival in Bristol as part of the launch of the Living Planet Report 2010.
How do we define progress? In a speech to TED talks, new economics foundation Statician Nic Marks challenges the notion that benchmarks such as GDP, focused on how much we produce, tell us anything about the welfare of a nation. He proposes a new way of measuring progress, one based on country’s success at providing happy, healthy lives for their citizens, while preserving the natural capital that will make such lives possible for the next generation. “When economics deals with a scare resource, it thinks in terms of efficiency. How much bang do we get for our buck. The Happy Planet Index is ultimately an efficiency measure: How much well-being we get for our planetary resource use.” Learn which countries fare the best by this measure of success.
It has taken humanity less than nine months to exhaust its ecological budget for the year, according to Global Footprint Network calculations.
Tomorrow, August 21, we will reach Earth Overshoot Day: the day of the year in which human demand on the biosphere exceeds what it can regenerate. As of that day, humanity will have demanded all the ecological services – from filtering CO2 to producing the raw materials for food – that nature can regenerate this year. For the rest of the year, we will meet our ecological demand by depleting resource stocks and accumulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
“If you spent your entire annual income in nine months, you would probably be extremely concerned,” said Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel. “The situation is no less dire when it comes to our ecological budget. Climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, water and food shortages are all clear signs: We can no longer finance our consumption on credit. Nature is foreclosing.”
With the richest biodiversity in the world per hectare, Ecuador has abundant natural capital. But in the last 50 years, it’s ecological surplus has dwindled to almost zero. Its Ecological Footprint currently is almost equal to its biocapacity, the amount of resources the land and sea area within its borders is able to produce.
Dania Quirola Suarez, Advisor to the National Secretary of Planning and Development of Ecuador, told attendees of an important step Ecuador has taken to address its ecological balance sheet. It has included the metric in its National Development Plan, setting a target to reduce the nation’s Footprint to a level at or below biocapacity by 2013.
In keeping with that commitment, Ecuador has launched a plan to keep 846 million barrels of oil under the Amazon rainforest permanently in the ground, Suarez told attendees. The plan would keep 407 metric tones of CO2 out of the atmosphere, and preserve one million acres of forest preserved. It also preserves the livelihood of those belonging to the indigenous cultures from the region. “In this way, we can move from an extractive economy to sustainable development, that includes broader use of energy sources and increasing social equity,” Suarez said.
The United Arab Emirates is one of the countries with the largest deficits between “income” in the form of biocapacity and “expenses” of resources, Razan Al Mubarak, Director, Emirates Wildlife Society, told attendees. In 2007, the country adopted a national Ecological Footprint Initiative to address that gap.
In the latter 20th century, the UAE enjoyed explosive economic growth, largely due to the production of oil and gas, and that wealth has helped support some of the largest per-capita resource consumption in the world. On the other hand, the country has very low biocapacity, and must import most of its resources from abroad. When UAE leaders learned the country topped the world in per-capita Ecological Footprint, they were at first skeptical of the data, Mubarak said. But with support from local NGOs advancing the Footprint Initiative, “there became increasing understanding of and support for the data. From there, there became fantastic momentum toward, ‘what are we going to do about it?’
The Mediterranean region has been rocked this year by an economic crisis resulting from over-extension of financial resources. But Greece, Italy and other countries of the Mediterranean face another yawning deficit – an ecological deficit – that poses deep-seeded risks to the region’s long-term success. On the opening day of Footprint Forum, Global Footprint Network announced the launch of its Mediterranean Initiative to address and potentially reverse this trend.
The Charles University Environment Center, a Global Footprint Network partner, is organizing a ConAccount international conference entitled “Urban metabolism: measuring the ecological city”. The conference, which will include a section on measuring the Ecological Footprint of cities, will take place in Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic on 11-12 September 2008. The organizers have announced a call for abstracts, due on 15 March. For more information on the event, see the conference website.
Global Footprint Network partner WWF Cymru has launched an ambitious ‘One Planet Wales’ Campaign to move Welsh citizens towards high quality, low Footprint lives – with the goal of living within the means of one planet by 2050. Central to the campaign is the recently released One Planet Wales report, authored by WWF Cymru and the Centre for Urban and Regional Ecology, University of Manchester. The report outlines the path forward to reach the 75% reduction in Wales’ Ecological Footprint that will be required to meet the 2050 target.
Radiohead, a well-known British rock-band, recently commissioned Global Footprint Network partner Best Foot Forward (BFF) to analyze the band’s Footprint and help reduce their tour’s carbon emissions. BFF’s report shows that transport, how fans get to Radiohead’s shows, is the most important lever for reducing the tour’s Footprint.
This fall our Executive Director, Mathis Wackernagel, received an Honorary Doctorate in natural sciences from the University of Bern in Switzerland for “developing and promoting the internationally recognized method of the Ecological Footprint; for authoring numerous scientific and popular media contributions to the topic of ecological carrying capacity and sustainability; and for being an inexhaustible Footprint spokesperson on all continents and founder of the Global Footprint Network and bringing together scientists and politicians.” Wackernagel was the youngest recipient and accepted his honorary PhD at an awards Ceremony in Bern last month.
The Ecological Footprint as a sustainability indicator adds an important dimension to GDP, and should have equal weight in guiding policy. Such is the conclusion of a committee convened by the European Commission to research policy instruments that could support more balanced decision-making than GDP alone.
After completing a thorough, two-year review and update to the methodology for calculating national Footprints, Global Footprint Network has published three resources supporting the 2008 Edition of the National Footprint Accounts. They present comprehensive results, provide a step-by-step guide to the equations and calculations, and offer complete transparency of the source data.
An engine of economic activity in China, Hong Kong is also a major center of resource consumption in the country, according to a study released this month by Global Footprint Network and WWF.
At 4.4 global hectares per person, Hong Kong residents have an Ecological Footprint twice that typical for China as a whole. Hong Kong also has one of the greatest ecological deficits in the world, according to Hong Kong Ecological Footprint Report: Living Beyond Our Means. The report details Hong Kong’s resource use and its role in the overall ecological picture of China – a country that now ties the U.S. as the largest user of the world’s biocapacity.
A Sustainable Investment Firm’s Response to the Financial Crisis
Environmental concerns tend to take a back seat in tough economic times. But at least one asset management firm is taking exactly the opposite tack – stressing that now, more than ever, sound investing means adequately valuing the underlying natural assets upon which all our economic systems depend.
“So far, the economic crisis we are facing has been explained by financial leverage,” said Carsten Henningsen, co-founder of the global sustainability fund Portfolio 21. “However, there is a direct link between the financial crisis and the ecological crisis. To the extent that ecological limits place limits on the growth rates of earnings, stock prices will fall.”
Recent headlines such as “A Measure Remodeled” (Financial Times) and “Time to Order a New Economic Order” (the Huffington Post) reflect a growing call to reform GDP, our standard measure of economic performance. On Huffington Post, a popular political news Web site, an article read: “Most, if not all, ministers of finance and conventional economists don’t account for how the planet works, or even that the economy exists on a finite planet.”
Africa: Ecological Footprint Factbook 2009, released in February, was the latest result of that ongoing initiative. The 20-page report features three countries: Egypt, Tanzania and Zambia, and includes Ecological Footprint and biocapacity trends, as well as guest perspectives on each country’s environmental issues and challenges.
On the shores of Zambia’s Lake Bangweulu, 26 young women stooped by the water with an assortment of gadgets, learning how take measurements of pH, depth, visibility, current and temperature. One student lowered a rope with a brick on the end and used it to gauge depth. Another used a clear, flat instrument called a secchi disk to measure visibility, while a third navigated the position of each data point using a GPS.
Kicking off an initiative that could redefine how we value and negotiate resources in the 21st century, key policy experts and opinion leaders met April 10 in Lima, Peru, for the first workshop of Global Footprint Network’s Ecological Creditor Initiative. World Bank representatives, policy experts and opinion leaders met with representatives from Global Footprint Network and the Community of Andean Nations to begin a series of workshops on the growing significance of biocapacity and its potential for competitive advantage in a resource-constrained world.
Global Footprint Network has been named a Phoenix 50 organization, one of “50 pioneers in the business of social innovation” that can enable humanity to emerge from the economic crisis with a society better adapted to our global challenges.
“Humanity is brushing up against ecological limits”, “natural resources are dwindling”, “unsustainable consumption increases” – whatever the chosen term or headline, the fact is that the concept of overshoot has gotten a lot of media attention recently. The past few months have seen stories in The New Yorker, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journalamong others, all reflecting a growing awareness that carbon is only part of the overshoot story.
What does the word “footprint” mean? Today, it’s likely to refer less to the tread mark your sneaker leaves in the dirt, and more to the imprint you’ll leave on the planet. So says word maven William Safire in a recent “On Language” column in the New York Times Magazine. In the February 17 column, Safire traces the word’s journey from its literal meaning to the metaphoric significance it has gained in recent years as a measure of environmental impact.
As the second fastest-growing Canadian city with a population that has grown 13 percent in five years, Calgary finds itself at a critical moment. City leaders are faced with making infrastructure and planning decisions that will shape the way residents live for years to come and are looking to balance the needs of citizens with a growing concern about the city’s use of natural resources. The government has launched an Ecological Footprint project with Global Footprint Network that will help officials understand the ecological impacts of these decisions – and move in a direction that provides the most ecologically sustainable future for its citizens.
In Deep Economy, renowned environmental journalist and climate activist Bill McKibben has done more than simply write a catchy page-turner; he has created a blueprint for bringing humanity out of overshoot. McKibben weaves evidence of our ecological crisis (including Footprint data) with explorations of the history and psychology of our growth-based economy and “hyper-individualist” culture. Clearly but gently, he shows how global economic expansion has become our culture’s mantra, yet is simply not an option if humans are to survive this era of global overshoot.
Since our inception in 2004, Global Footprint Network has invited organizations with shared goals to partner with us in strengthening the Footprint and enhancing its value as a catalyst for sustainability. We began with just 12 founding partners and have expanded to well over 80 organizations with the common vision of ending overshoot.
Among the many benefits of educating girls in Africa is its potential for reducing population pressure, Camfed International Director Ann Cotton said at the Footprint Forum Conference public day. Girls’ education has moved center stage from being viewed as a gender and equality issue to one that is increasingly seen as central to global security and the elimination of poverty, Cotton said. “Every child is born to a mother, and when a child is born to a mother who is not educated, that child is at a disadvantage from the start.”
The world’s economic powers are engaged in a new wave of outsourcing – one that poses a stark distinction with that of manufacturing in the 1980s, and information technology in the 1990s, according to a recent report in The Economist (“Buying Farmland Abroad: Outsourcing’s Third Wave,” May 23, 2009). Concerned by recent world food shortages, rich governments are buying up tracks of land in foreign (mostly low-income) countries to ensure continued access to food and other vital agricultural resources.
Feeding the 9 billion people projected by mid-century is possible, but doing so will require major economic and political changes, Juan Gonzales-Valero of agri-business leader Syngenta said on the second day at the conference. Gonzales-Valero presented the findings of Vision 2050, an effort by the World Business Council of Sustainable Development, representing 29 of the world’s most influential companies, to develop pathways to a one-planet economy by 2050.
The world is headed toward a no-growth economy, but how the transition is managed will make the difference between whether that correction is drastic or benign. This warning came from economist Hannes Kunzon tat a plenary discussion on rethinking growth. “We don’t have to rethink growth,” Kunz said. “Growth is going to go away.”
Countries with healthy ecological balance sheets make for safer investments and will be better able to meet their debt obligations—so says Balacz Magyar, a representative of Swiss-based private banking firm Sarasin Bank. The bank, with 63.2 billion worth of assets under management, has implemented a system of rating country bonds based on sustainability and Ecological Footprint. Countries are required to meet a minimum resource efficiency and availability threshold to be eligible for inclusion in certain portfolios. “We believe that only these countries will be able to pursue the economic activities they will need to pay back their debts in the long-run,” said Balazs Magyar, Head of Sustainable Investment Portfolio Management for Sarasin. High foreign and public debt means conceding future resources to someone else, he said, and the issue is similar for ecological as for economic debt.
There is no cheap-oil future for us, and if humanity doesn’t make the transition to a sustainable energy source, Mother Nature will. Robert Rapier, Chief Technology Officer of Merica International, issued this warning during an opening presentation at Footprint Forum aimed at providing a briefing in some of the ways we are hitting ecological limits.
According to Rapier, we are reaching the point at which rising human demand for oil is outpacing our ability to discover new sources of oil. As populations grows and large segments of humanity seek to improve their standard of living, supply will simply not be able to keep up with demand, driving the price of oil up and availability down.
According to Rapier, peak oil—when oil production rates begin an irreversible decline – will have a direct effect on global warming. “When there’s a decline in oil production, the first thing we do is turn to coal plants and tar sands,” he said. “We will demand that because we have built a society on cheap oil. But eventually fossil fuels will run out.” That would address the problem of climate change, he said, but most likely not in the way people would like to see it solved.
“Politicians are caught in a dilemma between political suicide and ecological suicide,” Dr. Mathis Wackernagel told the gathering of 200 scientists, economists, and government and business leaders during Footprint Forum’s opening plenary session. What most policy-makers have failed to realize is that those countries that can maintain a positive ecological balance will have a large advantage in a world facing climate change and ecological limits, he said. United Nations Environment Programme representative Haroldo Mattos de Lemos put it another way: “Businesses plan for next decade. Governments plan for the next election.”
But some countries are already taking action to address their ecological balance sheet, and attendees heard from two such countries: the UAE which has very low biocapacity and yet has the highest per capita Ecological Footprint in the world, and Ecuador, which has an extremely rich biocapacity that it wants to maintain.
Swiss-based Bank Sarasin has developed a new country bond rating that could shift the way investors think about sovereign bonds – and the way governments think about their own ecological balance sheets. The evaluation is based upon a simple, but somewhat novel premise: given current ecological trends, a country’s use and availability of resources will play an important role in its ability to make good on future debt obligations.
Global Footprint Network’s Call for Abstracts for the Footprint Forum Conference received an overwhelming response, with more than 90 abstracts submitted. Copies of the abstracts will be soon be available for download from our Web.
Ten abstracts were selected to be presented at the Forum, and many more will be presented in poster form. Topics include:
• Integrated the Ecological Footprint into a “Footprint Family” of Indicators
• Interregional cap and Trade Using the Ecological Footprint
• Managing Trade with Ecological Footprint Analysis
• Ecological Footprint vs. Biocapacity of world regions: A Geopolitical Interpretation
“Amazonia is news. It concerns everyone,” award-winning online news service O Eco Amazonia writes on its Web site. In 2004, the O Eco Association was launched with the goal of providing decision-makers up-to-date information on this critical ecological region.
During the last five years, the Web site has grown into one of the most celebrated environmental news services in Brazil. Now, it has joined Global Footprint Network as a partner. Through the collaboration, O Eco will host a monthly column by Global Footprint Network on regional topics including the Ecological Footprint, sugarcane ethanol, the Brazilian Century, and “biocapacity issues: Mexico vs. Brazil.” The site will also feature the Brazilian personal Ecological Footprint calculator.
More than one-third of the indicators in the Council’s report establish baselines of information for the first time, providing a reliable way to measure progress in the future. One of these indicators is the Ecological Footprint, which indicates pressure on biodiversity by measuring human demand on ecosystems.
In April, Hawai’i Preparatory Academy opened its new Energy Lab, a unique facility designed to educate and inspire students about the concepts of sustainable living. The opening was a fitting setting for the kickoff of another initiative: Footprint Futures, a program by Global Footprint Network and HPA in which high school students learn the principles of Ecological Footprint accounting.
Global Footprint Network’s most recent Ecological Footprint and biocapacity figures are presented, along with arresting images, quotes and graphics, in a new report: The Ecological Wealth of Nations: Earth’s biocapacity as a new framework for international cooperation. The report presents Ecological Footprint and biocapacity time series graphs for more than 100 nations and the world as a whole. It discusses the increasing role biocapacity will play in countries’ long-term health and their ability to provide a high quality of life for their citizens. The report was released during an event co-hosted by BioRegional on April 12 at BioRegional Quintain in London.
This morning opened the Footprint Forum 2010 conference in Colle di Val d’Elsa.
Leaders of government, business, and development agencies will be gathering along with leading scientists and academics to discuss current ecological trends and what they mean for long-term economic and regional competitiveness. Follow the discussions at the Forum on our blog, www.footprintnetwork.org/blog, where we will be reporting on the key issues from the conference.
A new video from Emirates Wildlife Society – WWF brings the concept of the Ecological Footprint to life, with animated newspaper cutouts that tell a colorful story about the effects of excessive resource consumption.
World leaders have failed to deliver commitments made in 2002 to reduce the global rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, and have instead overseen alarming declines in biodiversity. Such were the findings published this month in the leading journal Science, in an article co-authored by Global Footprint Network Senior Scientist Dr. Alessandro Galli.
The report represents the first assessment of how the targets made through the 2002 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have not been met. At that convention, the world’s governments vowed to halt the rate of species declines by 2010.
Global Footprint Network applauds this effort and congratulates the Commission for taking a crucial step toward answering that question through its release of the Stiglitz Report. The report synthesizes the complex field of economic performance and social progress indicators and substantiates the voices of early pioneers like Hazel Henderson and Hermann Daly.
With this report, there is now wide agreement that humanity’s success in the 21st century depends largely on robust navigational tools. The report has built a productive platform for further discussions. However, there is still much work to do. The report points out that there is no consensus yet as to which indicators provide the greatest value, and how they should be applied in guiding public policy.
A front page article in the New York Times this week discusses how Gulf states are making a major push to be leaders of alternative energy. The article states that Abu Dhabi, a state of the United Arab Emirates, plans to invest $15 billion renewable energy – the same amount President-elect Obama has proposed investing in the entire United States.
It may seem strange that an oil-rich country like the United Arab Emirates – known for its energy-intensive lifestyle – should be a standard bearer for renewable fuels. But the UAE’s leaders have shown a far-sightedness in understanding the risks of their resource reliance. Yes, the United Arab Emirates narrowly surpasses the United States as having the world’s largest per capita Ecological Footprint.. But rather than being fearful and getting dismissive about their resource dependency, the UAE’s leaders have addressed this danger, through initiatives like its national Ecological Footprint Initiative (Al Basama Al Beeiya), with which it has been working with Global Footprint Network since 2007.
Such thinking is also driving the investment in alternative resources. Oil may have built the country’s wealth. But the only way to preserve it may be to lead the world on solar.
In a world in which the traditional ways of valuing investments have proven less-than-reliable in recent months, Swiss investment firm Pictet Asset Management is gaining traction with a new type of bond fund: one which rates countries based on their ability to provide a high quality of life at a minimal ecological cost.
Global Footprint Network has launched the latest addition to its popular Ecological Footprint calculator with data specific to Switzerland. Click here to take the quiz.
Users walk an avatar through a Swiss countryside, answering questions about their consumption and lifestyle habits. At the end of the quiz they learn how much of the Earth’s resources it takes to support their lifestyle and what they can do to get closer to living within the means of our one planet. The Swiss version includes new, updated features to the Footprint calculator, including functionality in English .German, French and Italian languages.
The application was launched in partnership with WWF Switzerland as part of its campaign on environmental behavior, which for the past six years has featured the Ecological Footprint. This campaign has reached half a million people, and with the help of Global Footprint Network will now help the public understand their natural resource impact. According to WWF Switzerland, the calculator presents an attractive and illuminating tool that will engage people to optimize their every day behavior and reduce the Footprint. The Swiss calculator will be the first European dot on Global Footprint Network’s global calculator map.
For WWF Switzerland the footprint calculator is a valuable and attractive complementary tool that helps motivate people to participate in the various activities WWF Switzerland offers people to optimize their everyday behavior and reduce their Footprint.
Global Footprint Network is inviting corporate, government, and NGO partners to help expand the calculator to include additional features and locations. Please contact Meredith Stechbart, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you would like to be involved or would like the calculator customized for your organization.
Global Footprint Network will join hundreds of NGOs, businesses, government leaders and citizens at Climate Week NY˚C this September, calling on world leaders to secure an ambitious, fair and binding global deal in Copenhagen. Climate Week NY˚C is a series of high-level meetings, panel discussions, cultural events and public engagements to address and underscore the urgency for action on climate change.
Climate Week, which runs September 19 to 26, was born out of the recognition that, for one week in September, New York City will play host to important events seventy days prior to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen on December 7-18. These events include:
- UN Secretary-General’s day long summit on Climate Change
- Carbon Disclosure Projects’ 2009 report release
- Clinton Global Initiative
The weeklong series of events is a partnership between The Climate Group, United Nations, UN Foundation,City of New York, the tcktcktck campaign and Carbon Disclosure Project.
As part of the Climate Week program, Global Footprint Network’s Executive Director Mathis Wackernagel will present a lecture at New York University exploring the link between the Ecological Footprint and Climate Change, and how the Footprint framework can provide the strategic motive for government action. The lecture is free and open to the public. Click here for details.
Global Footprint Network has launched versions of its Web site in German, French, and Spanish, with versions in Portuguese and Italian version to go live this month, and plans to add Japanese and Arabic by the end of the year. Users simply go to the language bar at the top of the home page and select the version they wish to view.
As a measure of economic performance, GDP should be relegated to the “dustbin of history,” says Eric Zencey in a New York Times Op Ed. Among its liabilities, the indicator fails to place adequate value on ecological services, Zencey says, which are are less expensive than built capital services yet in the long term far more essential to human well-being (not to mention other species). Basing policy on GDP has caused us to pursue a perverse strategy of replacing the efficient and often free services offered by nature (such as sun-drying of clothes, propogation of fish and natural flood control) with resource- and cost-intensive industrial services (such as machine drying of clothes, fish farms, and levees and dams) that liquidate our natural wealth.
CNN’s Josh Levs observed Earth Day by taking Global Footprint Network’s Ecological Footprint quiz on national television. “This is one of the best features that we discovered this week on Earth Day,” he says, as he walks viewers through the quiz, answering questions and determining how many planets it takes to support his lifestyle. (Answer: 4.8)
The past year has been a challenging one for the world, filled with environmental news such as soaring food prices and climate change impacts that reflect the growing human and economic costs of overshoot. But it has also been a year in which the global community has truly begun to mobilize to meet our ecological challenges. Read about the work Global Footprint Network is doing on almost every continent to take advantage of this critical moment and push the shift toward a sustainable world economy.
Data on resource limits will be the critical intelligence for the 21st century, Mathis and Susan say in a Global X interview sponsored by the Skoll World Forum. The two discuss why they launched Global Footprint Network. “Our work is so much data driven, and yet it’s so much about life,” Susan says. “And it’s not about future generations anymore. It’s about my life, our son’s life,” Mathis reflects.
The Standards have been designed to ensure that Footprint analyses are produced consistently and according to community-proposed best practices. They aim to certify that assessments are conducted and communicated in a way that is accurate and transparent, by providing Standards and Guidelines on such issues as use of source data, derivation of conversion factors, establishment of study boundaries, and communication of findings. The Standards are applicable to all Footprint studies, including sub-national populations, products, and organizations. Global Footprint Network asks that all Partners comply with the most recent Ecological Footprint Standards, in order to promote the quality and integrity of Ecological Footprint Accounting.
The Natural Step, an international non-profit dedicated to education, advisory work and research in sustainable development, has joined Global Footprint Network as a Partner. The Natural Step Framework provides a comprehensive, science-based definition of sustainability and links it to real world applications.
A recent issue of Ecological Economics (Vol. 68, Issue 7), the journal of the International Society of Ecological Economics, features a special section on Ecological Footprint analysis. Edited by Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel, the issue focuses on advancements in Footprint methodology and includes articles by Global Footprint Network research staff and partners. Aticles include a proposed method for incorporating methane into Ecological Footprint analysis, a comparison of Ecological Footprint and water footprint analysis, and a research agenda for improving the National Footprint Accounts. Click here to see a preview of the issue.
Costa Rica tops the list of countries able to provide long and happy lives for its citizens on a low Ecological Footprint, according to the Happy Planet Index, released this month by nef (the new economics foundation), a Global Footprint Network partner. Created as an alternative yardstick to economic-growth based measures of social progress, the Happy Planet Index (HPI) is designed to measure the ecological efficiency with which countries provide a high quality of life for their citizens.
Environmentalist Peter Seidel, who has authored two non-fiction books dealing with human demand on nature, takes a different approach for exploring the consequences of ecological consumption with a new novel out in paperback, 2045: A Vision of Our Future.
At recent workshops in Lima and Bogota, Global Footprint Network explored the implications of ecological limits and biocapacity for the global climate negotiations at Copenhagen and beyond. The workshops were part of multi-day seminars on climate change organized by the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership and sponsored by the British Foreign Commonwealth Office.
How can we move beyond measuring economic expansion to broader indicators of progress that assess whether countries are providing for human well-being in a meaningful and lasting way? This question is the focus of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress created by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and chaired by Nobel Prize winning-economists Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz of Columbia University and Professor Amartya Sen of Harvard.
With Earth Overshoot Day rapidly approaching, Global Footprint Network has launched a Twitter campaign to raise public awareness of ecological overshoot and encourage people to take action to end it. The campaign sends mini text and email messages, or “tweets,” with daily news, facts, suggestions and thought-provoking ideas. The campaign is designed to reach out to the nearly 14 million Twitter users, largely representing the under-35 demographic – the heirs to our current environmental policies and mounting ecological debt.
Click here to follow Global Footprint Network on Twitter.
What correlations are their between adult literacy and Ecological Footprint? Between population and energy use? The Trendalyzer tool, now available at the Global Footprint Network Web site, allows users to explore how various statistics relating to environmental impact (such as carbon emissions, energy use and Ecological Footprint), and quality of life (such as infant mortality, literacy, income and life expectancy) interact and inter-relate. Users are able to chose from dozens of publically-available data sets and chart how those factors relate to one another over time and geographic realms.
Later this month, Global Footprint Network will release its 2009 National Footprint Accounts, with the latest data on the Ecological Footprint and biocapacity of over 100 nations and humanity as a whole.
EcosSistemas, a Brazil-based environmental consulting firm, has embraced the Ecological Footprint as a tool uniquely suited to a rising concern: how to manage competing demands on Brazil’s lush, but increasingly pressured, biocapacity.
What can a hyper-industrialized nation with one of the most resource-intensive economies in the world do to cut its Ecological Footprint? Recently, Global Footprint Network and researchers from the United Arab Emirates began a project to test scenarios for policies to cut the UAE’s per capita Ecological Footprint, currently the highest in the world.
No matter how we define sustainability, National Geographic says in a special issue out this month, it must reflect this simple truth: “We are a species of unlimited appetites living on a planet with limited resources.”
EarthPulse: State of the Earth 2010, which opens with a full page of Global Footprint Network data, offers the clearest endorsement yet by a mainstream publication of the idea of sustainability as living within the means of one planet. The issue reflects a growing understanding that the crisis of climate change is a symptom of a larger problem: humanity’s growing metabolism of resources, and the strain that is putting on our natural systems.
According to Lester Brown’s Plan B, 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, human pressure on nature has reached the point that we risk a global threat to that most basic of resources: food. “The world is entering a new food era, one marked by rising food prices, growing numbers of hungry people, and emerging politics of food scarcity,” asserts Brown, who is director of the Earth Policy Institute.
The Ecological Footprint can be understood as simply as a family budget, according to a new video released by the Community of Andean Nations (CAN).
The CAN and its member nations – Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Peru – began working with Global Footprint Network in early 2009 on an initiative to maintain one of the CAN region’s richest and most important assets: its natural resource base. The initiative seeks to demonstrate the interdependence between a country’s natural wealth, its economic health and, ultimately, the well-being of its people.
On April 22, 1970, the first observation of Earth Day took place, a massive series of gatherings, demonstrations and discussions across the U.S. that many credit as the birth of the modern environmental movement. An oil spill off the California coast was the event that triggered U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson to launch Earth Day – but concerns about environmental health and the detrimental effects of industrialization were growing, over issues such as pesticide use, oil spills, poor air quality, pollution, loss of wilderness to development and declining biodiversity. Heralded as a resounding success, the first Earth Day resulted in the implementation of a number of U.S. environmental policies, and the movement quickly went global.
Yet today, the environmental challenges we face dwarf those that touched off that first celebration. And the planet we honor on Earth Day is a far different place from that of just four decades ago.
World population has almost doubled, from 3.7 billion to 6.9 billion. The amount of land paved over to build houses, cities and roads has increased 75 percent, from 228 million hectares to 400 million global hectares, according to Global Footprint Network’s 2009 National Footprint Accounts. The amount of productive forest land required for fuelwood, for paper and timber products, has gone up 53 percent to close to 2 billion global hectares. The productive land and sea area we need for food – for fishing, crops and grazing our livestock – has increased 69 percent, to 5.6 billion global hectares.
Since its release two years ago, more than one million people in the U.S., Australia and Canada have used Global Footprint Network’s Ecological Footprint calculator to evaluate their level of resource demand and identify ways of reducing it.
Now, with a major expansion that adds 10 new countries and nine languages, users from China to Ecuador, from South Africa to Japan can take the quiz and find out how many Earths we would need if everyone in the world lived like they do.
As part of its Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream symposium, the Pachamama Alliance has created a new video which explains the concept of ecological overshoot in interviews with Susan Burns and Mathis Wackernagel.
As world leaders gather in Copenhagen in December for global talks on action to address climate change, Global Footprint Network will host a side event aimed at invigorating the conversation by helping leaders see the self-interest in bold and timely action.
It has been called “the world’s largest mass participation event ever.”
On March 27, monuments all over the world – from the Eiffel Tower to Rio’s Corcovado, from the pyramids at Giza to the British houses of Parliament – will go dark. Skylines from Shanghai to Moscow to the Las Vegas strip will flicker out at 8:30 p.m. local time. And millions of people will gather by candlelight. It’s all part of Earth Hour, a campaign by WWF, now in its forth year, to show action on climate change “is not about what country you’re from. It’s about what your planet you’re from.”
Last year, a billion people and 4,000 cities worldwide participated in the campaign
“Earth Hour is a way for the citizens of the world to send a clear message: they want action on climate change,” said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Licenses for the 2009 National Footprint Accounts are now available from Global Footprint Network. The licenses offer access the spreadsheets used to calculate the national-level Ecological Footprint and biological capacity of more than 240 countries and territories from 1961-2006.
In addition, Global Footprint Network is also presenting its data in a new format called a Consumption Land-use Matrix (CLUM). The CLUM breaks down the overall demand of a nation by activity categories (industrial sectors) in way that allows governments to analyze policy options and test Footprint-reduction scenarios. We now have developed CLUMs for 42 nations and are licensing them to partners. For more information about CLUMs, please contact Meredith Stechbart, Meredith@footprintnetwork.org
In an age where “greenwashing” is more prevalent than ever, it’s difficult to determine which organizations are genuinely seeking answers– let alone solutions – to the challenges we face today. Skipso, based in London and Del Mar, California, is doing both.
The organization offers an array of services, functioning as an aggregation site for clean technology and sustainability experts. Its Open Innovation Lab is what truly sets Skipso apart.
The world has the resources to allow 9 billion people to live well within the means of one planet – but achieving this goal will require radical transformations to world markets, governance and our very notions of growth and progress. Such is the conclusion of Vision 2050: the New Agenda for Business, an effort by some of the world’s most influential companies to lay out a pathway for achieving a sustainable world by 2050.
The report suggests that greater sustainability and resource-efficiency will, increasingly, become a precondition for corporate success. “Sustainability will become a key driver for all our investment decisions, said Idar Kreutzer, CEO of Storebrand, a leading Norwegian financial group.
Led by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Vision 2050 project – aimed at identifying both the scope of ecological challenges the corporate sector will face in the coming years as well as related opportunities – involved the participation of companies such as Boeing, Syngenta, Weyerhauser, Procter & Gamble, Alcoa, Duke Energy, Toyota and Volkswagen. Global Footprint Network participated in Vision 2050 by creating a scenario calculator that helped leaders run the numbers on various ecological scenarios and solutions.
Counted among the many who use Global Footprint Network’s “wallet cards” as a teaching tool is Lama Gangchen Rinpoche, a teacher and healer in the Tibetan Tantric tradition. This past August, Global Footprint Network Senior Associate Steve Goldfinger visited Buddhist monasteries in Tibet and southwest China’s Yunnan Province with the Lama.
Those who were in the Chilean Andes during the first week of January may have witnessed a large blue footprint in the sky. That’s because Global Footprint Network was selected among non-profits around the world to be featured on a glider competing during the 3rd World Sailplane Grand Prix Championship. And not just any glider – the winning glider flown by reigning champion Sebastian Kawa of Poland.
The Salome family in Long Island, NY, pays a whopping $20,000 in utilities a year, in part to keep indoor and outdoor hot tubs percolating at a toasty 104 F. The women of Rutger’s University’s Alpha Chi Omega sorority house haul some 1,120 plastic bottles to the curb each month – a total of $13,440 each year! The Poisler family’s historic 1800s home and its vintage 1970s appliances generate hundreds of dollars of heating and energy bills each month.
Into these hefty Footprint households enter Annabelle Gurwitch and Holter Graham, hosts of Discovery Planet Green’s “WA$TED!” Now in its second season, WA$TED! continues to entertain and educate viewers by featuring the Ecological Footprint of average Americans. With the help of a Footprint calculator built especially for the series by Global Footprint Network and expert advice from Global Footprint Network partner BioRegional , the show’s crew tallies each household’s Ecological Footprint, then guides them toward simple, low-cost ways to “green up” their act.
The Forum Roundtables held June 7 through 12, 2010 in Tuscany, will include a special track on the future of the Mediterranean region. These highly interactive discussions will explore how countries, communities or companies in the Mediterranean region – and beyond – can prepare for and succeed in a world of increasingly severe resource constraints, such as climate change, water scarcity, urban crowding, and soaring energy costs.
Over the last decades, all Mediterranean nations have started to run ecological deficits; today, each nation’s residents use more ecological services than are available within the nations’ own borders. This puts them into a fragile situation. What will 2030 look like if we fail to address these ecological deficits now? What immediate actions can leaders take to ensure a viable future for their city or country? How is it in each city’s or country’s self-interest to make natural resource issues a priority? For decision-makers, knowing the answers to these questions can mean the difference between their region’s long-term success and its vulnerability in a resource-constrained world.
Other valuable sessions at Footprint Forum include a two day technical training, half day policy workshop, academic conference and a public day.
Ecuador has become the first country to set a concrete Ecological Footprint target. The country has included the goal in its National Plan that, by 2013, its Ecological Footprint will be within its biocapacity, a trend that it will maintain going forward.
“Ecuador wants to be a leading country [in] officially using the Ecological Footprint as a resource accounting tool for policy and decision-making,” Ecuador Environment Advisor Dania Quirola Suárez said in a roundtable side-event with Global Footprint Network at the Copenhagen climate talks.
In its recent report, Growth Isn’t Possible, UK-based nef (the new economics foundation) concludes that it is impossible to avoid the dangers of climate change as long as economic growth continues in high-income countries.
And what better way to illustrate this finding than with a nine billion ton hamster?
Together with its partners One Hundred Months and Wake Up, Freak Out, nef uses a seemingly harmless hamster in an animated clip to highlight the dangers of endless growth on a finite planet. “A young hamster doubles its weight each week between birth and puberty,” an ominous voice on the clip warns. “But if it grew at the same rate until its first birthday, we’d be looking a nine billion ton hamster.”