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Issue 35, August 11, 2014  


Swaying the Supreme Court of Canada for First Nations

When First Nations people live traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyles, as they still do in parts of Canada, what "range" or land area is necessary to support their population? This question was at the center of the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling in favor of the Tsilhqot'in Nation's claim over the land where it has been exercising its constitutionally-protected aboriginal rights, including hunting, fishing and trapping. This historical ruling gives the Tsilhqot'in Nation "the right to use and control the land and to reap the benefits flowing from it." What most media accounts miss is that the Ecological Footprint was instrumental in helping the Tsilhqot'in make the decisive argument that caused the Supreme Court to break from centuries of legal decisions based on the concept of terra nullis ("nobody's land"). Read what happened to permanently shift the legal debate about aboriginal rights in Canada.

Earth Overshoot Day is coming in August! Later this month, Global Footprint Network will launch an international campaign to raise awareness of Earth Overshoot Day — the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. Partner organizations around the world will be hosting events to highlight the importance of Earth Overshoot Day and living within our means. Please let us know how you are planning to observe Earth Overshoot Day this year. Our partner manager, Kyle Lemle (, can help coordinate events in your area and provide more background information. Also, please help us to spread the word on social media by sharing our posts and your own sustainability commitments using the hashtag #oshoot.

Policy advisor Simon Anholt launched his Good Country Index during his talk at TED Berlin, and the video has gone viral since it was posted in late June. His goal is "to measure what each country on earth contributes to the common good of humanity, and what it takes away." Does this unexpected application of accounting methodology sound familiar? "Using a wide range of data from the U.N. and other international organizations, we’ve given each country a balance sheet to show at a glance whether it’s a net creditor to mankind, a burden on the planet, or something in between." Getting warmer? Sure enough, the balance sheet he has devised includes "Biocapacity reserve" stats gleaned from Global Footprint Network's data. Good on you, Simon, we definitely like to see our work put to good use.

Ecological Footprint in Action


Did you know that the province of Guizhou in southwestern China bears a striking resemblance to Switzerland? Just like Switzerland, Guizhou is landlocked and boasts a mountainous landscape. On the cusp of rapid development, the province has an enormous opportunity to seize the moment and build new economic opportunities. The question is whether it will set policies that enable it to do so while at the same time avoiding the pollution and congestion that has plagued other regions in China. Gleaning valuable lessons from Switzerland is certainly one important step.

Given that Footprint and biocapacity accounting have been incorporated into the Swiss statistical information system, Global Footprint Network CEO Susan Burns was invited to Guizhou in July to share her perspective on the similarities between China and Switzerland. Read her account here.

United Nations

The 2014 Human Development Report "Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerability and Building Resilience," published last month, highlights the Ecological Footprint and uses Global Footprint Network's data. It especially states on page 45 that "the very high human development group has a very large ecological deficit — as its ecological footprint is significantly larger than available biocapacity." It goes on to stress that "while human development requires the expansion of choices currently available to people, it is also important to consider the impact on the choices of future generations — for intergenerational equity." The report takes the view that progress with regard to human development will be neither equitable nor sustainable unless vulnerability is systematically addressed through implementing policies and changing social norms.


The Institute For Social Research in Zagreb has contributed to advancing the Ecological Footprint by referencing the Footprint multiple times and using its data in the recent report 'Sustainability Perspectives from the European Semi-periphery.' One contributor to the report, Dražen Šimleša, a research associate at Institute of Social Science Ivo Pilar in Zagreb, has even written a book on the Ecological Footprint. The report notes, "With only 7 percent of the world population, Europe now requires 20 percent of the planet biosphere’s regenerative capacity."

Ecological Footprint in the News

Footprint challenges facing Middle East
The Arab Forum for Environment and Development featured Global Footprint Network's latest data, 2014 National Footprint Accounts, in its Journal. "There is less available biocapacity per person year after year, making it more difficult for Earth to provide resources for each one of us, with particular pressures on those who do not have large incomes. … This situation is among the most extreme in Middle Eastern countries. Their growing populations are faced with very limited local biocapacity, putting much strain on their economies," writes Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, co-founder of the Ecological Footprint and President of Global Footprint Network, in a guest article. AFED has been a partner of Global Footprint Network in the region since the joint publication of the first Arab Biocapacity and Footprint Atlas in 2012.

From Our Blog

May and June this year were the hottest ever since record-keeping began in 1880 and 2014 could go down as the warmest year yet. While there's no question that the Earth is warming, ancient ice is melting and sea levels are rising, there's another risk that remains under-appreciated: the impact that water availability will have on energy, and that constrained energy supply will have on water. Read Chris Nelder's insightful blog post on the currents stirring the energy-water nexus.

Still recovering from World Cup fever? In case you missed it, check out our blog post on the winner and loser World Cup nations – based on their Ecological Footprints. We couldn’t help kicking around our data to answer to the question, "Do nations with big Ecological Footprints score more goals?" Read the blog post here.

Donate Through Amazon

Amazon members, did you know you can donate to Global Footprint Network every time you shop?

1. Go to AmazonSmile and make us your charitable organization of choice.
2. Every time you shop, Amazon donates 0.5 percent of the price of your eligible purchases to us.
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About Global Footprint Network
Our mission is to promote a sustainable economy by advancing the Ecological Footprint, a measurement tool that makes the reality of planetary limits relevant to decision-makers.
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