Footprint Network Blog - Personal Footprint
How did you celebrate UN World Happiness Day last Sunday? All of us had plenty to chew on with the release of the World Happiness Report 2016—the fourth edition since 2012. Prepared by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, an international panel of economists, psychologists and public health experts convened by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the happiness ranking of 156 countries was based on individual responses to a global poll conducted by Gallup.
The scholars found that three-quarters of the variation across countries could be explained by six variables: gross domestic product per capita (the rawest measure of a nation’s wealth); healthy years of life expectancy; social support; trust (as measured by perceived absence of corruption in government and business); perceived freedom to make life choices; and generosity (as measured by donations).
The glaring omission on this list is the significance of resource consumption. Yet combining the Happiness Index and Ecological Footprint data on one graph reveals interesting patterns.
Unsurprisingly, the disturbing picture that emerges from the graph is that a high Ecological Footprint is the typical cost of happiness. In this year’s ranking, Denmark was No. 1, followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. Most have strong social safety nets and high Ecological Footprints.
At the bottom of the list lies Burundi, where a violent political crisis broke out last year. Burundi was preceded by Syria, Togo, Afghanistan, Benin, Rwanda, Guinea, Liberia, Tanzania and Madagascar. All of those are low-income countries—displaying a low Ecological Footprint—and many have been destabilized by war, disease or both.
On the good news front, many countries in Central America (Costa Rica especially), South America and the Caribbean stand out overall for managing both a relatively high Happiness Index and a relatively low Ecological Footprint.
A more refined analysis reveals that only one country within the top 50 percentile of happiness (Nicaragua) has an Ecological Footprint of less than 1.7 global hectares – the amount of biocapacity currently available per person on the planet. The silver-lining, however, is that for any level of happiness score, there is a large spread in Ecological Footprint among countries. This is particularly true at the high happiness end of the spectrum. The good news here is that some countries are already demonstrating that it is possible to sustain a high level of happiness on a relatively small Ecological Footprint per capita.
Why does happiness matter? Because it helps us live longer, healthier and more productive lives. And being happy is a great goal in itself. Since the king of Bhutan pioneered the Gross Happiness Product in 1972, happiness has emerged as an important development goal on the world stage. In July 2011, the United Nations even passed Resolution 65/309, placing “happiness” on the global development agenda.
Going forward, the single most important question for local and national communities to explore is this: How can we thrive and be happy while living off a sustainable Ecological Footprint? To clarify, this would require for the world average Footprint to drop below 1.7 global hectares if we want to provision for wild species and for a growing human population, translating into a drastic reduction for most countries ranked high on the Happiness Index.
Some initiatives are already pointing the way, such as Cloughjordan Ecovillage in Ireland. But the transformation will need to occur at a systemic level and on a massive scale for the change to be meaningful — infrastructures, industries, lifestyles.
The challenge is simply massive. And so are the opportunities. In this respect, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris climate agreement, as well as policy agendas and business strategies such as the Green Economy and the Circular Economy, are significant steps in the right direction.
On a final note, Gallup’s global poll that drove the happiness ranking was essentially based on one question known as the Cantril Ladder: “Please imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?”
We look forward to the day when residents in many more countries feel they can climb to the top of the ladder without leaving the planet lower down.
You may also be interested in checking out:
The true sustainability of sustainable development, as revealed by the Ecological Footprint and the UN Human Development Index.
The Happy Planet Index, which uses the Ecological Footprint as a major metric of sustainable well-being.
Im Energy Lab suchen wir nach den gemeinsamen Eckpunkten und Grundprinzipien der diversen Teilnehmer für eine Energiepolitik der Schweiz nach dem Pariser Klima Abkommen.
Energy Lab: Wie werden wir die Schweiz antreiben?
Der Klimawandel stellt die zukünftige Nutzung fossiler Energie in Frage. Heute kann die Schweiz nur 56% seiner Elektrizität durch Wasserkraft produzieren, etwa 13% ihres gesamten Energieverbrauchs. Achtzig Prozent der verbrauchten Energie kommt aus dem Ausland, mit nur wenigen Prozenten davon aus erneuerbaren Quellen.
Wir laden Sie zu einer interaktiven Debatte mit Experten, Politikern, NGO Vertretern und Studenten ein, um gemeinsame Prinzipien für die zukünftige Schweizer Energielandschaft zu entdecken. Teilnehmerinnen und Teilnehmer werden aufgefordert, ihre persönliche Sicht für die Schweiz zu erörtern.
Sind wir bereit, unsere persönlichen Träume für die Zukunft zu offenbaren? Was haben unsere Träume gemeinsam? Wo scheiden sich unsere Perspektiven? Was steht zur Debatte? Gibt es einen attraktiven Weg in die Zukunft? Sie sind gefragt, einen Beitrag zu leisten, gemeinsam mit anderen Schweizern eine Zukunftsvision für unsere Schweiz zu entwickeln.
Das Energy Lab findet am 10. Mai 2016 in der Pädagogischen Hochschule Zürich statt. Bitte senden Sie Ihre Platzanfrage bis zum 1. Mai 2016 hier: email@example.com.
Lernen Sie mehr über die Schweizer Wettbewerbsfähigkeit im Bericht an den Bund:
Hier können Sie Ihren Footprint berechnen:
Interaktive Footprint-Karten und Ranglisten:www.footprintnetwork.org/maps
Diesjähriger Tag des Schweizer Ökodefizits: www.footprintnetwork.org/ch
Interessiert am Food Lab?
Was ist Ihre Vorstellung der Schweizer Energiezukunft? Hinterlassen Sie uns einen Kommentar:
Im Food Lab suchen wir nach den gemeinsamen Eckpunkten und Grundprinzipien der diversen Teilnehmer für eine Nahrungsmittelpolitik der Schweiz nach dem Pariser Klima Abkommen.
Food Lab: Wer wird die Schweiz ernähren?
Das Ziel von Paris unter 2 Grad Celsius Klimaerwärmung zu bleiben, bedingt eine radikale Reduktion der Treibhausgasemissionen vor 2050. Was bedeutet das für die Nahrungsmittelproduktion hier und weltweit? Die heutigen Ernährungssysteme sind für 30% der globalen Treibhausgasemissionen verantwortlich. Auch wenn es uns gelingt, den Klimawandel auf 2 Grad zu beschränken, bedrängt er die Nahrungsmittelproduktion. Zudem braucht eine wachsende Weltbevölkerung mehr Nahrung. Das alles macht nachhaltige Erzeugung ein noch unabdingbareres Ziel.
Heute produziert die Schweiz nur 50% seiner Nahrungsmittel selbst (BFS 2013, bit.ly/1S73Y5f). Der Rest kommt aus dem Ausland, wie auch ein Grossteil der Futtermittel für heimische Tiere für die Fleisch- und Milchproduktion. Wie kann die Landwirtschaft, hier und im Ausland, langfristig eine höhere und zugleich nachhaltigere Nahrungsmittelversorgung sicherstellen? Welchen Beitrag kann die biologische Landwirtschaft dabei liefern? Gibt es Synergien zwischen biologischer und industrieller Landwirtschaft? Könnten Ansätze aus der biologischen Landwirtschaft in konventionellen Systemen vermehrt integriert werden, um einen schonenderen Umgang mit Ressourcen zu gewährleisten? Kann die biologische Landwirtschaft durch Innovation und günstige Rahmenbedingungen zur breiten Anwendung gebracht werden? Und wie viel Produktion und Konsum braucht es überhaupt? Was würde eine faktenbasierte, menschenfreundliche Thematisierung des Themas Suffizienz bringen? Welche Lösungsoptionen stehen zur Verfügung?
Wir laden Sie zu einer interaktiven Debatte mit Vertretern unterschiedlichster Perspektiven ein, um gemeinsam eine Vision für die Ernährungssysteme der Schweiz und der Welt zu entwickeln. Was bedeutet das Pariser Klimaabkommen für die Ernährung. Wo sind wir uns einig, wo steht Klärungsbedarf? Teilnehmerinnen und Teilnehmer aus Forschung, Politik, Privatwirtschaft und Zivilgesellschaft werden aufgefordert, ihre persönliche Sicht für die Schweiz zu erörtern, und werden dann daraus gemeinsame Elemente entwickeln.
Sind wir bereit, unsere persönlichen Erwartungen und Hoffnungen für die Zukunft zu offenbaren? Was verbindet uns? Wo scheiden sich unsere Perspektiven? Was steht zur Debatte? Gibt es einen attraktiven Weg in die Zukunft? Wollen Sie gemeinsam mit anderen die Zukunft der Schweiz und des Planeten mitgestalten?
Das Food Lab findet am 17. Mai 2016 in Bern statt. Bitte senden Sie Ihre Platzanfrage bis zum 8. Mai 2016 hier: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lernen Sie mehr über die Schweizer Wettbewerbsfähigkeit im Bericht an den Bund:
Hier können Sie Ihren Footprint berechnen:
Interaktive Footprint-Karten und Ranglisten: www.footprintnetwork.org/maps
Diesjähriger Tag des Schweizer Ökodefizits: www.footprintnetwork.org/ch
Interessiert am Energy Lab?
Was denken Sie? Wie soll sich die Schweiz in der Zukunft antreiben? Hinterlassen Sie uns einen Kommentar:
When I was growing up in Shenzhen, China, one of the must-join activities in my high school was the “Earth Hour” performance. On the last Saturday in March, companies, government, and environmental organizations run by high school students organized performances and games using only small lights (rather than bright stage lighting) in large communities to encourage residents to join outdoor activities while turning off their lights at home. The performance that I remember most was a student band and chorus performing in the dark, without any lights at all. In that darkness, we seemed to be able to hear the music more clearly and enjoy it more.
To this day, about half of the lights are turned off in government buildings and public areas—on streets and in squares—in Shenzhen to support Earth Hour. Words such as “1 Hour,” “60 Minutes,” and “3600 Seconds” are spelled out with LED lights and can be seen everywhere in the city.
As a high school student seven years ago, I perceived Earth Hour more as an outdoor party than a significant effort to protect our planet. As a young professional today, I have come to recognize that in one hour of darkness, we are doing more than just turning off lights. Empowered by knowledge of the Ecological Footprint from my studies at UC Berkeley and work at Global Footprint Network, I now consider Earth Hour as a great opportunity for everyone to review our relationship with the entire ecosystem and at the same time raise environmental consciousness.
The human population worldwide is using 1.6 times more natural resources and services—fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cotton for clothing—than our planet can regenerate in a year, according to Global Footprint Network’s calculations. If we translate this data to Earth Hour, it means that the natural resources and services that our planet can regenerate in one hour will be used after 37 minutes.
This year, I will be nearly 7,000 miles away from my hometown in China on Earth Hour, but I still plan to participate. My plan: Climb the Berkeley Hills to overlook the San Francisco Bay Area in the dark! I also will encourage everyone I know to participate in Earth Hour, no matter where they are, to reduce energy consumption and give a one-hour break to our beautiful planet’s ecosystems.
Krina Huang graduated from UC Berkeley with degrees in Environmental Economics and Policy and in Political Economy. After working at Global Footprint Network as an intern earlier this year, she joined our staff as a research assistant to support our new initiatives in China.
The updated calculation has revealed that the global carbon Footprint is 16 percent higher than previously calculated, with a consequent 8 percent increase in the global Ecological Footprint. The carbon Footprint makes up 60 percent of the world’s Ecological Footprint.
We are happy to make the National Footprint Accounts available in a free downloadable version for research, education and non-commercial purposes (scroll down for more details). An interactive map and country rankings based on the National Footprint Accounts 2016 are available at www.footprintnetwork.org/maps. Watch a video explaining the National Footprint Accounts here. If you are interested in attending a webinar on the Footprint Accounts, please email email@example.com.
The annual maintenance of the National Footprint Accounts involves incorporating the most recent data (2012) from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Comtrade database, the International Energy Agency (IEA), and other sources.
As mentioned above, we have made a number of improvements to the accounting methodology this year. The most influential is the new calculation of Average Forest Carbon Sequestration (AFCS) value — which is the long-term capacity for one hectare of world-average forest ecosystem to sequester carbon dioxide. By including new data sources and accounting for multiple forest categories, global wildfires, and forest ecosystem emissions from soil and harvested wood products, forests were found to provide less net-sequestration of carbon than previously calculated.
The Ecological Footprints of countries are impacted by the new methodology. The higher a country’s carbon Footprint as a percentage of its overall Ecological Footprint, the bigger the increase in its Footprint compared to last year’s edition. For instance, Oman, whose carbon Footprint makes up a whopping 77 percent of its Ecological Footprint, has jumped up over 20 places in the ranking of countries that demand more than their own ecosystems can renew. (Oman is now one of the top 15 countries by ecological deficit.) On the other hand, Ethiopia, whose carbon Footprint is a mere 7 percent of its Ecological Footprint, fell 16 slots down the same ranking.
The robust carbon Footprint calculations are especially timely in light of the historic Paris Agreement signed in December 2015 by 195 nations and the European Union. The adopted goal of restricting average temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial Revolution levels translates into a specific upper carbon budget for all future emissions of 800 gigatonnes CO2. The Paris Agreement also shifts the focus to net emissions of countries, recognizing the importance of land-use choices for carbon sequestration. In this context, Ecological Footprint accounts — which measure both emissions on the demand side and the supply of sequestration on the biocapacity side — provide a natural framework to evaluate net emissions by countries and the interaction between competing demands on a country’s land.
Beyond carbon, looking at the world through the prism of the Ecological Footprint makes for interesting insights, revealing long-term trends and impacts regarding countries’ ecological wealth, economic health and population growth. Here are a few highlights:
- PIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) have been registering a steady decline of their Ecological Footprint per capita since the mid-2000s. By contrast, strong European economies like Germany and France have seen a rebound of their Ecological Footprint per capita since the 2008 financial crisis. What would it take for the PIGS countries to strengthen their economy AND reduce their Ecological Footprint?
- Asian countries with rapid economic expansion, such as India, China, South Korea and Vietnam, are displaying a strong increase of their Ecological Footprint per capita that is concomitant with their rising standards of living.
Note that Vietnam and Cambodia stand out among Asian countries for their successful efforts building up their biocapacity per person to support their growing Ecological Footprint.
- Low-income countries with surging population growth (fast-increasing demand) or violent turmoil (collapse of agricultural activity and output) — including Honduras, Niger and Somalia — are hitting the threshold of their own ecosystems’ ability to support (biocapacity) their population’s demand (Ecological Footprint.)
Curious to explore more? Download our Public Data Package!
Global Footprint Network is offering a free downloadable version of its National Footprint Accounts for research, education and non-commercial purposes, at www.footprintnetwork.org/public. This Public Data Package includes the latest results for all countries, country graphics and the number of Earths required if the world’s population lived like the average citizen of each country. The free download also offers many new ways to sort data — by region, GDP, Human Development Index and other categories — and data quality scores for the results.
About the National Footprint Accounts
Global Footprint Network’s annual update of the National Footprint Accounts tracks the balance sheet of approximately 200 nations from year to year, based on nearly 200,000 data points per country per year from over 30 sources. The accounts add together a country’s annual demand for the natural resources and ecological services our planet’s lands and seas provide — fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cotton for clothing, timber and carbon dioxide absorption. This demand, the Ecological Footprint, then can be compared to the supply of these goods and services provided by that country’s ecosystems, called biocapacity.
In 1961, the first year for which consistent data sets are available, our planet was able to supply 37 percent more resources and services than humanity demanded. Since then, the global ecological deficit — the amount by which humanity’s demand has exceeded nature’s budget — has widened substantially. The 2016 edition of the National Footprint Accounts shows that the world population demands 64 percent more than what nature can regenerate in one year through overfishing, over-harvesting our forests and, primarily, emitting more carbon dioxide than our ecosystems can absorb. The effects include wildlife habitat loss and fragmentation, collapsing fisheries, and climate change.
More information about the new carbon calculation in the National Footprint Accounts can be found in the peer-reviewed Ecological Indicators article Ecological Footprint: Refining the carbon Footprint calculation.
For licensing questions about the National Footprint Accounts, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the final post in a series titled “Making A Difference” where we highlight a different voice each week. See our full list here.
Throughout 2015, we have been eagerly awaiting the climate talks in Paris that began this week. Recent events have expanded the conversation to restoring peace, security and safety. To live in harmony and peace, however, we need to ensure a healthy world that guarantees all people have basic resource security. The link between climate change and national security continues to be more important than ever.
Political and environmental stability are closely linked. For example, an extreme drought in Syria led to massive crop loss and over 1.5 million people migrating from their farms to cities. This exacerbated political unrest in Syria.
Given this backdrop, we at Global Footprint Network are re-doubling our efforts to bring solutions to governments who seek to provide secure lives for their citizens while protecting the natural capital that their communities depend upon. We are proud of our 12-year history of raising awareness globally about ecological overshoot and providing tools that will help people to thrive within our planet’s limits.
If I can grow enough potatoes, I won’t starve. But how large an area do I need to plant?
It’s a simple question in a complex and desperate situation. In the movie The Martian, an astronaut on a Mars mission is thought to have been killed in an accident and left on the red planet during an emergency evacuation by the rest of the crew. Mark Watney, the unlucky astronaut played by actor Matt Damon, must figure out how to survive. With four years to go before the next scheduled mission will arrive on Mars, but only enough food to last for one, a key part of survival will be avoiding starvation.
In his video log, Watney surmises, “So, I’ve got to figure out a way to grow three years’ worth of food here—on a planet where nothing grows. Luckily, I am a botanist. Mars will come to fear my botany powers.”
In his quest for food, Watney discovers potatoes that were set aside for Thanksgiving dinner. This is the only food that he can attempt to grow to supplement the remaining food rations. He carefully calculates how much area he needs to grow potatoes and ends up with 126 square meters of Martian cropland.
Since potatoes are renewable resources, Watney calculates that harvesting the larger potatoes and re-planting the smaller ones will provide 400 potato plants, enough calories to keep him going until he can be rescued.
Starting to sound familiar? It sure does to us at Global Footprint Network!
This is the third post in a series titled “Making A Difference” where we highlight a different voice each week. See our full list here.
Two years ago, I decided against building my dream home after falling in love with the Ecological Footprint. A quest for clearly measuring sustainability led me to this unique, data-based approach to calculate humanity’s impact on the planet, including my family’s.
In my case, clever designs, expensive “green” materials, and cutting-edge energy-efficient technologies were not enough. None of this would enable my wife and family to move from our apartment in Switzerland into the large home we dreamed of…without growing our Ecological Footprint on the planet. This unexpected conclusion inspired me to make more changes in my life.
One of those changes was joining the Board of Directors at Global Footprint Network last year to lend my support as an entrepreneur to a cause I care about deeply.
This is a series of blog posts titled "Making A Difference" where we highlight a different voice each week.
Throughout 2015, we have been eagerly awaiting the climate talks in Paris that began this week. Recent events have expanded the conversation to restoring peace, security and safety. To live in harmony and peace, however, we need to ensure a healthy world that guarantees all people have basic resource security. The link between climate change and national security continues to be more important than ever. Read more.
Not a day goes by that I don’t wake up and think, "What am I going to face today? What kind of issue will it be: fish kill, pollution from industry, or destruction from a typhoon?"
As the general manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority, I am responsible for managing and protecting the environment one of the most densely populated areas on earth, the home of 25 million people, in the heart of the Philippines. Read Neurus' story.
Two years ago I decided against building my dream home after falling in love with the Ecological Footprint. A question for clearly measuring sustainability led me to this unique data-based approach to calculate humanity's impact on the planet, including my family's. Read Daniel's story.
Since I was a child growing up in southern Iran, years of severe drought have threatened the vitality of the rich farmland in my native Fars province, Iran’s traditional bread basket. Today, as a PhD student in agricultural development at Shiraz University in Iran, I am exploring innovative ways to help make agriculture sustainable in Iran, especially in the Fars province. Read Mahsa's story.
I had two passions as a kid: nature and technology. After starting as an electrical engineering and computer science undergraduate at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), I realized my path lay elsewhere. Read David's story.
In 2015 Earth Overshoot Day raised global public awareness of natural resource constraints to new heights. More than 30 organizations joined our efforts to spread the word about natural resource constraints on the new website overshootday.org, helping raise Earth Overshoot Day-related page views by 18 percent over last year.
This year’s message on the drastic impact of carbon on the Ecological Footprint afforded the campaign its biggest U.S. mainstream media coverage to date. It made its way into National Geographic, Newsweek, TIME and Discovery News, among others. For the first time ever, USA Today devoted its front cover’s daily snapshot to Earth Overshoot Day, while The Washington Post finally gave the campaign a nod. Rush Limbaugh couldn’t resist giving his signature outraged opinion in a long rant targeted at eco-conscious Millennials.
In India, leading daily The Hindu published a joint op-ed of Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network, and Dr. Balakrishna Pisupati, the former Chairman of the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA).