Footprint Network Blog - 01/2013
In an era of resource constraints, how can a nation support the long-term success of its economy and the well-being of its citizens, while living within ecological limits? How will leaders react to the fact that their nation, which is in ecological deficit (occurring when the Footprint of a population exceeds the biocapacity of the area available to that population), relies upon other nations that not only are also in ecological deficit themselves but that are also dependent upon other nations that are in ecological overshoot?
These are just two questions that emerge when one examines the combined findings of recent reports on the Ecological Footprint of three Asian nations—Japan, China and the Philippines. All three nations are in ecological deficit (like most others—83 percent of humanity now lives in countries where the demand on nature’s services exceeds what local ecosystems can provide).
In November, Global Footprint Network released “A Measure for Resilience: 2012 Report on the Ecological Footprint of the Philippines,” in collaboration with the Climate Change Commission of the Philippines and the French Agency for Development. It is the first such report for a Southeast Asian nation.
Global Footprint Network’s Asia Regional Director Pati Poblete and Vice President of Operations Geoff Trotter (both far right) presented the first Footprint study of a Southeast Asian nation with (from left) Elisea Gozum, the Philippines Presidential Adviser on Climate Change; Agence Francaise de Development Country Director Lucle Cabellec; France Ambassador to Philippines Gilles Garachon; Miss Earth 2011 Olga Alava; Climate Change Commission Vice Chairman Mary Ann L. Sering; and Climate Change Commissioner Naderev M. Sano. The launch took place at Malacanang Palace, the official residence of the President of the Philippines.(PNA photo Marvie A.Lloren)
The Philippines entered into ecological deficit by the 1960s, and the gap between demand and local biocapacity has been widening over time. In 2008 (the most recent year data is available), Philippine residents’ demand on nature was twice the country’s own capacity to provide biological resources and absorb its carbon emissions.
The report’s findings were presented before the Climate Change Commission, a cabinet-level stakeholder group within the Philippine national government, headed by the Office of the President and various ministries. The Commission enthusiastically and anonymously moved to adopt the findings of the report, which will be disseminated to other government agencies.
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.
“Enough should be the central concept in economics,” writes Herman Daly, a Global Footprint Network advisor and one of the founders of ecological economics, in the forward to the fascinating new book, “Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources.”
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.