Footprint Network Blog - Footprint for Government
This is the fourth post in a series titled “Making A Difference” where we highlight a different voice each week. See our full list here.
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 of one of the most densely populated areas on earth, the home of 25 million people, in the heart of the Philippines. I also serve as the environmental adviser to the president of the Philippines, one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the world.
The Philippines’ development path has been heavily unsustainable. Over-extraction and over-consumption of the country’s natural resources have made us more vulnerable to climate change-related calamities. Today the country is an ecological debtor—our nation’s citizens demand more ecological resources and services than our ecosystems can regenerate.
The Laguna Lake Basin that I oversee is home to one-quarter of the country’s people, concentrated on 65,000 hectares of land, including Metropolitan Manila. The lake provides 70 percent of fish consumed in Manila. Its watershed directly supports many industries and half a million informal settlers. Flood zones are expanding because of increased deforestation and sedimentation. Since the 1990s, the depth of the lake has gone from 12 meters deep to less than 3 meters deep today.
But I remain optimistic. Our president, Benigno Simeon Aquino III, an economist who values hard data, was the very first leader in Philippine history to create an environment and climate change cluster in his cabinet. And he fully supported two Ecological Footprint assessments to give us the tools and guidance to start making much-needed changes.
In my position, my mantra is there can be no economy without ecology. I am relentlessly pushing the message that employment, equality and education will not find a satisfactory solution without ecology.
Thank you so much for your continued commitment to Global Footprint Network’s work around the world.
Earlier this year, Global Footprint Network calculated that Earth Overshoot Day—the day when humanity has spent Earth’s budget for the entire year—landed on August 13. But new data on China’s coal consumption significantly alters our calculation, ultimately moving Earth Overshoot Day to August 9, four days earlier on the calendar.
This week China’s statistical agency quietly published new data indicating China has been consuming up to 17% more coal a year than previously reported.
In 2012 alone, China consumed 600 metric tons more coal than previously indicated, which is equivalent to 70% of annual coal use in the United States, according to a New York Times article. This means China has released nearly one billion more tons of carbon dioxide a year than previous data shows – a massive upward revision.
China’s revised coal numbers result in a 1.6% increase in humanity’s Ecological Footprint, pulling Earth Overshoot Day four days earlier.
All official forecasts and emission policies were based on China’s previous data. Global leaders will have to face these implications in the upcoming climate talks in Paris in December. The numbers suggest it may be more difficult for China to cap its carbon emissions by 2030, as pledged by President Xi Jingping, generating much optimism last year. Or perhaps the news will propel even more nations, cities, businesses and leaders to up the ante with their own climate change mitigation efforts.
This is a series of blog posts titled "Making A Difference" where we highlight a different voice each week.
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.
Last month, staff in our Oakland, California, office had the unforgettable opportunity to meet with Neric Acosta, the Philippines Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection and General Manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority. One of our Ecological Footprint champions in the Philippines, Secretary Acosta worked extensively with Global Footprint Network on the 2013 report Restoring Balance in Laguna Lake Region.
The challenges in the Laguna Lake Region can’t be overstated. The region is composed of five provinces managed by 66 local governments with 25 million people who depend on the area for resources, energy and agriculture. The region is undoubtedly the epicenter of the country, housing one quarter of the country’s population and Metro Manila contributing 60 percent of the nation’s GDP.
One thing you should know about Secretary Acosta is that he has a booming voice and infectious laughter, enough to captivate any audience. Here are five of our favorite moments from his talk with us:
Recyclápolis Foundation honored Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, co-founder and president of Global Footprint Network, with its National Sustainability Award “for his outstanding career and contributions to innovation and environment.” The ceremony was held Monday night in the Chilean capital Santiago in the presence of Undersecretary of the Environment Marcelo Mena.
As the evening’s keynote speaker, Wackernagel introduced the latest data on Chile’s natural resource constraints. Chile posted an ecological deficit for the first time ever in 2011, the latest date data is available, as its growing Ecological Footprint exceeded its declining renewable natural resources. Chile’s Ecological Footprint has been steadily growing over the years to reach 3.9 global hectares per person in 2011, according to the most recent data available.
The United Nations launches global goals to achieve humanity’s collective dream: sustainable development
This week marks an extraordinary moment for humanity. Representatives of 193 nations are convening in New York at the United Nations to launch the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals lay out the conditions we need to secure great lives on this one planet for all, regardless of income level, gender or ethnicity.
At a time when global economic uncertainty and human tragedy dominate the news cycle, this unique opportunity to bring the universal dream of sustainable development to the forefront of public attention worldwide is definitely worth celebrating.
We are pleased that the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre has proposed the Ecological Footprint as an SDG metric for Goal 12.2: "by 2030 achieve sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources."
And we can't help but ask the following question: How do we know whether all the SDG activities generate sustainable development? With the United Nations on the verge of adopting sustainable development as its central agenda, how do we know whether all the potential activities on the 169 goals are adding up to sustainable development?
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).
Our vision is that all people of the Earth live well and within the means of nature. We are delighted when this vision is shared by others around the world, and honored when we meet individuals equally passionate about sustainability. Last month, we had the pleasure to meet Freddy Ehlers, minister of the Buen Vivir program in Ecuador. "Buen vivir" translates roughly to good living in English. The program promotes finding a meaning to life that makes living it worthwhile, inspired by service to others and respect toward all beings in nature.
Over the course of his 40-year career, Freddy has worked as a journalist, documentary film producer, Andean community secretary general and Ecuadorian minister of tourism. He studied law at the Universidad Central del Ecuador, pursued graduate studies in political science at Davidson College in the United States and received media training at the Radio Netherlands Training Centre in Holland.
We asked Freddy a few questions about his work at the Ministry of Buen Vivir.
Mathis Wackernagel, President of Global Footprint Network, was in Florence, Italy, this week to receive the IAIA Global Environment Award for developing the Ecological Footprint. “The Global Environment Award is presented annually to a leading individual or institution that has made a substantial contribution to the practice of environmental assessment, management or policy at a global scale,” according to the International Association for Impact Assessment. This global network believes, in its own words, that “the assessment of the environmental, social, economic, cultural, and health implications for proposals is a critical contribution to sound decision-making processes, and to equitable and sustainable development.” IAIA is recognizing the Ecological Footprint for efficiently “translating the complexity of humanity’s impact on the environment into a compelling, understandable and actionable form.”
Previous recipients of the award include:
2014 John Ruggie, USA
2013 International Finance Corporation, USA
2012 Int’l Network for Enviro Compliance & Enforcement, USA
2011 Not awarded
2010 Nicholas Stern, UK
2009 The Carter Center’s River Blindness Program, USA
2008 Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Canada
2007 Lawrence E. Susskind, USA
2006 Wangari Maathai, Kenya
2005 James Gustave Speth, USA
2004 Margot Wallstrom, Sweden
2003 Mostafa Kamal Tolba, Egypt
2002 Jan Pronk, The Netherlands
2001 Maurice Strong, Canada
The text from Wackernagel’s acceptance speech is below:
Earth Day’s 45th anniversary is being celebrated today around the world. On this day—less than one-third into the calendar year—humanity already has used about half of all renewable natural resources and services that the planet can generate this year, according to Global Footprint Network’s data. Despite this sobering fact, let’s not lose sight of the many signs that a perfect storm is brewing for 2015 to be the most exciting year to date for sustainability.
All eyes are on the Paris Climate Summit, a much-anticipated event which is already boasting the tag line "For a universal climate agreement." Some 23 years after the first Rio Summit and 18 years after the historic Kyoto Protocol was signed, the nations of the world are closer than ever before to making a binding commitment to act on climate change. If the negotiations are successful, that commitment would entail a clear, shared goal (maintaining global warming within the 2-degrees-Celsius range,) detailed action plans and a timeline.