As people move on from the suspense, excitement, and sometimes disappointment that was Rio+20, at least one thing is clear to us—the Ecological Footprint is more important than ever in a world where international cooperation on sustainable development has not delivered everything the world hoped it would.
Global Footprint Network Science Coordinator Kyle Gracey (far right) at the Eye on Earth Panel
Through nearly a dozen presentations and lectures that our team delivered in Rio, we saw time and again that decision makers and ordinary people want concrete tools to help them make smarter resource decisions. They want them in the European Union, as a packed room listened to us present with the Czech Republic on new metrics for sustainability. They want them in detail and from around the world, as people from dozens of nations overbooked our 3-hour training on the “Footprint Family.” And they want them to be visual and available online, as the popularity of our Brazil Ecological Footprint calculator and two Ecological Footprint infographics by Universo Online (Brazil’s largest online news portal) and The Guardian show.
We also saw at Rio an explosion of civil society organizing on sustainable development. Nearly 100,000 people participated in formal and informal Rio events, and many millions engaged virtually from around the world. This included many regional and local governments, which increasingly are taking account of resource limits in their daily policy choices—and pushing their national governments to do the same.
The more than 700 voluntary commitments made by cities, provinces, companies and individual nations at Rio+20 shows that there is a will to move towards a sustainable world. Many of those commitments, at their core, have a recognition of resource constraints and their impact on human development. Civil society gets it. Sub-national governments get it. This means national leaders have more domestic support than they realize to adopt policies that utilize new measures like the Ecological Footprint. As we detail in our new Annual Report, released just before Rio, many governments are already on board.
Lastly, whether the media and pundits judge Rio a success or failure is irrelevant. Our most important takeaways from Rio are that: 1) The world is intensely interested, with even more focus than at past “Earth summits,” in achieving sustainable development; 2) Interest in the Ecological Footprint was strong, both from those who sat through every minute of negotiations and those who never set foot inside; and 3) As our Research Scientist and Science Coordinator Kyle Gracey said at the close of our final presentation in Rio, “Tomorrow, no matter what the headlines [are about Rio], resource prices will still rise, supplies will still be constrained, and governments will still be entrusted with the welfare of their citizens.” And the Ecological Footprint will remain a powerful tool for forward-looking nations to compete in this challenging new world.
Sincerely congratulations for spread the word in Rio.