Footprint Network Blog - Ecological Limits

DIO: The Currency That Prices Nature

10/15/2014 08:04 PM

What if doing the « right » thing for the planet—like recycling or buying sustainably sourced items such as organic-cotton garments—earned you money? As an individual, would you be more inclined to take that extra step toward a more sustainable lifestyle, one behavior, one purchase at a time? As a business owner, would you adopt a more sustainable supply-chain strategy?

This is the big bet that environmentalist David French went for when he founded My Drop in the Oceans, a global currency platform designed to "empower people to value nature" through partnerships with businesses and local authorities. Launched last month in Switzerland, My Drop in the Oceans rewards participants for actions that improve sustainable living, including measuring their Ecological Footprint with Global Footprint Network’s Swiss online calculator.

Here is how it works. Sustainable actions are rewarded with DIO (pronounced "dee-oh"), an electronic currency that can be used towards purchases at participating businesses. For instance, using the Footprint calculator to help you choose more sustainable behaviors will earn you 50 DIO. Thanks to a partnership with the Canton of Geneva, local residents are rewarded 450 DIO (about 45 Swiss francs, 37€ or $57) for playing their part in the Canton's current 45 percent recycling rate. They can apply their credit towards 5 percent of their total purchase at one of a dozen participating local businesses so far, including coffee shops, a sustainable fashion line, a music store, a yoga studio and a shared workspace. Companies will have the opportunity to increase that percentage of DIO transactions in the future.

"We are very busy creating more opportunities to collect DIO," Alexandra Knezovich, My Drop in the Oceans' director of communication, told us. She expects that 50 businesses will join the network by the end of the year.

As My Drop in the Oceans is rolling out its pilot program in Geneva, it is already working on a similar initiative to launch in Washington, D.C., next year. The organization also aims to enroll online businesses to rapidly expand the network of DIO transactions and leverage its impact around the world. "We are talking with multinational companies," Knezovich said.

Companies will be able to use DIO to promote sustainable products to customers. And they will pay their suppliers with DIO as the currency system grows its business network.

DIO are no gimmick. The currency was developed in collaboration with none other than Bernard Lietaer, who co-designed and implemented the single European currency system. In order to stabilize its value in the global market as much as possible DIO is pegged against a basket of national currencies. The amount of DIO issued is, over time, set to match the cost of achieving global sustainability targets as defined by the United Nations and other established international agencies, in part through the work of Global Footprint Network.

"What we take from nature's capital, when we produce and consume, has a value to human society and a cost to nature," explains My Drop in the Oceans on its website. "Many of those costs are hidden, not accounted for by consumers, businesses or governments, instead revealing themselves as deficits through the degradation of ecosystems. We need to make a fundamental shift from seeing nature as a resource to seeing it as a provider of resources, in doing so recognizing that our lifestyles bear a cost to nature that needs to be compensated."

"Our goal," added Knezovich, "is to act as the middleman to help shift the economic system to better reflect the value of nature, so that we use its resources more sustainably."

Even if you don't live in Switzerland, check out our footprint calculator at www.footprintcalculator.org.

Categories: Ecological Limits

Drought Jolts California Into Managing Resources

09/24/2014 10:56 PM

Northern California’s Folsom Lake on January 16, 2014. The reservoir, 25 miles northeast of Sacramento, has shrunk from 97 percent capacity in 2011, to 17 percent capacity in this past January, according to a news release from the California Department of Water Resources.

California is waking up to the value of the Commons. State lawmakers have acknowledged the need for the responsible management of its natural capital.

This major cultural shift occurred last week when Governor Jerry Brown signed three bills stipulating that the state will manage groundwater if local water agencies and irrigation districts don’t. The move officially put an end to the gold-digger mentality that had prevailed until now, allowing large landowners to deplete a vital natural resource at the expense of their neighbors. It took three years of exceptional drought for this awakening to take place.

The Golden State stipulated a long time ago that anything that belongs to your land, above or below, belongs to you. And so it is that anyone with a well on his or her property could pump groundwater unfettered.

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Categories: Ecological Limits

Fueling Public Debate on Swiss Competitiveness

09/15/2014 04:30 PM

Given that Swiss residents consume four times more than Swiss ecosystems can regenerate, what should the nation do to stay competitive?  

That was the question that Global Footprint Network and partner BAKBASEL was charged with addressing in a new report launching Sept. 16.

The objective of the study, commissioned by Switzerland’s Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE) and four other ministries, was to establish the impact on Swiss competitiveness of current resource trends.   

The report's findings will be unveiled Sept. 16 in Bern to spark debate at the fifth public town hall event of Dialog Nachhaltige Entwicklung Schweiz ("Dialogue on Sustainable Development in Switzerland"), a program sponsored by ARE.  

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Partner Profile: Footprint Changes Policy in Vancouver

Global Footprint Network - 09/15/2014 04:00 PM

Jennie Moore

Dr. Jennie Moore, 
Director, Sustainable Development and Environment Stewardship
British Columbia Institute of Technology
School of Construction and the Environment

In 2006, the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) became the first post-secondary educational institution to join Global Footprint Network’s partner network, which now numbers 76 institutions applying the Ecological Footprint methodology around the world. Dr. Jennie Moore, director of sustainable development and environmental stewardship at BCIT’s School of Construction and the Environment, has led the charge, applying Footprint science to make real policy changes for the Vancouver city government. 

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Japan Footprint Exposes Risks to Food Security

Global Footprint Network - 09/15/2014 03:00 PM

Japan Footprint Exposes Risks to Food Security
Global Footprint Network presentation in Tokyo focuses on ASEAN reliance

The ASEAN region is one of the fastest growing areas in the world, with a population of approximately 600 million people and a combined GDP that would make it the planet’s eighth largest economy. Despite these gains, the region faces myriad challenges: Large numbers of the population remain in poverty, while its member states are among the most vulnerable to climate change, deforestation, depletion of fisheries and other ecological pressures. These resource constraints pose threats to the region’s energy and food supplies. 

But what does this mean for Japan?

That question was the focus of a recent presentation in Tokyo given by Global Footprint Network Research Economist Katsunori Iha, and Asia Regional Director Pati Poblete hosted by the Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund.

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Spreading the Word on Earth Overshoot Day 2014

Ronna Kelly, Communications Director, Global Footprint Network - 08/26/2014 12:30 PM

Media outlets around the world helped share the news of Earth Overshoot Day this year, and thanks to countless partners and supporters, a conversation about our planet’s ecological deficit also took off on social media.

Earth Overshoot Day is an annual observance meant to bring attention to the risks of humanity’s growing ecological deficit. This year, August 19 marked the date when humanity exhausted nature’s budget for the entire year.

Highlights of Earth Overshoot Day 2014 media coverage included articles in Le Monde in France, El Mundo in Spain, and the Brasil Post in Brazil. Earth Overshoot Day also made the front page of La Stampa in Italy for the second year in a row. An online article in The Guardian in the UK generated 92 comments. In Switzerland, a Q&A with Bruno Oberle, director of the Swiss Ministry of Environment, was featured on the ministry’s website.

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What do Switzerland and China Have in Common?

Susan Burns, CEO, Global Footprint Network - 08/11/2014 05:10 PM

Did you know the Chinese province of Guizhou in southwest China bears some striking resemblance to Switzerland? I confess I didn't, until I was invited to Guizhou last month to speak at Eco-Forum Global. Since 2009, this annual conference gathers participants from around the world to share knowledge about policies regarding green economic transformation and ecological security. This year I spoke on a finance panel led by the chief economist of Bank of China, Ma Jun, and a panel organized by the Sino-Swiss Dialogue.

Just like Switzerland, Guizhou is landlocked and boasts a mountainous landscape. It is one of two provinces in China that President Xi Jinping declared to be testing grounds for China’s new focus on "eco-civilization" and the "China dream."

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The Effect of Rising Temperatures on the Energy-Water Nexus

Chris Nelder, Policy Officer - 07/27/2014 10:36 PM

May and June this year were the hottest ever since record-keeping began in 1880, according to a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report. 2014 could go down as the warmest year yet, exceeding the previous records set in 2003 and 2013.

There’s no question that the Earth is warming, ancient ice is melting and sea levels are rising. Friends of Global Footprint Network are well aware of many of the risks that anthropogenic climate change poses, particularly to the world’s poorest regions.

A risk that remains under-appreciated, however, is the impact that water availability will have on energy, and that constrained energy supply will have on water.

After food production, electricity generation is the second-largest consumer of water globally. Thermal power plants – those powered by coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear – consume vast amounts of water in their cooling cycles. A single nuclear reactor can consume over 15 million gallons of water per day. Power generation accounts for 41 percent of freshwater withdrawals and about three percent of freshwater consumption (3.3 billion gallons of water per day) in the United States.

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Canada: Ecological Footprint Instrumental in Supreme Court’s Ruling

07/18/2014 05:34 PM

In a first for the Ecological Footprint and a native group in Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada supported the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s title over 1,900 square kilometers in British Columbia as part of a landmark decision announced in June.

The historic ruling came about a decade after Tsilhqot’in Nation’s lawyers called Global Footprint Network to provide an expert study for the case, which centered on clear-cut logging permits granted by the British Columbia government without consulting the native community living on the affected land.

The government defended the so-called terra-nullis ("nobody's land") hypothesis—the assumption that pre-European Canada was a vast and empty land—and argued that the First Nation's title claimed was "too large."

The challenge that the Tsilhqot'in Nation posed to Global Footprint Network: provide a scientifically sound evaluation of the capacity of the land to support the native group around 1800, prior to European influence and trade.

Global Footprint Network researchers approached the problem from several angles. One was to study the Ecological Footprint of the current population of bears living on the territory. The theory was that the findings about these omnivorous animals that compete for the same food niche as humans could be used to extrapolate the Ecological Footprint of a human group living off the same land.

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Categories: Ecological Limits

World Cup Footwork and Footprints: Who Are the Winners and Losers?

07/11/2014 10:10 PM

As the final World Cup match quickly approaches, we couldn’t help but kick around some Ecological Footprint numbers describing the diverse nations competing in this year’s games.

The eight nations who made it to the quarter-finals represent vastly different lifestyles. If all people on Earth lived like residents of those countries, how many Earths would it take? If we all lived like the Argentineans, it would take us 1.6 Earths. In contrast, living like the Belgians would require us to juggle 4.3 planets – not a small feat. The Colombian lifestyle would lead us to juggle the fewest Earths – just slightly more than one.

 

Do Big Footprints Give Teams a Leg Up in Football?

Do big Footprints produce big World Cup wins? After all, big Footprints may mean big budgets. Big budgets can buy more expensive players. But are they really better? When comparing the number of goals scored before the round of 16 (which evens the playing field because all teams competed in three games), the number of goals does not seem to correlate with a country’s Footprint size, as revealed on our soccer field below:

 

The U.S. and Belgium, for instance, have the largest Footprints per person, but their teams racked up only four goals – the same as the country with the lowest Footprint, Côte d’Ivoire. And the two countries that nailed the most goals have vastly different Footprints: Colombia, with 9 goals, has a Footprint of less than 2 global hectares per person, while the Netherlands with 10 goals has a Footprint of more than 6 global hectares per person.

World Cup football is exciting – nearly as exciting as the global sustainability game. The rules are similar. In both, the players strive to play their best within a given field. For soccer, the field is roughly 1 hectare for 22 players. For sustainability we have about 1.7 global hectares for each citizen of the planet. Can we all live well within that field? Imagine the cheers if we can! The Colombians are closer to winning that game than the Belgians. And if the Germans played the U.S. team in terms of energy transition, it may look as ugly for the U.S. as it did for the Brazilians on the soccer field earlier this week.

If we had to choose our favorite of the two finalists who face off on Sunday based on how little demand they place on nature, we would have to root for Argentina over Germany. GOOOOOLLLLLL!

Curious about the Footprints of individual countries? Visit this page and select a country from the dropdown menu: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/countrytrends.



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