Ecological Footprint Image LightGreen Footprint Network News
Issue 30, October 3, 2012  

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About Global Footprint Network
Our mission is to promote a sustainable economy by advancing the Ecological Footprint, a measurement tool that makes the reality of planetary limits relevant to decision-makers.

Advisory Council
E.O. Wilson
Manfred Max-Neef
Rhodri Morgan
David Suzuki
Emil Salim
Julia Marton-Lefèvre
William E. Rees
Lester Brown
Jorgen Randers
M S Swaminathan
Daniel Pauly
Eric Garcetti
Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker
Michael Meacher
Karl-Henrik Robèrt
Will Steffen
Dominique Voynet
Fabio Feldman
Oscar Arias
Peter Raven
Mick Bourke
Norman Myers
Gus Speth
Stephen Groff
Thomas E. Lovejoy

Keeping Our Wells Recharged

Letter from the Editor: Keeping Our Wells Recharged

Like a community that draws down its well faster than it can recharge, humanity has been living beyond its means. It has been over a month since Earth Overshoot Day (August 22), the day marking when humanity exhausted nature’s budget for the year. The notion of Ecological Overshoot (when our collective demand on nature exceeds the biosphere’s supply, or regenerative capacity) can sometimes seem abstract. When millions of citizens from economically wealthy nations can still go to fully-stocked stores and have relatively high living standards, it is easy to justify business-as-usual policies.

Yet recent headlines reveal overshoot’s all-too-real consequences. In recent months we’ve heard about fish stocks collapsing and degradation of coral reefs due to overfishing and ocean warming; shortages and rapid price increases of commodities (like wheat and corn) due to water scarcity and extreme heat; deforestation; and literally drawing down our wells (see Footprint Briefs).

Some regions may be more vulnerable than others in the medium-term. For example, the Persian Gulf may be one of the hardest-hit regions in terms of fisheries decline due to climate change and acidification. The nations of the Mediterranean region nearly tripled their demand for ecological resources and services, and the region increased its ecological deficit by 230 percent, in the past fifty years (see story below on the launch of the new Mediterranean Ecological Footprint Trends report).

Fortunately, we are seeing heightened awareness of our Ecological Footprint and the economic implications of resource constraints and climate-altering carbon emissions, both in the public realm (see Walkable Footprint and the extensive international media coverage of Earth Overshoot Day) and among national and financial leaders (see Upcoming Events). 

What Do Ecological Deficits Mean for the Nations of the Mediterranean?

Amid Venice’s bustling tourist activity, its iconic art, gondolas, and church bells, dozens of government representatives, NGO leaders and academics met this week to discuss the links between ecological and economic crises in the Mediterranean region.

Organized by Global Footprint Network and UNESCO, with support from the MAVA Foundation, the two-day international conference, “Securing Competitiveness for the Mediterranean,” opened Monday (October 1) at UNESCO’s Venice office. The Mediterranean’s ever-widening ecological deficit and its economic implications is the main theme of the new Mediterranean Ecological Footprint Trends report, the result of a two-year study by Global Footprint Network and the focus of the conference.  Representatives from more than 12 Mediterranean countries attended the event, which has already been covered by Le Monde, La Stampa and other media.

Ecological Footprint in Ecuador, Continued Collaborations

As the first nation to incorporate the Ecological Footprint into its National Plan, Ecuador is committed to maintaining its Ecological Footprint at a level within what its ecosystems can renew. Yet this commitment came about only after becoming aware of their growing Ecological Footprint. Fifty years ago, Ecuador had over four times as much biocapacity than they used. A growing population and increased consumption put the nation in ecological deficit. Now Ecuador’s Ecological Footprint has exceeded its biocapacity. Ecuador’s per capita Footprint over the past half-century has doubled, while the population has more than tripled. This means that many more Ecuadorans are sharing the available ecological assets.

National leaders recognized this as a threat to their long-term economic security and decided to make reversing this trend a national priority. It adopted a Presidential mandate to manage ecological assets by incorporating indicators such as the Footprint to track ecological supply and demand, and inform sound long-term decision-making.

Earth Overshoot Day was August 22, and Yes, We’re Still in Overshoot

It has been over a month since Earth Overshoot Day (August 22), the day marking when humanity exhausted nature’s budget for the year. We continue to draw down ecological assets at a rate faster than can be replenished and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere faster than can be sustainably absorbed.

The good news is that overshoot is receiving increasing attention. Earth Overshoot Day received extensive international media coverage. Read below for some of the highlights:

Research and Standards Update

Latest Ecological Footprint methodology paper accepted for publication in Ecological Indicators

Every year, Global Footprint Network continues to improve the methodology for calculating the Ecological Footprint. The most recent Calculation Method paper has been accepted for publication in the journal Ecological Indicators: Integrating Sciences for Monitoring, Assessment and Management.

The paper documents the latest method for calculating the Ecological Footprint and biocapacity of nations, resulting in the National Footprint Accounts (NFAs) of more than 200 countries and for the world overall.

Footprint Briefs

A round-up of other Footprint and sustainability news from across the globe.

  • Walkable Footprint? » In Austria’s Gesäuse National Park, visitors are now able to immerse themselves in the world’s first walkable Ecological Footprint.
  • The Footprint of tourism in the Canary Islands » A study published in the Bulletin of the Association of Spanish Geographers highlights the unsustainable environmental demand put on the islands. If everyone on Earth consumed with the intensity of the Canaries, almost four Earths would be required.

Upcoming Events

Launch of the E-RISC Report: “A New Angle on Sovereign Credit Risk”
November 19, London, Hosted by Bloomberg

UNEP FI and Global Footprint Network will launch their innovative report on sovereign credit risk. During this interactive event, hosted by Bloomberg, we will unveil the results of our recent project, which assesses the materiality of natural resource and environmental risks in the context of sovereign credit risk.

Arab Forum for Environment and Development Conference (AFED)
November 29-30, Beirut, Lebanon

AFED’s Annual Conference will convene at Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel in Beirut on November 19-20. The conference theme is the Arab region’s Ecological Footprint. Global Footprint Network’s Ecological Footprint Atlas, exploring resource constraints in the Arab countries from the perspective of the regenerative capacity of nature, will be revealed. This Atlas, along with AFED’s report “Sustainability Options in the Arab Countries,” will help promote the concept of ecological accounting and move towards their integration in decision-making in the region.

We’re Hiring

Global Footprint Network currently has several open job and internship opportunities. We are looking for leaders with a passion for global sustainability in a variety of capacities from research to project management. Please review the opportunities we have available and consider joining our team.

Director of Planning & Performance
Senior Economist
Research Scientist, Geneva
Senior Manager, External Affairs
Administrative Officer, Geneva
Project Manager, Oakland
Project Manager, Geneva
Various Internships