Footprint Network Blog - Ecological Limits
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.
Beijing, China–Global Footprint Network launched the beta version of a new website, www.zujiwangluo.org, on Nov. 12 to build on and support the growing interest in the Ecological Footprint among partners and practitioners in government and academia throughout China.
The website, a core element of our Footprint initiatives in China, was launched today to support WWF China’s Living Planet Report-China 2015. The report, to which Global Footprint Network contributed, shows that in less than two generations time, China’s per-person demand on nature has more than doubled. This increase in demand went hand in hand with a substantial loss in the abundance of wild species: The average population size of China’s terrestrial vertebrates declined by half from 1970 to 2010.
Global Footprint Network’s new China website aims to serve as a collaboration platform for practitioners in government and academia in China who share the common goal of making Ecological Footprint accounting and related tools as rigorous as possible to fulfill China’s vision of an ecological civilization. The website’s name means “footprint network” in Mandarin.
This is the second post in a series titled “Making A Difference” where we highlight a different voice each week. See our full list here.
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.
As part of my commitment to revitalizing agriculture in Fars, I am excited to be over 7,000 miles from home, working with Global Footprint Network researchers as an intern in the organization’s Oakland, California, office.
In my internship, I am learning to measure the sustainability of my region’s agricultural practices by using Ecological Footprint accounting to measure demand and supply of natural resources. I’m also very interested in providing the Ecological Footprint as a practical decision-making tool at the provincial level, and even at a more granular scale like the individual farm.
This is the first in a series of blog posts titled “Making A Difference” where we highlight a different voice each week.
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.
Long before I joined Global Footprint Network as Lead Researcher, my passion for nature led me to Alaska and Russia where, as a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas, I used cutting edge technologies to survey three dozen ecosystems to evaluate how global warming is changing landscapes in the Arctic.
Growing up in Orange County, California, it quickly became apparent to me that an emphasis on material wealth was keeping many of us disconnected from fundamental aspects of our life on Earth, starting with the natural ecosystems we depend on.
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).
Today is the International Day of Families, a day marked annually by the UN General Assembly on the 15th of May to “increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.” This year’s focus is gender equality, including education and income-generation opportunity.
As an organization with a vision of a world that works for everyone, we believe that empowering women is one of the most important things we can do in service of global sustainability because it yields huge benefits not only for children and families, but for the world as a whole.
“When women have the opportunity to participate as equals, lower reproductive rates invariably ensue,” says Global Footprint Network CEO Susan Burns. “The reason this is so important is that we cannot ignore population growth if we are truly committed to people having secure lives in a world of finite resources.”
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: