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Issue 31, February 6, 2013: Charting a Safer Course  

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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

Charting a Safer Course

Letter from the Editor: Charting a Safer Course

Happy 2013!

Ten years ago, Global Footprint Network opened its doors with a focused mission: End ecological overshoot and help humanity live within nature’s budget. While we still have a long way to go, we can celebrate great accomplishments for our ten-year anniversary. We’ve engaged with governments and other decision makers while raising the profile of Ecological Footprint accounting throughout the world.

Our work has also won global recognition. Receiving multiple international awards in 2012 and in previous years means more than just a perfunctory pat on the back. It is important validation of Ecological Footprint work, and a measure of how far the world has come in understanding the consequences of resource limitations.

In January, we learned that the Swiss-based Global Journal has named us one of the world’s best 100 NGOs for the second year in a row. The honor is in part a recognition of our accomplishments over the past year. In 2012 alone, we engaged with 18 national governments and several international institutions, conducted numerous presentations and workshops and received multiple awards (the Blue Planet Prize, the Binding Prize for Nature and the Kenneth E. Boulding Memorial Award).

In October, we highlighted the increasingly worrisome ecological debt of the Mediterranean nations at a two-day international conference in Venice, participated in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) meeting in Laos, presented to a working session on the environment in the Greek Parliament, launched a preliminary Ecological Footprint atlas of Francophone nations, conducted a workshop with the Turkish government on Competitiveness 2.0 and Ecological Footprint accounting, and met with government ministries in Colombia after a conference on sustainable tourism.

In November, we hosted Ecological Footprint training in our California office for members of the Ecuadoran Ministry of Environment, participated in a workshop with the Indonesian Ministry of Public Works and a Green Economy event in Peru, and presented at the annual conference of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) in Beirut, where our Arab Atlas of Footprint and Biocapacity was featured in the conference report, “Survival Options.”

Bringing the Ecological Footprint to Asia

In an era of resource constraints, how can a nation support the long-term success of its economy and the well-being of its citizens, while living within ecological limits? How will leaders react to the fact that their nation, which is in ecological deficit (occurring when the Footprint of a population exceeds the biocapacity of the area available to that population), relies upon other nations that not only are also in ecological deficit themselves but that are also dependent upon other nations that are in ecological overshoot?

These are just two questions that emerge when one examines the combined findings of recent reports on the Ecological Footprint of three Asian nations—Japan, China and the Philippines. All three nations are in ecological deficit (like most others—83 percent of humanity now lives in countries where the demand on nature’s services exceeds what local ecosystems can provide).

In November, Global Footprint Network released “A Measure for Resilience: 2012 Report on the Ecological Footprint of the Philippines,” in collaboration with the Climate Change Commission of the Philippines and the French Agency for Development. It is the first such report for a Southeast Asian nation.

Global Footprint Network’s Asia Regional Director Pati Poblete and Vice President of Operations Geoff Trotter (both far right) presented the first Footprint study of a Southeast Asian nation with (from left) Elisea Gozum, the Philippines Presidential Adviser on Climate Change; Agence Francaise de Development Country Director Lucle Cabellec; France Ambassador to Philippines Gilles Garachon; Miss Earth 2011 Olga Alava; Climate Change Commission Vice Chairman Mary Ann L. Sering; and Climate Change Commissioner Naderev M. Sano. The launch took place at Malacanang Palace, the official residence of the President of the Philippines.(PNA photo Marvie A.Lloren)

The Philippines entered into ecological deficit by the 1960s, and the gap between demand and local biocapacity has been widening over time. In 2008 (the most recent year data is available), Philippine residents’ demand on nature was twice the country’s own capacity to provide biological resources and absorb its carbon emissions.

The report’s findings were presented before the Climate Change Commission, a cabinet-level stakeholder group within the Philippine national government, headed by the Office of the President and various ministries. The Commission enthusiastically and anonymously moved to adopt the findings of the report, which will be disseminated to other government agencies.

Q&A with Bloomberg’s Gregory Elders and Curtis Ravenel

In November, Bloomberg hosted the launch of the E-RISC (Environmental Risk in Sovereign Credit) report in London with Global Footprint Network and UNEP-FI.  The report demonstrates that resource constraints are material for sovereign credit analysis. We asked Gregory Elders, Bloomberg’s Senior (Environmental, Social and Governance) ESG Analyst, and Curtis Ravenel, Global Head of Sustainability Initiatives, for their thoughts about incorporating environmental risk into financial markets.

Gregory Elders   Curtis Ravenel

BioRegional: Is it possible to build and live in a One Planet Community?

Is it possible to build and live in a One Planet Community?

This question was recently explored by Global Footprint Network partner BioRegional, which serves as a sustainability consultant to Greenwoods Ecoresorts in Portugal. The community in question is Mata de Sesimbra, a planned community and vacation site being developed just south of Lisbon on the Peninsula de Setubal. Mata de Sesimbra is endorsed by BioRegional as the world’s first One Planet Living Community Resort, and may provide insights for designers and planners into how to lower the Ecological Footprint of new developments.

BioRegional examined the Ecological Footprint of Mata de Sesimbra, starting with an analysis of consumption in Portugal provided by Global Footprint Network. BioRegional then conducted a detailed modeling that examined the energy use and the likely transport and consumption patterns of residents and visitors. They also compared the Ecological Footprint of a community resident to that of someone who owns a second home there and to someone coming to Mata de Sesimbra on vacation.  They concluded that how frequently a ”one planet” budget allows individuals to visit ranges from several trips per year to once every six years, depending on where they live, how they live at home and how they travel to the site.

Racing Towards Sustainability

Global Footprint Network is advancing the science of sustainability by engaging with governments and other institutions to measure and track their Ecological Footprint. We also know the importance of making sustainability accessible and exciting to the widest number of people. That’s why we are thrilled with the Sky Race World Cup—it provides a fresh and energetic, as well as beautiful, way to symbolize our striving towards sustainability (and ending ecological overshoot).

The Skyrace will feature twenty sailplanes that race 200-300 kilometers through spectacular and remote regions. By emphasizing our reliance on the sun and wind and the potential for further harnessing that power, the Sky Race World Cup transforms a sophisticated engine-less aerial world championship into an inspirational and fun way to envision a future where humanity thrives within ecological limits.

Footprint Briefs

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

  • Enough is Enough » “Enough should be the central concept in economics,” writes Herman Daly, a Global Footprint Network advisor and one of the founders of ecological economics, in the forward to the fascinating new book, “Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources.” The book challenges the dominant thesis of contemporary economics: Growth at any cost. Authors Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill start from the observation that the world economy, as it is currently run, is causing long-term environmental, societal and economic damage. They go on to map out alternative paths toward a steady-state economy (an economy with stable or mildly fluctuating size), one that prioritizes human well-being above growth and places economic activity squarely within ecological limits.  Dietz is editor of Daly News and was the first director of CASSE (Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy); O’Neill is lecturer in ecological economics at the University of Leeds and the chief economist at CASSE.

  • More, more and more » The Chatham House produced this elegant and interactive visualization of the new political economy of natural resources, based on a new report called “Resources Futures.” It shows interdependencies among nations (with a focus on crops, meat and dairy, timber, fossil fuels and metal) and allows users to compare the changes in trade flows between 2000 with 2010, with some projections into the future. It also provides a compelling snapshot of a few of the social and political consequences of natural resource shortages and supply disruptions. The projections of population and consumption growth over the coming decades threaten to amplify these risks—or in the words of Chatham House researchers, “the spectre of resource insecurity has come back with a vengeance.” The “Resources Futures” report can be downloaded here.
Upcoming Events 2013

  • 7th European Sustainable Cities & Towns Conference

    A green and socially responsible economy: a solution in times of crisis?

    April 17-19, 2013

    Geneva, Switzerland

  • Ecological Economics: Building Local, Scaling Global: Implementing Solutions for Sustainability

    June 9-12

    University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont

    The U.S. Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE) 2013 Conference is hosted by the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics. The conference’s theme is “Building Local, Scaling Global: Implementing Solutions for Sustainability” and will aim to research and catalog sustainability lessons learned at local, regional, and state levels and identifying solutions that can be scaled up. Call for Proposals: Abstracts due 2/15.

We’re Hiring

Global Footprint Network has a need for more talented and dedicated people to lead our cutting edge programs. 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.

Senior Economist (Geneva)
Research Scientist (Oakland)
Senior Manager, External Affairs (Oakland)
Bilingual Project Manager (Oakland)
Associate - Media & Outreach (Oakland)
Fundraising Manager - Foundations (Oakland)
Associate—External Affairs
Database Assistant [Part-time]