Our way of life causes devastation to the living world. But it needn’t be like this. First, there is no fundamental shortage of resources on our planet to support good lives for all. Second, if only we let them, natural systems have extraordinary capacity to recover. With care and respect we and the rest of nature can flourish together.
When we look at whose consumption is responsible for the crises we face, we find that in many cases a relatively small proportion of the population accounts for most of our impact. When we examine what is really needed for a good life, we find it’s not ever more resources, but relationships and belonging. By tackling over-consumption by the few and focusing on meeting everyone’s real needs, we can massively reduce the pressure we place on the rest of living world.
From wild forests to intensive farmland, almost every ecosystem that’s been studied is damaged. Our vision for recovery is also impoverished because each generation believes the degraded countryside of their youth reflects the apex of abundance. This shifting baseline syndrome, and our increasingly urban lives, blind us to the fact that many natural systems have the potential to reach levels of diversity, resilience and productivity orders of magnitude higher than we have ever experienced.
SUSTAINABILITY LEADERS WORK TO ENSURE THEIR ORGANISATIONS’ RESOURCE USE IS SUSTAINABLE
The concept of an Ecological Footprint provides a measure of the quantity of our planet’s resources humanity is using compared to what our planet can sustainably provide. This measure indicates that humanity is using our planet’s resources 1.6 times faster than they can be replaced.
Sustainability leaders in business, government and the third sector can use the Ecological Footprint tool to measure their organisation’s resource use and take action to bring it within the limits of sustainability.
- The Global Footprint Network uses the science of Ecological Footprinting to support countries, leaders and individuals to reduce their Ecological Footprint.
SUSTAINABILITY LEADERS CHALLENGE THE LINK BETWEEN RESOURCE CONSUMPTION AND WELLBEING
In many cases, countries whose resource use is within the sustainable limits of our planet have populations living in inadequate conditions. But the link between ecological footprint and wellbeing is highly complex.
While the evidence is clear that the wealthiest are responsible for the highest carbon emissions, Denmark and France have much lower ecological footprints for the same level of income compared with other European countries.
- The Happy Planet Index shows that it is possible to live good lives without costing the Earth and provides a compass to guide us towards sustainability.