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Ecological Debt

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 7 months ago

Ecological Debt


The New Economics Foundation defines “Ecological Debt”: “If one accepts that every individual has an inherently equal share of (or stake in) the global atmosphere, people in wealthy nations are using up far more than their fair share of the global atmospheric carbon budget. In doing so, and by not paying for the consequences of global warming, rich countries are running up huge ecological debts to the poor, majority world.” http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/climate_ecodebt.aspx



A 2006 report from the World Wildlife Fund concurs. The size of humanity's "ecological footprint," as measured by the amount of natural resources we consume, has increased 2.5 times over the past 40 years, driven largely by energy and materials consumption in the United States and other industrialized nations.


View WWF's Living Planet Report (2006): http://www.worldwildlife.org/news/livingplanet/pdfs/living_planet_report.pdf



The statistics are shocking: "20% of the world's people consume 80% of the world's resources" (Rasmussen, 2005). “If everyone on Earth lived like the average Canadian, we’d need at least three Earths to provide all the material and energy essentials we currently use” (Wackernagel, n.d.). As Western industrialized societies consume the resources of colonized or marginalized places and peoples, Kloppenburg (1991) notes, "Indigenous people have in effect been engaged in a massive program of foreign aid to the urban populations of the industrialized North." (p. 16, cited in Rasmussen p. 177).


An ecological footprint is the amount of productive land area required to sustain one human being.






Related Resources


Global Footprint Network : http://footprintnetwork.org/


Calculate your ecological footprint at: http://www.myfootprint.org/

Salt Spring Island Energy Strategy



The area of each country has been distorted to represent its consumption i.e.; its ecological footprint. Countries which appear larger than normal are consuming more than their fair share, and smaller countries are consuming less. Picture is located on



This approach is critiqued by William McDonough who argues that it is guilt-inducing and not radical enough. Instead he suggests that if we build in a way that gives back to nature, we won't have to worry about taking from it. He notes, “Individually we are much larger than ants, but collectively their biomass exceeds ours. ...They are a good example of a population whose density and productiveness are not a problem for the rest of the world, because everything they make and use returns to the cradle-to-cradle cycles of nature.” See also Design Problems and Green Business.





Kloppenburg, T. (1991). "No hunting! Biodiversity, indigenous rights, and scientific poaching." Cultural Survival Quarterly, 15 (3), 10-18


Rasmussen, D. (2005). "Cease to do evil, then learn to do good...(a pedagogy for the oppressor). In Bowers, C. and F. Apffel-Marglin (Eds.), Re-thinking Freire: Globalization and the Environmental Crisis, pp. 115-129. Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


Wackernagel, M. (n.d., with The Task Force on Planning Healthy and Sustainable Communities, University of British Columbia). “How big is our ecological footprint?” Retrieved October 12, 2006 at http://www.iisd.ca/consume/mwfoot.html

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