We need to promote development that does not destroy our environment.Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
About Ecological Handprints
We are living in an era that Dutch chemist Paul Crutzen has labeled the “Anthropocene” — a new geologic epoch defined by our own massive impact on the planet. The path of the Anthropocene has been paved in large part by resource-intensive, fossil fuel-dominated, and highly polluting patterns of consumption. It has risen steeply and rapidly from the time of the industrial revolution to the present day, at least for those in highly developed economies. Today, however, this old path — based on false assumptions of cheap energy and unlimited nature — ultimately leads us all to a dead end of greater human suffering and conflict, along with further weakening and depletion of the natural systems that support all life on the planet.
Now we face the daunting task of successfully navigating the rest of the Anthropocene. The journey will require a fresh perspective, with a high level of innovation, commitment and creativity. In the days ahead, as billions continue struggling to meet basic human needs, we must look beyond merely lowering our Ecological Footprint to create a richer, deeper, and more relevant paradigm that brings people not only closer to the planet, but also closer to each other.
The Ecological Footprint has justifiably emerged as a premier measure of humanity’s demand on nature and a leading indicator in the field of sustainability. Nevertheless, the Footprint is a limited accounting tool. It only quantifies our impact on natural systems and natural capital. It is not designed to encompass or measure our related impact on human development or humanitarian issues such as poverty, human rights, and social justice. In other words, while the concept of Ecological Footprints is a key piece of the equation, it’s missing an important component – the human touch.
Ecological Handprints expands upon the Ecological Footprint by linking together the interrelated goals of sustaining the biological integrity of the planet and ensuring sustenance for those in need. The interrelationship between these two goals is crucial, but is often overlooked when we focus on solving one issue or the other.
As we seek creative responses to a more complex and compromised planetary village, Ecological Handprints represent a nexus-based approach to problem solving in the challenging days ahead — an approach built on a wide range of innovative efforts that improve human well-being while also having a low-footprint.