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Ecological footprint and appropriated carrying capacity : a tool for planning toward sustainability 1994

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ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT AN]) APPROPRIAThD CARRYING CAPACITY: A TOOL FOR PLANNING TOWARD SUSTAINABILITY by MATHIS WACKERNAGEL Dip!. Ing., The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ZUrich, 1988 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (School of Community and Regional Planning) We accept this thesis as conforming to the r ired standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA October 1994 © Mathis Wackernagel, 1994 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. (Signature) &toof of C iwivry ejb’i’t/ Pios-ii’ii Gf (il r€dva k hidi’e The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date O 6) ) DE-6 (2/88) ABSThACT There is mounting evidence that the ecosystems of Earth cannot sustain current levels of economic activity, let alone increased levels. Since some consume Earth’s resources at a rate that will leave little for future generations, while others still live in debilitating poverty, the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Economic Development has called for development that is sustainable. The purpose of this thesis is to further develop and test a planning tool that can assist in translating the concern about the sustainability crisis into public action. The research advances the concept of “Ecological Footprint” or “Appropriated Carrying Capacity” (EF/ACC) as a planning tool for conceptualizing and developing sustainability. To meet this purpose, I document the development of the EF/ACC concept, explore its potential use in public decision- making towards sustainability, apply the concept in a real world context, and finally, empirically analyze its usefulness to actors in the public domain. The research shows that the EF/ACC concept can link global social and ecological concerns to individual and institutional decision-making. Though the tool needs further refinement to make it readily applicable to the planning practitioners’ everyday decisions, it has proved useful as a conceptual tool for framing the sustainabiity challenges. More than 20 EF/ACC applications, by others and by me, range from environmental outdoor education for children to policy and project assessments for municipalities and regions. With these examples, EF/ACC has contributed to translating sustainability into concrete terms and to providing direction for planning toward sustainability. II TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract ii Table of Contents iii List of Tables vii List of Figures viii Acknowledgement . . . ix INTRODUCTION A. The Challenge 1 B. The Purpose of this Thesis Research 4 C. Structure of the Thesis’ Presentation 6 D. Scope of the Thesis 7 E. Significance of the Thesis 9 II. THE SUSTAINABILITY CRISIS: EXPLORING ITS FACETS AND LINKING ITS THEMES 10 A. Why Worry? Examining the Sustainabiity Crisis 11 1. The ecological crisis 13 2. The socioeconomic crisis 21 3. The political crisis 23 4. The epistemological crisis 28 5. The psychological crisis 38 B. Making the Connections: The Common Theme of the Sustainability Crisis 42 C. Reacting to the Crisis: Exploring the Necessary Conditions for Sustainability 50 1. The ecological bottom-line for sustainabiity: a case for strong sustainability 52 2. The socioeconomic conditions for sustainability . 55 3. The political conditions for sustainability 57 4. The epistemological conditions for sustainability . * 57 5. The psychological conditions for sustainability . . 58 D. Developing Sustainability: The Need for Planning Tools that Can Translate Sustainability Concerns into Effective Action 60 111 III. ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT OR APPROPRIATED CARRYING CAPACITY: DEVELOPING A TOOL FOR PLANNING TOWARD SUSTAINABILITY .. 62 A. The Conceptual Foundation of EF/ACC 62 1. Assessing natural capital 62 2. Defining EF/ACC 67 3. EF/ACC and its conceptual ancestors 69 4. EF/ACC and its conceptual siblings 71 B. The Five Rationales for EF/ACC 78 1. Ecological rationale 78 2. Socioeconomic rationale 84 3. Political rationale 88 4. Epistemological rationale 91 5. Psychological rationale 95 IV. DEVELOPING A CALCULATION PROCEDURE FOR ASSESSING EF/ACC OF AN ECONOMY 97 A. Establishing an Operational EF/ACC Definition 97 B. Outlining the Calculation Procedure 100 1. The land-use of consumption 100 2. Consumption categories 101 3. Land and land-use categories 102 4. The matrix 111 C. Adopting the Calculation Procedure to Specific Applications . . . 114 V. ASSESSING THE IMPACT OF PEOPLE, THEIR CONSUMPTION AN]) THEIR TECHNOLOGY: EF/ACC APPLICATIONS 117 A. The Appropriated Carrying Capacity of an Average Canadian . . 117 1. The purpose of this calculation . . 117 2. The calculation procedure 118 3. Examples of translating consumption into land-use 120 4. Results and comparisons 122 5. The precision of EF/ACC estimate 126 B. Other EF/ACC Applications 127 1. Technology assessment 128 2. Local and regional decision-making 129 3. National and international decision-making 132 4. Social equity 134 5. Social behaviour and public education 136 iv VI. EXPLORING EF/ACC’S USEFULNESS FOR PLANNING TOWARD SUSTAINABILITY 139 A. Measuring “Usefulness” 139 1. Choosing interviewing as the research method . . 139 2. Establishing two scales 141 3. Identifying potential barriers to the EFIACC tool 143 4. Selecting key informants 146 5. Developing an interview questionnaire 150 6. The process of the questionnaire-based interview research 155 7. Limitations of this interview research 156 B. Documenting the Interview Results 159 1. The key informants’ understanding of sustainability 160 2. The key informants’ support for the EF/ACC concept 165 C. Analyzing the Interview Results 175 1. Evaluating EF/ACC’s usefulness 176 2. Evaluating the interview process as an EF/ACC application 188 VII. CONCLUSION 193 A. Conclusion with Respect to the Research Objectives 193 B. Suggested Areas for Further Research 199 1. Tool improvements: including all competing uses of nature 200 2. Local applications: analyzing the impact of settlement patterns and consumption 201 3. Larger scale applications: analyzing the impact of regional and national policies 203 4. Communication: making the tool and its ideas more accessible 206 5. Behavioral analyses: exploring the social psychology of the sustainability crisis 207 C. Implications of the EF/ACC Tool for Planning 208 1. Creating public awareness 209 2. Planning for sustainable national and international development 213 3. Planning sustainable communities 216 BIBLIOGRAPHY 219 V APPENDICES.246 Appendix 1: Land Area Equivalent for Fossil Fuel: Three Calculation Approaches 247 Appendix 1.1: Energy-Land Equivalence Ratio Based on Ethanol Production 248 Appendix 1.2: Energy-Land Equivalence Ratio Based on CO2 Absorption 252 Appendix 1.3: Energy-Land Equivalence Ratio Based on Creating Renewable Substitutes 255 Appendix 2: Background Data for the Land-use Consumption Matrix 257 Appendix 2.1: Data for Calculating the Average Canadian Footprint 258 Appendix 2.2: Supplementary Tables on Food Consumption and Energy 292 Appendix 2.3: Data References (for Data in Appendix 2) 303 Appendix 2.4: Abbreviations and Units 307 Appendix 3: Interview Research 308 Appendix 3.1: Summary of Draft Handbook Reviews 309 Appendix 3.2: List of the Interviewed Key Informants 310 Appendix 3.3: The Questionnaire 311 Appendix 3.4: Excerpts from the Answers of the Key Informants . 325 vi LIST OF TABLES Table 4.1 Table 4.2 Table 5.1 Table 6.1 Table 6.2 Table A1.1 Table A1.2 Table A2. 1 Table A2.2 Table A2.3 Table A2.4 Table A2.5 Table A2.6 Table A2.7 Table A2.8 101 103 123 142 152 251 253 292 295 297 298 299 300 301 302 The five main consumption categories The eight main land and land-use categories The consumption land-use matrix Scales for sustainability perspectives and EF/ACC support Structure of the interviews Comparing results of various ethanol productivity studies CO2 sequestering by forest ecosystems General data Canadian crop production and consumption Canadian animal products and their consumption Food supply and caloric value for an average Canadian Embodied energy in various materials Consumption energy conversion Specific energy content Approximate conversion ratios for biomass productivity vi’ LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1.1 Three spheres of health 51 Figure 6.1 Distribution of key informants according to their sustainability understanding and support for the EF/ACC tool 177 Figure 7.1 David Pearce’s “policy wedge” to decouple consumption from resource throughput 205 viii ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Studying in Vancouver at the School of Community and Regional Planning was a rich and enjoyable experience. I felt fortunate about being surrounded by nature’s beauty and, even more, about being embedded in a community of caring and supportive friends. Especially grateful am I to my academic friends and mentors, first and foremost my supervisor and “Doktorvater Bill Rees, but also the other committee members Peter Boothroyd, Tom Hutton and Bob Woollard. In addition, I was generously supported by the UBC Task Force on Healthy and Sustainable Communities, particularly by its coordinator Janette McIntosh as well as by the other members of the Task Force composed of my committee (but Tom), Larry Green, Clyde Hertzman, Judy Lynam, and Sharon Manson-Singer who all stimulated and encouraged my research. Also many people in the Vancouver area who I met through my work with the Task Force or who I interviewed for my research provided me with many insights and much inspiration. Further I would like to thank my other friends from Community Alternatives, from the School of Community and Regional Planning and the Centre for Human Settlements, from International House, and the friends who I have met through them. Their company was always inspiring. Particular indebtedness goes to my family and friends abroad who have accompanied me in thoughts, letters and visits. The greatest gift of my time here in Vancouver has been the many friends who have become family, and many of my family who have become close friends. Thank you all. ix I. INTRODUCTION A. THE CHALLENGE There is mounting evidence that the ecosystems of Earth cannot sustain current levels of economic activity, let alone increased levels (Goodland 1991, Meadows et a!. 1992:97-103, Postel 1994, Rees & Wackernagel 1992:383). However, economic activities, measured by the Gross World Product, are growing at four percent a year’ -- which corresponds to a doubling time of under 20 years (UNDP 1993:149, Brown et at. 1992b:67). One factor of this expansion is the growth of the world’s population, which is expected to almost double between 1990 and the year 2050 (United Nations 1991). The other ecologically significant factor is the rise in per capita consumption which, in the last 40 years, has been increasing even faster than the human population (Hoidren & Ehrlich 1974, Brown et at. 1992b:77). Today’s form of conventional economic development was launched after the Second World War, and has become a major element of most nations’ political agendas. Its aim has been to integrate local economies into the global economy, which leads to accelerated industrial production (and resource consumption) (Smith 1994, Ohmae 1990, Samuelson & Nordhaus 1985:870, 857-868). However, increasing economic production has neither levelled income differences, nor satisfied the basic needs of the world’s poorest one billion people. While twenty percent of the world’s people live in unprecedented wealth, at least twenty percent live in conditions of “absolute poverty” (UNDP 1993:12). Therefore, the conventional economic development approach has been challenged for not catering effectively to the needs of the poor (Dube 1988, Friedmann 1992, Friedmann & Weavers 1979, George 1984 & 1992, Hadi 1993, Hayter 1985, Laquian 1993). 1 The Gross World Product rose in 1987 dollars from $3.8 billion in 1959 to $18.8 billion in 1990. This expansion corresponds to an average growth rate of 4.1 percent. For the 1980’s, the average growth rate was three percent (Brown et al. 1992b:67). 1 Now, in the face of global ecological constraints, the criticism becomes even more severe. Currently, humanity appears to deplete nature, through resource harvesting and waste generation, faster than nature can regenerate itself. By 1986, human activities were already appropriating over forty percent of nature’s terrestrial net primary productivity -- or in other words, humanity was channelling through its economy over forty percent of nature’s chemical energy and living matter, which are constantly being accumulated by the land-based natural processes of photosynthesis (Vitousek et a!. 1986). If the appropriation of other functions of nature are added, such as waste absorption (e.g., biodegrading effluents or sequestering CO2 from fossil fuel burning) and life support services (e.g., preserving biodiversity or providing climate stability), there is indication that the world may already be effectively “full” of human activity (Goodland 1991, Daly 1991, Rees & Wackemagel 1992). The resource appropriation which has supported the last decades’ economic growth and the rise of industrialized countries’ standard of living has, at the same time, resulted in the degradation of forests, soil, water, air, and ecological and genetic diversity (Duming 1989, Ehrlich & Ehrlich 1970, Brown et a!. 1984a-1994a). As the world approaches effective “fullness”, the conventional economic development path has become self-destructive and a burden, particularly to the poor. Many scholars believe that continuing on this path might not only ultimately impoverish humanity but put at risk its very survival (Duming 1989, Ekins 1986 & 1992, Goldsmith eta!. 1991, Gordon & Suzuki 1990, Meadows eta!. 1992, Wolfgang Sachs 1992a & 1993, Shiva 1991, The Ecologist 22(4), Trainer 1989). In 1987, with the release of Our Common Future by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), discussions about the destructive social and ecological impacts of humanity’s current approach to development became prominent on 2 political agendas. The starting point for the World Commission’s work was their acknowledgement that humanity’s future is threatened. The Commission opened its report by declaring: We all depend on one biosphere for sustaining our lives. Yet each community, each country, strives for survival and prosperity with little regard for its impacts on others. Some consume the Earth’s resources at a rate that would leave little for future generations. Others, many more in number, consume far too little and live with the prospects of hunger, squalor, disease, and early death (1987:27). To confront these challenges of excessive resource consumption and persistent social misery, the Commission called for sustainable development, defined as “...development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs...” (1987:43). In other words, the conventional economic development imperative of maximizing economic production must be reoriented toward minimizing human suffering today and in the future. This depends, on the one hand, on reducing ecological destruction -- mainly through lowering the resource throughput that the human economy draws from nature -- and, on the other hand, on improving many people’s quality of life. How to meet the challenge of developing sustainability2has stimulated much academic and political debate. Expressions of this growing interest in sustainabiity issues have been 2 In this thesis, I use the expression “developing sustainability” rather than “rustainable development” because development is often confused with growth (Daly 1991:243, Kumar et al. 1993:3). This becomes particularly evident when some people as William Reilly (1994) advocate “sustainable growth.” Also, Brian Burrows eta!., in their otherwise well-informed book, write that “... the emphasis shifted from advocacy of zero growth to a recognition of the need for sustainable development, which would include some economic growth, but in a pattern sufficiently well balanced to minimise environmental damage and eventually to avoid the depletion of non-renewable natural resources...” (1991:9). However, as pointed out later in this thesis, developing sustainability might require a reduction in aggregate economic production, while at the same time providing more consumption to the poorest. Further, the depletion of renewable resources might be a more serious limitation than the depletion of non-renewable resources. Also, the term “sustainable development” is semantically ambiguous: it could refer to the necessity to live sustainably (a state), to the process of getting there (a process), to the current unsustainable lifestyle (problem), or to strategies to solve the crisis (solution). Therefore, debates about “sustainable development” can be confusing since objections could be interpreted as disagreement with the problem definition, the proposed solutions, the goal of sustainability or the process of getting there. As discussed in Chapter II, there is little disagreement on the problem, but much on how to address it. 3 international events such as the 1992 UNCED - “Rio Conference” (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, June 3-14, 1992) ; national and provincial activities such as Round Tables and government-sponsored research initiatives; and local initiatives in schools, municipalities and businesses. However, there is little common understanding across the various academic disciplines on how sustainability can be developed (Folke et al. 1994), and there is little indication that current sustainability initiatives are effective at reversing the ecological and social trends. On the one hand, human use of nature apparently continues to exceed global carrying capacity (nature’s renewable productivity). On the other hand, social health, as indicated by a sharpening of economic and social polarization, is deteriorating, locally and globally (Kaplan 1994, Pimentel & Pimentel 1994, Postel 1994, Brown 1994, Brown et al. 1992b). One deficiency of current sustainability initiatives is the lack of accepted monitoring tools to measure progress toward sustainability; another is the poor public comprehension of the sustainability crisis (Peat Marwick 1993b). Without a clear and generally accepted framework of basic criteria for sustainability and without popular support, sustainability initiatives are without direction and fail to move industrial society towards critical social and ecological objectives. Therefore, planning tools which can be used to raise public awareness of the issues and dilemmas, measure progress towards sustainability, and direct action, could make an important contribution to the development of sustainability. B. THE PURPOSE OF THIS THESIS RESEARCH The purpose of this thesis is to further develop and test a planning tool that can assist in translating the concern about the sustainability crisis into public action. As a planning tool for conceptualizing and developing sustainability, the concept of “Ecological Footprint” or “Appropriated Carrying Capacity” (EF/ACC) is proposed. 4 EF/ACC is a simple, yet comprehensive tool: it provides an accounting framework for the biophysical services that a given economy requires from nature. It is calculated by estimating the land area, in various categories, necessary to sustain the current level of consumption by the people in that economy, using prevailing technology. An economy’s full Ecological Footprint would include all the land whose services this economy appropriates from all over the globe to provide necessary resource inputs and to assimilate corresponding waste outputs. The EF/ACC concept thereby demonstrates the ecological dependence of economic systems. It is both an analytical and heuristic device for understanding the sustainability implications of different kinds of human activities, and serves as an awareness tool and an action-oriented planning tool for decision-making towards sustainability. The EF/ACC concept builds on the human carrying capacity debate (e.g., Meadows et a!. 1972, Vogt 1948, Ehrlich 1982, Pimentel & Pimentel 1990, 1994, Pearce & Barbier et a!. 1991:114-127, Buitenkamp eta!. 1993, Postel 1994), and originates in the teaching and research by Prof. William E. Rees, and later by myself, at The University of British Columbia (Rees 1978, 1986, 1992, Cousins & Wackernagel 1991, Wackemagel 1991, 1992, 1993a [see copy in Appendix 3.3], Wackernagel & Rees 1992, Rees 1992, Rees & Wackernagel 1992, Wacker nagel et a!. l993). The concept has already found many applications (including Wada 1993, Beck 1993, Harrington 1993, Parker 1993, Commonwealth Forum 1994, Davidson & Robb 1994, ESSA 1994, Maguire eta!. 1994, Neumann 1994, UBC Task Force 1994, ZUrcher 1994). Related concepts include “Environmental Space” by Maria Buitenkamp et al. from the Dutch Friends ofthe Earth (1993), Jim MacNeill et al. ‘s “shadow ecologies” (1991), William Catton’s “phantom carrying capacity” (1980), Borgstrom’s “ghost acreage” (1965), Ragnar Overby’s “carrying capacity demand” (1985), and William Rees’ “regional capsule” (1986) and “personal planetoid” (1992c). 5 C. STRUCTURE OF THE THESIS’ PRESENTATION Developing a planning tool requires tasks such as: identifying and conceptualizing the sustainability problem; distilling key issues and mechanisms; clarifying and making explicit the personal motivations; values and working assumptions; identifying possible strategic intervention points; testing conceptual approaches; and then consolidating and refining them. Therefore, before discussing the EF/ACC concept, I propose a problem statement in Chapter II which exposes the concerns that motivated this research and provides some context about the issues. I also explore the sustainability crisis and five of its major facets by reviewing definitions of, and perspectives on, sustainability from the literature. Particular, the “constant natural capital” principle as the ecological “bottom-line” requirement for sustainability is emphasized, while acknowledging that it is difficult to measure this capital. I also discuss socioeconomic, political, episternological and psychological conditions for moving toward sustainability -- and analyze their implications for new planning tools. To achieve my overall research purpose of further developing and testing a tool for planning toward sustainability, I divide it into four research objectives which are explored in the subsequent chapters. They are: • to introduce and describe EF/ACC as a new planning tool for developing sustainability, and then to discuss its rationales and to review its intellectual context (Chapter lii); • to develop a calculation procedure for concrete EF/ACC applications (Chapter 11’); • to apply the concept to the Canadian context and list other EF/ACC applications that have been or are being completed (Chapter 1’); and, • to explore empirically how useful administrators and planners, business people and economists, and community activists and local politicians perceive the EF/ACC tool to 6 be when planning toward sustainability (Chapter VI). Finally in Chapter VII, I draw the conclusions from the research findings and explore the findings’ implications for planning. D. SCOPE OF THE STUDY Rather than discussing paths and strategies for developing sustainability, I explore in this thesis the usefulness of one particular tool for planning toward sustainability which could stimulate the sustainability debate, help develop strategies, and evaluate their effectiveness. EF/ACC has further evolved in the context of the work with the UBC Task Force on Planning Healthy and Sustainable Communities and their engagement with various municipalities and community groups. Also, the EF/ACC tool is meant to be applied in conjunction with other sustainability tools and processes such as for example the “Social Caring Capacity” concept that is being developed by some members of the UBC Task Force (1994, Aronson & Charles 1993). The activities and concepts of the Task Force are documented by the UBC Task Force (1994), Janette McIntosh (1993), Bob Woollard (1994b), and me (1993a, 1994). For the purpose of this thesis, I focused the research on the EF/ACC tool, its applications and its perceived usefulness.4 The UBC Task Force, composed of Peter Boothroyd (School of Community and Regional Planning), Lawrence Green (Health Promotion), Clyde Hertzman (Health Care and Epidemiology), Judy Lynam (Nursing), Sharon Mauson Singer (Social Work), Janette McIntosh (Task Force co-ordinator), William Rees (Co-Chair, School of Community and Regional Planning), Robert Woollard (Co-Chair, Family Practice), me (and more recently Alec Ostry and Mike Carr), started from the acknowledgement of the two key sustainability imperatives, namely the need: a) to reduce society’s (material) draw on nature, and b) to improve society’s quality of life, and maintains that only those policies and projects that satisfy these two imperatives move us toward sustainability. Sustainability imperatives refer to the goals that initiatives or activities have to meet in order to be sustainable. The sustainability conditions, outlined in Chapter II, suggest characteristics for such initiatives that seem necessary to meet these goals: the political, epistemological and psychological conditions address the process side, while the ecological and socioeconomic conditions encompass the substantive aspects. In this thesis, I addressed mainly the first sustainability imperative. 7 The thesis documents one EF/ACC application that estimates the land appropriation of human consumption. Land (or ecosystems) were classified into eight land-use categories, while consumption was divided into five main consumption categories. The application relies on a simplified operational definition which permits the assessment of EF/ACC’s magnitude rather than documenting the land appropriation with a percentage precision. The key is to emphasize the conceptual accuracy rather than precision in measuring the material draws on nature.5 In the application (Chapter V), I calculated the EF/ACC example from a consumption perspective only, and used secondary data for calculating land equivalencies of consumption patterns. However, other EF/ACC application which have been completed, or are in progress, are briefly discussed too. For exploring the tool’s usefulness to the public, I conducted 21 in-depth interviews. They do not provide statistical evidence of the EF/ACC tool’s public acceptance, but document the reasoning and understanding by a variety of actors in the public domain, and uncover themes and patterns that influence the psychological predisposition of these actors to plan toward sustainability. Such information is significant when testing the usefulness of the tool because it helps to identify limitations for planning toward sustainability and possible improvements of the EF/ACC tool for more effectively addressing these limiting factors. “Accurate” refers to pointing in the right direction (or securing a consistent mean), while “precision” alludes to good reproducibility of the results (or displaying a low variance -- independent of accuracy). To take the metaphor of a gun, accuracy refers to how close the centre of the bullet-holes’ cluster comes to the target, while precision indicates how dense the cluster of the bullet-holes is, regardless of the cluster’s location to the target. For example, the Gross National Product (GNP) is a very precise tool and can be reproduced within a small margin of error; however, it is inaccurate as a tool for measuring national income because many activities and services, such as informal work or loss in ecosystem assets, are not included in the calculation. 8 E. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY EF/ACC is a new ecological-economic tool which goes beyond comparable approaches. It draws on an over 200 year-old tradition of human ecology, including newer fields such as energetics, environmental planning, impact assessment, resource management and ecological economics, but moves further in that it: a) reinterprets the carrying capacity concept as land per capita necessary to sustain an individual’s throughput (“demand on nature”), rather than as capita per land (“supply of nature”); b) connects all competing uses of nature by translating them into exclusive land-uses as land represents a limiting factor for nature’s productivity. For many uses it identifies bio chemical energy (and the land needed to generate it) as the limiting factor for the human economy. Using such a common ecological “yardstick” makes it possible to aggregate human uses of nature including appropriated biological productivity, consumed fossil energy, absorptive capacity, and overtaxed water sources; c) addresses cumulative impacts rather than focusing on fragmented events; d) translates the results into (industrial) land-uses all over the globe, thereby linking global (macro) concerns related to the sustainability crisis with individual and institutional (micro) action; e) develops (i.e., applies and quantifies) this concept into a comprehensive tool for a variety of planning tasks including communication, education, assessments, evaluations, comparisons, design, and decision-making; and ±) examines and challenges the publics’ perception of sustainability and lacking support for action by using an heuristic approach. 9 IL THE SUSTAINAB1LITY CRISIS: EXPLORING ITS FACETS AND LINKING ITS THEMES The World Commission on Environment and Development’s opening statement revealed many fundamental concerns about the current human condition (1987:27). It acknowledged that humanity is not living within nature’s productive capacity, thereby gradually destroying it. It also concedes that many people’s basic needs are still not being met. These concerns reflect the crux of the sustainability crisis. According to the Collins Dictionaiy, a crisis is “... a situation where something, such as your confidence in someone or something, is so heavily attacked or questioned that there is serious doubt whether it will continue to exist...” (Sinclair 1987). I argue in this chapter that there is serious doubt whether those societies with high-consumption lifestyles, as enjoyed in industrialized countries over the last fifty years, will be able to maintain their current consumption level, and whether the less industrialized countries will be able to emulate the lifestyle of industrialized countries, as promised by the conventional economic development paradigm -- and analyze the implications for planning tools. Even though human activities have ecologically “filled” the entire world, industrial societies still operate in an “empty-world” mode (Daly 1991, Meadows et a!. 1992). Conventional economic development strategies continue to promote expansion of human activities in order to combat poverty and to tackle other social and ecological problems, many of which are actually caused by the prevailing approach to development. This expansion-oriented economic development approach is supported by most governments, by the economic branches of organizations such as the World Bank or the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and even by sections of the World Commission’s report (WCED 1987:213-215). 10 On one level, a large percentage of the people in the North and South know about the destructiveness of the current development path. For example, a comprehensive Gallup study directed by Riley Dunlap and conducted in 12 Northern and 12 Southern countries, documents the widespread concern about the future of humankind (Dunlap 1993). But this widespread concern is not translated into the action necessary to reverse the ecological trends and to improve the less fortunate people’s quality of life. The lack of political action cannot be attributed to any shortage of adequate information. In fact, over the last quarter of a century, scholars, NGOs, and politicians have consistently used the same set of arguments to warn about the human predicament.1 Clearly, we need planning tools that go beyond delivering information in order to bridge the gap between mere concern about the sustainability crisis and effective political action. As stated, exploring such a planning tool is the purpose of this thesis. However, before addressing my main research objectives, I discuss the concerns that motivated and directed this research and explore the sustainability crisis through its ecological, socioeconomic, political, epistemological, and psychological aspects. A. WHY WORRY? EXAMINING THE SUSTAINABILITY CRISIS An average person from the industrialized world does not experience the immediacy of the sustainability crisis. This person typically shops in supermarkets overstocked with an overwhelming variety of goods, and watches television ads which show the newest, and 1 Examples are: organizations such as Club of Rome or (Jreenpeace; reports such as The Global 2000 Report (Barney 1980) or The Ecologist’s Blueprintfor Action (1972); conferences such the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm (UNCHE 1973), or the second conference on Environment Futures in Reykjavik in 1977 Polunin 1980). 11 technologically most advanced cars dashing through lush and unpopulated landscapes. Not only is the abundance of goods overwhelming, but so is that person’s purchasing power. For example, the average Canadian’s income could buy over 200 times more food than he or she requires2 - - which translates into a high level of consumption. However, sustaining such high levels of consumption has had detrimental effects: global resource stocks are being used faster then they can replenish themselves. This imbalance characterizes the ecological crisis. In the meantime, poverty remains rampant. One third of the global population lives in absolute poverty (UNDP 1993:12). As discussed below, some scholars even argue that prevailing development programs have generally increased, rather than curtailed, poverty (even in the case of some low-income countries with rapid economic growth rates). The persisting poverty exemplifies the socioeconomic crisis. On the whole, local and global political institutions have not been successful in counteracting these trends, and future political breakthroughs in this area do not look promising. While some maintain that government institutions are a part of the problem, and that deregulation and structural adjustment would be a positive step toward sustainability (Block 1990), many others insist that effectively addressing the above crises demands the leadership of global institutions and the establishment of international agreements (WCED 1987, MacNeill 1991:74-128). It is not clear whether global economic integration strengthens or detracts from such aims. While globalization has improved communication links and stimulated economic growth, it has weakened the political institutions of nation states and 2 As a rough estimate: in 1991, the average Canadian earned approximately 20,740 [$US GNP/cap/year] (World Resources Institute 1994:257). In the same year, wheat prices were at 0.140 [$USIkg] (World Resources Institute 1994:262). Therefore, the average Canadian income could buy 20,740 / (0.140 * 365 [days per year]) = 406 [kg/day]. One kilogram of cereals corresponds to more than a person’s daily food energy requirement (13,000 [kj/cap/day]) -. hence the average income would buy 400 times the calorie requirements for food. For a more protein rich diet like soybeans, that person could buy about 230 [kg/day], each kilogram containing approximately 220 [g] of proteins and 12,000 [kj] of available energy --or over 200 times the daily requirements (World Resources Institute 1994:262, de Looy 1987: 136 (data for dry beans)). 12 regional governments, thereby reducing government’s potential policy choices -- a dilemma identified as the institutional or political crisis. Most public science institutions, which are viewed as the official “sensory organs” of industrialized societies, have been hampered in their efforts to apprehend these crises, let alone deal with them. Science’s industrial successes have fortified those parts of the scientific enterprise which concentrate on narrow and marketable studies while compromising on inquiries dealing with more encompassing concerns such as the ecological, social, and political crisis. Science’s limitation is summarized as the epistemological crisis. In spite of the limitations of scientific inquiry, individual citizens can sense these crises all the same. Too often, however, they are unwilling to fully acknowledge them or to take appropriate action. These psychological barriers are referred to as the psychological crisis. In this section, I explore these five facets of the sustainability crisis. For each facet, I describe the key symptoms and trends, and assess the success of current public action to counteract these trends. 1. THE ECOLOGICAL CRISIS The global ecological crisis is deepening. The trends paint a clear picture. Since 1984, the global fish harvest has been dropping, and so has the per capita yield of grain crops (Brown 1994: 179-187). Also, stratospheric ozone is being depleted; the release of greenhouse gases The literature is not conclusive about whether the decrease in per capita grain production over the last 10 years is a long-term trend. Data from the World Resource Institute between 1970-1990 are consistent with Brown’s 1950-1993 time series which show a decrease in average per capita productivity of food after 1984 (World Resources Institute 1992b, Brown 1994:186 based on USDA data). However, John Bongaarts is optimistic about the future of grain production, and claims that feeding a growing world population is technically feasible (1994:36-42). However, the “.. .economic and environmental costs incurred through bolstering food production may well prove too great for many poor countries. The course of the events will depend crucially on their governments’ ability to design and enforce effective policies that address the challenges posed by mounting human numbers, rising poverty and environmental degradation...” (1994:42). In contrast, plant physiologist William Paddock believes that population growth rates are underestimated, while progress in plant productivity is overstated resulting in misguided optimism (1994:52-65). 13 has changed the atmospheric chemistry and might lead to climate change; erosion and desertification is reducing nature’s biological productivity; irrigation water tables are falling; contamination of soil and water is jeopardizing the quality of food; other natural resources are being consumed faster than they can regenerate; and biological diversity is being lost -- to reiterate only a small part of a long list (Brown et at. 1984-1994, Burrows et a!. 1991, Chiras 1992a, Clark & Munn 1987, Corson 1990, Goodland 1991, Myers 1984, and Scien4ficAmerican September 1989). These trends indicate a decline in the quantity and productivity of nature’s assets, or, in the language of Ecological Economists, the depletion of “natural capital” (Jansson et at. 1994). At the same time, the human population and its demands on nature are growing. Between 1950 and 1990 alone, the industrial roundwood harvest doubled, fish catches increased five fold (and fell since 1989), water use tripled, and oil consumption rose nearly sixfold (Postel 1994:7, Brown 1994: 179). While human demands are growing exponentially, nature’s sustainable productive capacity is in decline. These opposing trends show how human consumption has come to exceed the global productive capacity of nature.5 Harvesting in excess of nature’s productive Donella Meadows eta!. compare the increase of various human activities between 1970 with 1990, and document in most cases a doubling. For example, the world population grew from 3.6 to 5.3 billion, registered cars increased from 250 to 560 million, energy consumption nearly doubled, truck transportation in OECD countries more than doubled, and waste generation in OECD countries increased by 40 percent (1992:7). For statistical surveys on human activities (including resource harvest) and nature’s productivity see Worldwatch (Brown et a!. 1992b, 1993b), World Resources Institute (1986-1994), United Nations Human Development Report (1990-1994), World Bank (1978-1993). Other sources include the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Population Reference Bureau, and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). According to my preliminary calculations, today’s human requirements in three of nature’s main functions alone, namely food, forest products, and CO2 sequestration, already exceed terrestrial carrying capacity by nearly 30 percent (see Chapter V). Also, marine carrying capacity is now fully occupied by human demands: the current global fish harvest has reached (and since 1989 fallen back from) the Maximum Sustainable Yield as estimated by FAO (in Brown 1994:179). However, according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), with current population levels the world industrial output would have to be increased by a factor of 2.6 if consumption of manufactured goods in developing countries were to rise to current levels in industrialized countries (WCED 1987:213). 14 capacity is possible only temporarily, at the cost of drawing down nature’s assets and weakening its regenerative capacity. Even though there is wide acknowledgement of, and concern about, the growing human demands on a limited and already overtaxed planet (Dunlap 1993), there remain some scholars who claim that this is a fabricated concern.6The main arguments they bring forward include: • the assertion of infinite substitutability. Economists Bruno Fritsch holds that resources are a reflection of icnowledge, while George Gilder maintains that resources are “.. . a product of the human will and imagination...” (Fritsch 1991:299, Gilder 1981 cited in Daly & Cobb 1989:109). Similarly, H. Goeller and Alvin Weinberg’s biophysical resource assessment, titled The Age of Substitutability, argue that “...most of the essential resources are in infinite supply: that as society exhausts one raw material, it will turn to lower-grade, inexhaustible substitutes...”7(1976:683). While this may be true for some specific industrial inputs, such as copper which is being replaced by glass fibres, substitutability does not work for most ecological services on which human activities depend. A major flaw in these assertions about substitutability is their ignorance of In fact, using Daly’s simplified model of global income distribution (15 % of the world population makes on average $21,000 per capita and year, the other 85 % only $1,000 [1993:54]), the required increase would rather need to be 5.3 times larger. 6 Most of the scholarly disagreement about “sustainable development” is not so much about the symptoms of the crisis, but rather about the strategies on how to achieve it. For example, strategies are proposed to advance or reverse economic deregulation, technological efficiency, global government, privatization, consumption taxes, or trade, to name a few. ‘ They also argue that humankind would need an inexhaustible energy source such as nuclear fusion, breeder reactors or solar energy, and are positive that such sources can be developed. 15 human dependence on critical life-support functions of nature.8Human activities not only require minerals and other industrial resources, many of which are substitutable, but also renewable biological resources, waste absorptive capacity and numerous life support services for which there are no known or satisfactory substitutes. Finally, the second law of thermodynamics asserts that the biophysical availability of a resource is ultimately determined by the available chemical and thermodynamic energy (also called “essergy”) of that resource rather than by human wants. • the belief that falling real prices indicate declining reduced resource scarcity (Barnett & Morse 1963, Simon & Kahn 1984, Ozdemiroglu 1993 [in Pearce & Turner et al. 1993:6]), or that increased resource reserves would indicate reduced scarcity (Gee 1994, Fritsch 1991:101). There is strong evidence that prices reflect the scarcity of neither the biophysical non-marketed resources (Pearce & Turner eta!. 1993:5) nor that of marketed resources.9 Evidently, for essential process resources without a market, prices fail absolutely. Also, interpreting increases in economic reserves of non-renewable assets ignores the fact that the total stock is declining all the same, and that it may become 8 Ignorance of what William Rees calls humanity’s “...obligate dependence on nature...” (1990c) -- and in the crudest sense, on its bio-chemical flows -- is widespread in economics (see also Folke 1991). In fact, in most development oriented economics texts, nature’s constraints are not even mentioned, with the exception of oil supply and prices. If “environmental concerns” are addressed, then it is only to point out that, building on economist Ronald Coase’s approach for internalizing “social cost,” environmental degradation is caused by lacking property rights (examples are Blochliger et al. 1991, Bromley 1991, Giersch 1993:163-164, McKibbin & Sachs 1991, Jeffrey Sachs 1993). Economist Peter Kennedy argues that “...those presumed preferences [between which types of natural capital to conserve] are not consulted to examine the possibility that future generations may actually prefer substitution of manufactured capital for natural capital...” (1993:7). There are several problems with this statement. First, it does not recognize that natural capital is already in decline. Second, individual preferences and social preferences might fundamentally contradict as pointed out in the next section. And third, many essential ecological needs dependent on natural capital are not a matter of individual or social preference. For example, human bodies need inter alia 10,000 [kj] of healthy food per day, and that this is non-negotiable (Schmidheiny 1992:39). The section on the blindness of monetary analysis for assessing natural capital in Chapter ifi provides more discussion on this subject. 16 increasingly difficult to exploit the remaining stock for entropic reasons. En any event, focusing on marketed industrial resources is again a much too narrow interpretation of human dependence on nature, as pointed out above. Despite Marcus Gee’s claim that .by almost every measure, life on Earth is better than ever before...” (including rises in world GNP, total exports, adult literacy, food production in developing countries, and crude-oil reserves; 1994:A1,Dl), there is no guarantee that these trends can be sustained -- particularly on a per capita basis -- nor is there indication that those most in need are benefitting from these increases. • charges ofscientific fraud and misinformation (Ray 1993)10. However, the claim that the use of probabilistic results amounts to scientific fraud is misleading. Science is by definition not able to predict conclusively events that cannot be replicated. Science can only interpret available data and test hypotheses to develop theory and explore probabilities. Refuting an argument on the grounds that the scientific evidence does not conclusively prove future effects is, therefore, merely a reflection on the limits of science, and cannot be interpreted as a negation of the argument.11 In summary, these scholars’ refutations of the ecological crisis are based on an incomplete model and partial analyses. Nevertheless, their argument enjoy much public and political support because they conveniently rationalize status quo and inaction. The relationship between habitat productivity and population (including human population) has been a scientific topic for over 200 years (Martinez-Alier 1987). Biologists have 10 Particularly, the climate change debate has witnessed various books which deny the crisis from this perspective. Examples are Balling (1992) and Michaels (1992). This is further discussed in the section on the epistemological crisis. 17 documented that the population of most species examined levels out as their demands approach the productive capacity of their habitats (Krebs 1985:207-22 1). The upper limit at which the population can be sustained is referred to as the carrying capacity of the habitat (Kormondy 1969:66). Invader species generally come to exceed the long-term available carrying capacity with consequent rapid population decline. William Catton calls this phenomenon “overshoot.” A well- known and much cited example of overshoot is the introduced reindeer population on St. Matthew’s Island which grew exponentially from 29 individuals to about 6,000 within nineteen years. Three years later, only 42 animals remained (Krebs 1985:221).12 Alternatively, the carrying capacity of a habitat can change. Population sizes are subject to fluctuation due to climactically induced decreases in net primary productivity or limited absorptive capacities which give rise to pathogens (Krebs 1985:324-349, Fenchel 1987:19-23). Similarly, local human populations have frequently collapsed after overshooting their carrying capacity, or when resource (habitat) productivity has declined. The rapid population decline by at least one order of magnitude on the Easter Islands around 1680 (Catton 1993, Ponting: 1992:1-7), plague waves in Europe13 (Ponting 1992:228-232, Fenchel 1987:19-23), famines such as the Irish Potato Famine in 1845 (Paddock 1994:53-54, Catton 1980:247-250), the Chinese famine during the Great Leap Forward (1959-1960), and the chronic famines on parts of the African continent since the early l980s are prominent examples of events where overshoot leading to disease, declining productivity, or other limitations on carrying capacity has contributed to human 12 Other examples of crashing animal populations are documented in Krebs (1985:221-223) and Stott (1994:66-69). 13 For this decline, the limiting factor was not the available resources, but the insufficient human waste absorption. This same event could also be interpreted from the perspective of the pathogens: these pathogens invaded an area of abundant carrying capacity (dense human population). By kiffing their hosts off (and by their hosts acquiring resistance), the pathogens depleted their carrying capacity which resulted in the eventual crash of the pathogen population. 18 population collapses. The situation today differs from these historic examples. Today, overshoot is occurring on a global scale, not just in isolated pockets of the world. One manifestation is the speed at which the globe is losing biological diversity as human beings appropriate a growing share of nature’s primary productivity. Also unprecedented in human history is the yearly four percent growth in consumed goods and services over the last forty years (UNDP 1993:2 12, World Resources Institute 1992:246). While in 1950 there were still 3.6 hectares of ecologically productive land remaining per capita, less than 1.6 are left in 1994.14 A global population of 10 billion - expected by 2030 - would leave humanity with only 0.9 hectares per capita, with some of it degraded.’5 This is one-fourth of the per capita area 80 years earlier (World Resources Institute 1992, Postel 1994:11). Not many of the few countermeasures in place have been successful in addressing the conflict between increasing human demand and nature’s supply. In spite of such widespread policy instruments as Environmental Impact Assessment and increasing use of environmental taxes and regulations, many important trends have not been mitigated. For example, in the two countries with arguably the most advanced environmental impact requirements -- namely, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in the USA, and the Environmental Assessment and Review Process (EARP) in Canada -- energy consumption is still on the rise, and resource 14 See Chapter V. 15 Over the last 45 years 1,964 million hectares of productive land were degraded, 30 percent of it through deforestation (Oldeman in Postel 1994:10). Similarly, the Union of Concerned Scientists claim that since 1945 eleven percent of Earth’s vegetated surface has been degraded, which would correspond to over 1,200 million hectares, or area larger than India and China combined...” (1992). Assuming continued yearly decline at the same rate, this would result in the degradation of another 900 to 1,500 million hectares or 12-20 percent of the remaining ecologically productive land. 19 depletion has not been curbed. The latter is evident in the North Atlantic collapse of the cod fish stock affecting the Canadian East Coast, and in the forest land-use conflicts everywhere on the North American West Coast. No international efforts have been able either to gather the political momentum necessary to address the ecological crisis despite some partial international agreements on particular issues. Examples of those agreements: the 1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal; the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) from the 1970’s, and more comprehensively, the 1992 Global Biodiversity Strategy; the 1992 UN Convention on Climate Change; and, the 1987 Montreal Protocol on the reduction of CFC and halon gases, with its 1992 London Amendment (World Resources Institute 1994:373-384, Environment Canada 1993, Corson 1990). In spite of this impressive list, ecological deterioration continues. While it might be argued that it is too early to measure significant improvements, there is much evidence to indicate that we would be unwise to rely on the promises of these agreements. Many sustainability concerns are not addressed by such agreements (including soil conservation, deforestation, resource consumption, and population), and many of the conventions lack rigorous standards, ratification or effective mechanisms to enforce them. Also, UN agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) or the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) are limited to providing statistical and some consulting services -- rather than being more pro-active. Worse, in the case of the FAO, their promotion of monoculture, capital intensive agriculture, and export crops is considered counterproductive to sustainabiity by many scholars and development groups (The Ecologist 2 1(2)). UN sponsored conferences such as the UNCED conference in Rio de Janeiro (June 3-14, 1992), including its resolution (UNCED 1992), may have increased political awareness of the issues, but it is doubtful whether these events have developed effective 20 responses (The Ecologist 22(3), 22(4), New Internationalist 246, Sachs 1993:6-66). Even the much-praised Montreal Protocol on the reduction of ozone-depleting CFCs is constantly jeopardized by circumvention (Meadows et a!. 1992:141-160). One example which illustrates the circumvention of the Protocol was reported by The Economist, which stated that in December 1993: America’s Environmental Protection Agency asked [Dupont] to continue [with their CFC production] in 1995. The EPA’s concern with Dupont was that it might leave America’s 140 million or so air-conditioned vehicles without CFCs. Car makers have found it hard to produce simple and reliable ways to refit old cooling systems to take substitutes. ... Another culprit may be some 10,000 tonnes of CFCs imported from Russia, supposedly to be cleaned up and returned, which is said to have found its way illicitly onto the European market (January 29, 1994:69). In summary, ecological deterioration and the parallel growth of human activity mark a sharpening conflict. Many international and local efforts have tried to help mitigate this conflict without much effect; the gap between human demands and nature’s supply widens. 2. THE SOCIOECONOMIC CRISIS Even though aggregate global consumption has never been as high as today (and, as mentioned, continues to increase) poverty is not receding (UNDP 1993:149, Brown et a!. 1992b: 110-111). 16 Of the 5.7 billion people on Earth, over 1.1 billion people in the developing world are malnourished, i.e., they cannot afford the necessary daily level of calorie intake 16 Detailed figures on the state of poverty in the world are hard to find. One reason is the difficulty of defining poverty (for example, the World Bank uses two benchmarks in defining poverty as a per capita purchasing power of less than $370 or $275 per year (1990:27)). Also, poor people work predominantly in the informal sector of the economy which lacks statistical assessments. Urbanisation and industrialization might also cause significant increases in monetary transactions, but it is questionable whether these changes translate into higher standards of living. Finally, the common monetary analyses of poverty on a country by country basis distort reality. They do not reveal distribution within the countries, and they are not sensitive to showing income increases of poor people, as their share of the GDP is negligible (the poorest quintile makes typically only 4 percent of the national income [Durning 1989:13]). In fact, a further polarization of incomes has been a general phenomenon in industrialized countries since the 1980s to the effect that the lowest quintile is worse off today than in the early 1980s -- not only in relative but also in absolute terms. It is therefore particularly disturbing that the World Development Report 1990 of the World Bank which addressed poverty focused mainly on per capita GDP growth as a key strategy and main indicator for poverty abatement, while discounting their few head-count statistics on poverty even though they do not show a trend of poverty reduction in absolute terms. 21 required to function fully and in good health (Durning 1989). The poorest fifth of the world’s population earns 150 times less than the richest fifth. In 1960, this relative difference in income was about half that ratio (UNDP 1993:11). Moreover, of the 1.1 billion people residing in industrialized countries, about 100 million live below the poverty line (UNDP 1993:13). Areas of rapid urbanization are characterized by their high quota of poor people. Cities in Third World countries account for over 72 percent of the global population growth, and grow, population-wise, at about 4.5 percent per year (Leaf 1992). This means a doubling time of 16 years. By 2025, cities will house over 60 percent of the population in those regions, a trend which exacerbate current living conditions in these overcrowded environments (Laquian 1993). Less than 60 percent of today’s urban populations have access to adequate sanitation. Also, according to the WHO/UNEP Global Environmental Monitoring System, 20 out of 23 cities in developing country exceed the WHO air quality guidelines for suspended particles and sulphur dioxide emission (Laquian 1993). Waterborne diseases, smog, dust, leaching substances from hazardous waste, unsafe roads and utilities are a constant threat to urban populations leading to further impoverishment (Hardoy & Satterthwaite 1991, Leonard & Petesch 1990). Without radical improvements in education, health care and economic opportunity for the poor, these trends are likely to persist: the poor without education, health care and opportunities are impeding their own future well-being, being caught in a downward spiral of ecological destruction, high fertility, and health hazards (Leonard & Petesch 1990:37, Durning 1989). Women bear the brunt of the problems associated with poverty. In 1970, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women reported that women perform two-thirds of the work hours while earning 10 percent of global income and owning less than one percent of the 22 world’s property (United Nations 1970). Income figures, however, reflect only one aspect of poverty. Economic hardship is often accompanied by high mortality rates, diseases, illiteracy, and discrimination (Boucher 1992). There is mounting evidence that conventional economic development efforts of the last forty years have not been effective in alleviating the plight of the poor, not even through “trickle down” effects.17 In fact, an abundant literature blames conventional economic development for exacerbating poverty (Dube 1988, Duming 1989, Ekins 1986 &1992, Friedmann 1992, George 1984 & 1992, Goldsmith et al. 1991, Goodland & Daly 1993, Hadi 1993, Hayter 1985, Laquian 1993b, Meadows et a!. 1992, Wolfgang Sachs 1992a & 1993, Shiva 1991, The Ecologist 22(4), Trainer 1989). 3. THE POLITICAL CRISIS The rapid globalization of the world economy in the last few decades has transformed the balance of political power.Two major forces can be identified. On the one hand, the debt crisis has weakened many Northern and Southern governments (George 1992). At the same time, capital mobility has increased international tax competition and reduced the revenues of many governments. While mutual international dependence that results from global integration may reduce the danger of military conflicts, it also reduces choices in social, economic and ecological 17 Some possible exceptions in the South in which industrialization has led to two-digit economic growth rates include the Asian tigers, namely, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea now joined by the South of China, and Vietnam. The four Asian tigers have invested their increasing revenues in education thereby building an internationally competitive high-tech labour force (Globe and Mail June 4, 1994:A6). While some authorities praise the governments of these countries for their obsession with economic development and rapid modernization, others point out the irreversible social and ecological destruction that comes with it and that may ultimately outweigh the economic gains. Also, it is questionable whether these cases can be replicated by other countries. These “tigers” may just happen to be the winners of a negative-sum game in which those with the most resource-intensive high-tech economies do best, while others -- particularly those with low-throughput economies -- carry the burden (Bello & Rosenfeld 1992, Lohmann 1990, Sarangi & Sherman 1993). 23 policies. In particular, the global economy’s “New World Order” has led to deregulating the economy and cutting back social spending in the North. Elsewhere, structural adjustment programs have been used to reduce public spending, open markets for transnational corporations (Bello & Cunningham 1994:87), and transform Southern economies into exporters of primary goods for industrialized countries. This further strains local social and ecological health and results in unilateral, rather than mutual dependence. Clearly, these economic strategies have been successful in accelerating trade. In constant dollars, international trade increased fourfold between 1960 and 1988, and the value of all the currently traded goods corresponds to over 60 percent of the goods produced all over the world (World Bank 1990:185,189,205). As a result, production has become increasingly specialized and segregated, increasing many countries’ dependence on trade relationships (UNCTC 1993). The opening of global trade is considered the key factor for the rapid and sustained economic growth over the last 45 years (Smith 1994). Indeed, it has been international and continental trade agreements such as GAIT (1947 and subsequent rounds),’8 EEC, and NAFTA, the development of vast transportation and communication capacities, and the expansion of international currency markets that have made a global economy of this magnitude possible. The abolition of the gold standard in 1976 has enabled unprecedented capital mobility. Today, daily currency trades exceed $1 trillion, or about 20 times the value added by the global economy in the same time period (The Economist March 27, 1993, Paul Kennedy 1993:5 1, World Bank 1990:183). This quantum leap in capital mobility has been a boost to those interested in international business operations and international investments, namely, For a discussion see The Economist (December 4, 1993:11,23-26). 24 transnational corporations and their shareholders. For instance, in 1990, only 56 countries were included in the world’s 100 largest economies -- the other 44 were transnational corporations (calculated from UNDP 1993 and UNCTC 1993:26-27).’ Yet, as ecological economist Stephan Viederman comments, the latter “...have none of the responsibilities of government for social welfare, education, health care and the like...” (1993:10). The enhanced mobility of goods, capital, and business people has intensified the functional integration of territories, and has exposed economies to greater competition. The political downfall is that competition for taxes and concentration of financial strength in transnational corporations have weakened the negotiating and regulatory power of local, national and international political institutions. As a result, the law of the market (“one dollar, one vote”) has gained influence at the cost of democratic principles (“one person, one vote”). The high mobility of fmancial capital has gained a momentum of its own, constantly refuelled by higher profit expectations.2°To feed accelerating economic production, and to keep up with rising financial expectations, economies naturally expand their appropriation of nature’s productivity, thereby depleting natural capital assets (Hall 1990). This increased pressure on biophysical resources has intensified social tension and international conflicts as exemplified by the continuous civil wars in West Africa (Kaplan 1994). Another example is the further damming of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in Turkey to collect irrigation water, thereby 19 Furthermore, “ trade of the 350 largest TNCs [or Transnational Corporations] accounts for almost 40 % of world merchandise trade...”. Their sales add up to nearly one third of the combined national products of the industrialized countries (Daly & Goodland 1994:89, New Internationalist 1993, No.246. p18). 20 Paul Kennedy observes that “...from one major exchange to another - Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore, London, Frankfurt and Zurich, New York, Chicago, Toronto - trading yen futures or General Motors stock goes on twenty-four hours a day and creates a single market...” (1993:51). However, more than 90 percent of the trading is unrelated to [merchandise] trade or capital investment (Paul Kennedy 1993:5 1). 25 reducing the water flow by about two thirds. If the project goes ahead -- and it has already been started -- this could inflame volatile conflicts not only between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, but also with the Kurdish people. In fact, according to Stephan Libiszewski from the Environment and Conflicts Project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the threat of reducing water flow has been used by the Turkish government to force Syria to relinquish their support for the Kurdish movement, and it is likely that Syria in return will use the Kurdish guerillas to retaliate against reduced water flow (1994:9). Many wars have been fought to secure oil supply, most recently, the 1991 Gulf War. Conflicts over biological resources are also on the increase. The struggles over fisheries around Iceland or on the East Coast of Canada (both having suffered from fisheries collapses which have not recovered yet), or conflicts over forestry practices all over the world including those in Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and, much closer to home, in British Columbia, demonstrate the linkage between biophysical scarcity and social conflicts. In the face of increasing resource competition, it is not surprising that military conflicts are still widespread -- despite the end of the “Cold War.” According to the UNDP, over 60 countries are afflicted by internal conflicts, leading to over 35 million refugees in developing countries alone (1993:12). How biophysical scarcity translates into social conflicts is explained and documented by Catton (1980), Homer-Dixon (1993), Gurr (1985), Hall (1990, 1992), Kaplan 1994, and Ophuls et al. (1992). In fact, there is also a growing concern in UN agencies that the UN Security Council has not yet fully acknowledged non-military sources of instability such as poverty, overpopulation or degradation of ecosystems (Globe and Mail May 26, 1993:A8). Similarly, the root causes of these rising socioeconomic and ecological conificts are still not being addressed. On the contrary, destructive modernization projects including damming and resource extraction still dominate development efforts and may well exacerbate social conflicts. Rather than adjust their development strategies, most governments rely on military 26 power to keep the conflicts at bay -- often at tremendous human costs, as witnessed in Argentina, Chile, China, Indonesia, Iraq, the Philippines, Rwanda, and Turkey, to name a few. In particular, the Western world has demonstrated in the recent Gulf War a military superiority of such overwhelming proportions that the West’s confidence in securing its global status through military force rather than through co-operation has been confirmed once more. In summary, globalization has led to rapid growth in industrial production but may well have compromised local autonomy and jeopardized the social and ecological health of poorer countries. Through accelerated resource use, the potential for ecological conflicts increases, while it appears that the political institutions, as well as the community networks that could mitigate such conflicts, lose capacity and devolve. Increasingly, as economies turn more and more global, so more people will feel disempowered and become alienated. If these trends continue, decisions made in corporate headquarters and by consumers of their products and services will increase in importance compared to the formal political decisions. Also, corporate lobbying efforts within political institutions and through television might accelerate this trend. The lack of public involvement in long-range decision-making became particularly evident in the recent processes of formalizing free-trade agreements such as the Uruguay GAIT agreement or NAFTA. All these agreements were arranged with minimal input from the public -- in spite of their far-ranging consequences. As long as governments persist in focusing on economic expansion, the range of possible political choices will narrow and the competition for declining resource stocks will intensify, thereby threatening geo-political stability. 27 4. THE EPISTEMOLOGICAL CRISIS21 “...We cannot regulate our interaction with any aspect of reality that our model of reality does not include because we cannot by defmition be conscious of it...” commented Stafford Beer (1981). This self-referential trap is the crux of the epistemological crisis. It becomes increasingly doubtful whether dominant belief systems are adequate for addressing current socioeconomic and ecological issues. In particular, traditional science and economic analysis, which are the socially accepted sensory organs of society, are incapable of comprehending the sustainability crisis (Capra 1982, Catton & Dunlop 1980, Colby 1991, Henderson 1991, Kassiola 1990:205,59-70, Maturana & Varela 1992, Milbrath 1989:115-134, Peet 1992, Reason & Rowan 1981, Rees 1990c, Rees & Wackemagel 1992:387, Steiner 1992 & 1993). In public decision-making, traditional science (or rather the beliefs of scientific materialism) have become the dominant way of understanding issues and their context. The prominence of neo-classical economics in political decision-making serves as a perfect example of such scientific materialism. Also, at least in affluent countries, the public’s faith in market- driven traditional science is alive and well. Many people believe that, through the use of science- driven technological innovations, humanity will always be able to defeat scarcity and ecological 21 When analyzing inquiry paradigms, Egon Guba and Yvonna Lincoln approach them in three subsequent steps. They ask the ontological question: “What is the form and nature of reality and, therefore, what is there that can be known about it?”, the epistemological question: “What is the nature of the relationship between the knower or would-be knower and what can be known?”, and the methodological question: “How can the knower [or would-be knower] go about finding out what he or she believes can be known?” (Guba & Lincoln 1994:108). Since I argue in this section that the scientific institutions have been unable to fully apprehend the ecological and socioeconomic crises, let alone deal with them, this issue falls mainly in the domain of the epistemological question. In fact, the essence of planning is the (epistemological) relationship between knowledge and action, to use John Friedmann’s definition of planning (1987). In this context, I define “science” as systematic inquiry with transparent documentation. “Traditional science” refers here, more narrowly, to the not necessarily sequential process of identifying a clearly defined and testable question, pursuing this question in a systematic and replicable manner using quantifiable measures and statistical significance, and documenting the research process and findings in a logical order. In contrast, “scientific materialism” refers to the worldview which holds that eventually everything can be understood and mastered through scientific inquiry, and that only those things, which can be perceived by quantitative science, exist. 28 constraints. This belief in scientific materialism, industrial societies’ implicit mainstream “religion”, can be inferred from society’s • lack of alternative spiritual values or mythological beliefs (Berman 1989); • emphasis on science which concentrates on “how” rather than on “why” questions (Berman 1981, Henderson 1977:304); • notion that nature can be dominated and managed by “how” science (Berman 1981, Kung 1990, Milbrath 1989:1-6,l735),fl and with this, a wide acceptance of hierarchical androcentrism;24 • admiration or adoration of technological tools, and the “straight line” approach as manifest in current linear thinking, designing, managing and producing (Hundertwasser in Nørretranders 1991:466, Steiner 1993); • pride in science’s success stories, such as technological sophistication and progress, micro- and macro-space exploration, industrial mass-production and unprecedented military capabilities; and, • promotion of an exclusive culture of professionalism (Kettering Review 1994). 23 Milbrath discusses four of the common arguments, namely “humans are clever”, “we will develop unlimited energy”, “markets will take care of it”, and “[we can] maximize productivity from renewable resources” (1989:17-35). The debates on the ethics of genetic or nuclear technology provide good examples of some of theses arguments (Rifkin 1985). In fact, even the stewardship concept in environmental ethics is based on the principle that nature can be controlled by humans (Beavis 1991:77-81). A further discussion of the philosophical undercurrent of exploitative and instrumental relationship to nature is provided by Carolyn Merchant (1980, 1992). An example of the view that technology and human inventiveness can continue to expand global carrying capacity is implied by the Vatican’s position for the 1994 UN conference on population in Cairo. On the question of how to provide decent lives for a growing human population, rather than arguing for a radical redistribution of wealth, Bishop James MeCue from the US stated in a radio program by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that similar to the past one hundred years, human inventiveness could increase nature’s productivity (CBC 1994). 24 section starts from the premise that the shift from the egocentric or androcentric (“male-oriented”) worldview to a truly anthropocentric perspective would already significantly contribute toward achieving sustainability. However, it might be quite conceivable that a sustainable society will adopt a more eco-centric perspective. For further discussion see also footnote 46 in this chapter. 29 At best, scientific inquiry is able to predict reproducible events. And this was the focus of classical science, such as Newtonian physics. For non-replicable events involving complex systems such as social or ecological behaviour, scientific inquiry can only explore probable outcomes, but never prove its predictive claims. Science’s technological success, however, has fuelled the widespread public expectation that science can provide immutable answers to all challenges, for replicable events (or simple, defined and controllable “micro-realities” characterized by “mechanical” reproducibility)25 as well as for less clearly defined and more complex issues concerning the human condition (or complex, open and undefined “macro- realities” characterized by uncertainty). In fact, many key issues about human survival, such as the long-term effect of ozone depletion, climate change, deforestation or destructive human behaviour can only be formulated as concerns. These concerns cannot be conclusively answered, but only explored through probable scenarios and simplifying models. To wait for conclusive scientific evidence before making decisions will, by definition, exclude all long-term concerns from the political agenda as such empirical evidence can only be gathered when it is too late. In other words, while science is effective and valuable when exploring concerns, it would be misleading or dangerous to wait for science to deliver definitive answers. However, the woridview attributed to scientific materialism ignores the fact that, for macro-realities, science can only raise concerns and not answer them. In contrast, scientific materialism reflects the widespread faith in human ingenuity to manipulate and control the human condition. Science, from this perspective, is no longer a method or a collection of knowledge but, to use Lewis Mumford’s words, it has become a “megamachine” (1967:199) far And indeed, the scientific approach has led to incredible technological successes. The Economist identified the microprocessor, the birth control pill, the telephone network, the jumbo jet, the off-shore platform, the hydrogen bomb and the moon program as the seven modern wonders (December 25, 1993:47-5 1). 30 removed from what science purports to be. As long as society believes that science, and particularly the more instrumental traditional science, is the only objective, systematic and comprehensive method of inquiry to generate universal knowledge, the utilized science becomes an instrument of power for those who control it. Furthermore, by excluding other approaches to knowledge, it makes society blind to many issues and impedes the debate about science’s validity or limits. (Some debate on this issue can be found in the feminist critique such as Bordo 1987, Harding 1986, Keller 1985, and Merchant 1980, 1992; other aspects are presented by the socioecological critique which includes Capra 1982, Ellul 1990, Goldsmith 1992, Griffin 1988, Naess 1989, Reason & Rowan 1980, Roszak 1986, 1992, Steiner 1992, and Steiner et al. 1988). When criticizing traditional science, Peter Reason and John Rowan identify 18 characteristics of the “scientific paradigm,” including positivism, reductionism, quantophrenia (or focus on quantification), detachment, conservatism, bigness, low utilization, inaccessible language, cause-effect determinism, and “fairy tales” in textbooks on the characteristics of scientific research (1981: xiv-xvi). Instrumental rationality, and misleading objectivity are other characteristics that should be added to the list, which is discussed in the following paragraphs.26 Reductionism, or the belief that phenomena can be understood by dividing them into clearly defined observable parts, and which is driving traditional science has attracted severe 26 A comprehensive critique of mainstream science, and a discussion of alternative approaches to scientific inquiry is provided by Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln’s Handbook of Qualitative Research (1994) which contains contributions from over 30 leading social scientists. 31 criticism.27 The strength of traditional scientific analysis lies in examining reproducible speqficities, trying to infer some fundamental universalities, such as the Maxwell equations, the Newton equations, and other fundamental laws of classical physics. Such inquiries boil down to a search for the abstract and the pure, which explains some of the bias against relevant questions such as how to overcome the impediments to sustainability, or whether the current way of gathering knowledge is adequate to face the sustainability challenges. Both questions lack scientific legitimacy. However, if society is to cope with the sustainability challenges, critical or socratic thinking is what is most needed -- not merely the accumulation of more bits of conventional scientific information28 (Roszak 1986:2 16). Unfortunately, the traditional scientific approaches rooted in reductionism have a poor record of analyzing and recommending how to cope with a situation that cannot be completely understood. Evidence of the generation of specific information, which lacks a context, rather than of critical thinking on relevant issues, can be found in the vast majority of the many thousands of scientific journals to which the UBC Library subscribes. In essence, by focusing on unrelated, specific pieces that should eventually and hopefully add up to some fundamental universalities, traditional science cannot capture systemic generalities. For example, “the current development path is unsustainable” or “economic growth cannot be sustained” are statements which are not specific enough. Neither are they falsifiable and refutable through the study of isolated special cases. Therefore, they are not viable research Ti Every inquiry involves the use of models or theories that simplify actual events or circumstances. Reductionism, however, is one particular way of simplifying through isolating particular aspects and systematically ignoring the significance of the linkages between the parts when analyzing an issue. 28 Information, according to Claude Shannon et at., is a quantitative concept related to thermodynamic entropy and can be measured in bits (1948 in Norretranders 1991:56-62). This quantitative approach to information represents much of today’s scientific output which is prolific, but increasingly devoid of understanding or meaning (Roszak 1986:13- 14,156-176). 32 questions for traditional scientific inquires -- even though the overall social and ecological trends are evident, and even though pursuing such questions is fundamental for securing a healthy human condition. Science’s reductionism lends itself also to an incremental understanding, thereby losing the reference points. Slicing broad concerns into separate issues makes people blind to larger implications, and legitimizes piecemeal approaches. Those approaches quite possibly encourage disaster by seemingly insignificant increments. For example, while scientific research is successful in preparing for, and developing, industrial advances, traditional science practice is impotent to understand, or effectively to address worsening ecological and social trends. In fact, the technological knowledge, generated by traditional science, has made the social and economic world so complex that it becomes increasingly difficult to understand its dynamics. Therefore, the knowledge gap between what we need to know in order to effectively counteract the trends, and the kind of knowledge that is offered by the scientific enterprise, is growing rapidly (Elgin 1981:252-257). The International Society for Ecology and Culture states that [traditional] science gains its understanding of the world by isolating and studying small pieces of the interconnected continuum of nature. ... Modern technology is indeed able to manipulate the world to an almost unimaginable extent. When it comes to infinite complexity and long term frame of social systems or ecosystems, the limitations of science are particularly evident. Given these fundamental shortcomings, the status of science today is profoundly disturbing (Goldsmith et a!. 1991:5-6). Robert Ornstein and Paul Ehrlich believe that this focus on incrementalism and reductionism is linked to the way our minds function: slow changes, long-term implications and connections cannot easily be perceived by human brains (1990), a phenomenon called the “boiled frog syndrome.” “...Frogs placed in a pan of water that is slowly heated will be unable to detect the gradual but deadly trend. ... Like the frogs, many people seem unable to detect the gradual but lethal trend in which population and economic growth threaten to boil civilization...” (Ornstein & Ehrlich 1990:74-75). 33 Particularly since World War II, social science has been characterized by quantophrenia where everything is reduced to numbers. Sociology research looks like a collection of linear regressions, and economics has become so mathematical that Elizabeth Corcoran and Paul Wallich asked in the Scientjflc American “... [are] economic principles simply obscured behind the mathematics -- or have they vanished?...” (1992:142). Economist Clifford Cobb comments that the tyranny of quantification leads society to conclusions about well-being which are surely wrong if one takes an overall reasonable view of the economic landscape. But such a view is precisely what is impossible because of the use of these statistical abstractions. This tyranny of quantification leads to another tyranny that shows in the epistemology that conventional economics uses. The tyranny of quantification leads to the tyranny of precision, objectivity and certainty, i.e., that of positivism. If you cannot measure it precisely in a numerical manner and with certainty, then it cannot be true (The Human Economy Newsletter 1992:1). Also, traditional (and politically acceptable) scientific research and applications rely on clear cause-effect relationships, or linear causation. However, in macro-settings, which cannot be conclusively defined by an initial condition, cause and effect are often not distinguishable and can become meaningless concepts. In other words, by acknowledging only direct cause-effect relationships, traditional science’s blindness to “chicken-and-egg” or systemic relationships becomes problematic as this blindness will conceal most critical social or ecological concerns.29 In this context, examination of situations whose cause-effect mechanisms cannot be understood must be intensified. Clearly, philosophical debates on issues such as the precautionary principle seem to have contributed more useful guidance than traditional scientific inquiry. The ideological mainstream of the scientific community has promoted a narrow concept 29A reaction to this fundamental shortcoming of traditional science is the systems thinking approach. Introductions to this epistemological approach can be found in Ashby (1956), Beer (1974), Boothroyd (1992b), Checkland (1990), Greene (1989), Hawryszkiewycz (1988), Macy (1991), Meadows et al. (1972, 1992), Miller (1978), Rapoport (1986), Senge (1990), Van Gigch (1978), Vester (1983), von Bertalanffy (1968), von Neumann (1944/53), Wiener (1950), and Wolstenholm (1990). 34 of rationality. For example, Graham Bannock et a!. in their Dictionary of Economics define rational as “contain[ing] no systematic error” (1987:346). This definition hinges on its interpretation of “systematic.” In economic theory, “systemic” typically refers to “internally consistent”, while the assumptions (such as maximizing individual self-interest or “maximizing personal utility”) do not need to be tested on external consistency. In other contexts (such as in engineering or traditional urban planning3), the word “systematic” seems to imply “approaches consistent with scientific materialism”, while never acknowledging that the choice of the reference system determines the meaning of rational. Borrowing from traditional science, an interpretation of rationality based on self-centred scientific materialism has become a core concept of the industrialized countries’ political discourse and a criterion for legitimizing goals and objectives. This particular rationality concept has proven to be highly effective in the industrial domain, but does lead to irrationalities and contradictions in the public domain from a social and ecological perspective. Such an instrumental approach to rationality (Kincheloe & McLaren 1994:140) facilitates the development of new devices, while being weak at addressing macro-realities. For example, those developments in science which try to mitigate the negative externalities (or additional costs that are not accounted for in the price and market system) of the global economy are outpaced by the negative impacts of economic expansion. Ironically, this economic expansion is stimulated by other scientific innovations, as evident with the new gigantic transport capacities and the powerful telecommunication networks. With Francis Bacon’s and René Descartes’ proclamation that there was no contradiction between (instrumental) rationalism and empiricism (Berman 1981:14, Roszak 1986:212), 30 For example, one of the Canadian Institute of Planner’s definitions states that “‘planning’ means the planning of the scientific, aesthetic and orderly disposition of land, resources, facilities and services with a view of securing the physical, economic and social efficiency, health and well-being of urban and rural communities” (CIP, Charter Bylaw, Final Proposal, September 23, 1986). 35 instrumental rationality became the new moral yardstick and the new “divine principle” to guide human beings (and, ever since, has been confused with reason). Philosopher Herbert Marcuse commented that the union of growing productivity and growing destruction; the brinkmanship of annihilation; the surrender of thought, hope and fear to the decision of the powers that be; the preservation of misery in the face of unprecedented wealth constitute the most impartial indictment - even if they are not the raison d’être of this society but only its by-product: its sweeping [instrumental] rationality, which propels efficiency and growth, is itself [socially and ecologically] irrational (1964 p:xii). As noted, within the realm of traditional scientific inquiry, it is never acknowledged that “systematic” refers to a particular worldview or ideology; rather, it is silently assumed that scientific materialism (including individual self-interest) is objective or value-free. However, this claim to objectivity in science has been questioned by many scholars (Kassiola 1990, Milbrath 1989:132-136, Poet 1992:146-147). They conclude that a researcher’s claim to be “value-free” is highly value laden and indicates that this researcher does not want to debate his or her assumptions (see also Mitroff in Reason & Rowan 198 1:37Jj). A further obstacle to holistic research on (irreproducible, complex and uncertain) macro- realities is the politics of science funding which favours established reductionist disciplines. For example, evidence seems to suggest that traditional scientific institutions such as universities have avoided integrative (or truly interdisciplinary) research on macro-realities. In fact, in the case of sustainability, most of the literature, debate and studies seem to be generated by private or semi-private institutes,31 or by dissident voices within mainstream organizations32 31 Examples are the World Resources Institute, the Worldwatch Institute, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Wuppertal Institute, Friends of the Earth, Elmwood Institute, Rocky Mountain Institute, Planet Drum Foundation, New Alchemy Institute, Carrying Capacity Network, David Suzuki Foundation, Oko-Institutes in Germany, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and many other environmental organizations with research branches. In addition, there are many individual activists and writers such as Hazel Henderson, Barry Commoner (?), Wendel Berry, and Murry Bookchin. Also in Switzerland, most leading edge research on sustainability is conducted outside the universities. Examples are Ellipson, Oko-Zentren (Langenbruck and Schafweid), Infras, Arras und Bierter, Karthago, Verkehrs Club der Schweiz (VCS), Greenpeace, WWF Switzerland, 36 (Viederman 1994:7). The fact that scientific institutions primarily focus on micro-realities, rather than addressing the larger picture, would not be worrisome if society did not expect answers on macro-problems from these institutions. Certainly, it is true that many of these micro-reality studies which are embedded in a single academic discipline do not add up to an understanding of macro-realities, and are not even compatible with studies from other disciplines. In traditional academic institutions, there are few examples where natural science and social science are integrated. Witnesses are the rift between economics and human ecology; or the diverse academic fields which identify with an ecological approach, but where definitions of ecology are not only different but incompatible.33 In summary, rather than being just one tool for society to assist public debate and to contribute to public decision making, instrumental or traditional scientific analysis has become the undebated but dominant woridview and apologist for modem society’s destructive expansionism. Thus, the weaknesses of the scientific process have become the weaknesses of public decision-making. The “megamachinery” of traditional science has become a paralysing political force which, by failing conclusively to prove complex issues, legitimizes inaction. The CO2 debate provides a prominent example. As in so many other cases, the lack of complete scientific certainty supports the politics of “business-as-usual” rather than promoting precautionary action (Schneider in Reichert 1993:189). Daniel Wiener, Kulturprojekt Silvania, Duttweiler Institut, Institut de la Dure, etc. 32 Prominent examples of such voices are Herman Daly and Robert Goodland at the World Bank. Academics who work outside their job descriptions include Paul Ehrlich, Garrett Hardin, Franz Moser, John Peet, David Suzuki, and Robert Woollard; in Switzerland Jean Ziegler, Pierre Fornallaz, Hans ChristofBinswanger, Theo Ginsburg (t) and Max Thflrkauf (t). Many “ecological studies” from various disciplines either exclude human beings from the ecosphere (biological ecologists), do not acknowledge the humansphere as embedded in, and dependent on, the ecosphere (economists), or understand the “environment” barely as a socio-cultural construct (social scientists). 37 5. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL CRISIS The psychologically rooted social behaviour is perhaps the most fundamental and influential barrier to sustainability.34 However, the low number of scholarly publications concerning the psychological facet of the sustainability crisis suggests that it is a largely neglected area. Two major psychological phenomena stand out. They can be summarized as the “active promotion” and the “passive tolerance” of the current condition. The active promotion includes the positive portrayal of unsustainable lifestyles through, for example, advertising (Durning 1992: 117-135). The passive tolerance is manifested in the social denial of the current crisis as evident in industrialized countries’ perseverance in planning for more -- be it cars or economic growth -- rather than planning for sustainabilily. The active promotion of unsustainable lifestyles shows many faces. It is reflected in the values of the dominant worldview which have been summarized under names such as scientific materialism, economic expansionism, Pareto efficiency fixation, frontier ethics, industrialism, individualism, or globalism (Catton and Dunlop 1980:34, Chiras 1992b: 107, Colby 1991:193- 213, Deveall & Sessions 1985:18,41-48, Kassiola 1990:205, Milbrath 1989:119, Peet 1992: 16- 26, Sachs 1988:33-39, Sbert 1992). These beliefs and values are promoted not only within many academic disciplines -- as commerce and economics -- but even more so through “fraudulent and incessant advertising” (Sale in Kassiola 1990:6, Ewen 1988). This becomes particularly evident when analyzing society’s self-destructive “love for the automobile” (Sachs 1992b, Freund & Martin 1993, Nadis and MacKenzie 1993). Also, it might be interesting to analyze whether the rise in incidence of mental illness, drug abuse, physical abuse and suicide is a symptom of this psychological crisis. 38 Western-style billboards with English slogans have penetrated to every corner of the world. This consumer culture has been promoted particularly aggressively in Eastern Europe. As a result, waste production has increased by magnitudes rather than percentages. The promotion of cars has begun to undermine the energy efficient public transport systems. Also, the commercial success of heavily publicised Western packaged foods is destroying local food producers (Weller 1993). Another factor in active promotion is television, which portrays the unsustainable lifestyle as a desirable and achievable dream for everybody. Apart from consumption-promoting commercials, of which the average North American has seen about 350,000 by age 20 (Wachtel 1989:287), also regular television shows re-confirm the desirability of lavish lifestyles, justify dreams of material wealth and glamour, and foster misplaced “Disneyesque” images of nature.35 Commercial television rarely conveys any sense of limits or “enoughness”, nor does it establish intellectual connections between issues, people(s) and ecosystems (Durning 1992, Mander 1991:75-96, McKibben 1992, Wilson 1974).36 On the other hand, abstraction of thought is hailed by intellectuals as a great achievement of Western civilization. This fascination with abstract thought and the contempt for the visual, 35The magazine Adbusters Quarterly published by the Vancouver Media Foundation regularly features discussions on that subject. Also remarkable is their production of anti-television and anti-consumption spots for commercial television stations. 36 Another aspect of television was envisioned by George Orwell in his novel 1984. By separating people and providing simplistic fast-paced and emotional messages, television can feed into the politics of mistrust and hate, which undermines cooperative approaches. For example, in an article on television and fundamentalism, The Economist commented that “.. .print isolates individuals, sponsoring rational, dispassionate analysis, [whereas] spoken words [and television in particular] encourage group thinking, sometimes mob-thmkm Scholars offer many learned explanations [as to why religious enthusiasts can challenge social order and political power]. One that they largely neglect is the impact of audio-visual technology. The magic potency of the oral word and the encapsulated message by the visual icon are dethroning the written word...” (August 21, 1993:36). 39 which characterizes the academic community, has helped to create the context where commercial television is able to monopolize people’s audio-visual experience. By not generating alternative (visual) visions, academia has missed the opportunity to challenge the television vision of consumerism, stereotypes and hate. The active promotion of unsustainable lifestyles does not apply only to the industrialized world. In fact, Helena Norberg-Hodge, former Director of the Ladakh Project, identifies psychological pressure to modernize as the most important reason for the breakdown of traditional societies, and points out that this psychological dimension is a much neglected aspect in the development debate (Goldsmith et al. 1991:8 1). The passive tolerance of ecological destruction and social malaise has been captured by different names. Some call it social, societal or shared denial. Others call this behaviour self- censorship, learned helplessness, ignorance, reality avoidance, alexithymia,37 the mismatched “old mind”, numbing,38 self-deception, or the “unperceived realities of the consumer life” (Baron & Byrne 1987: 132-139, Baum & Aiello 1978, Catton 1980: 183-197, Chiras 1992b:95, Eclelstein et a!. 1989, Goleman 1986, Macy 1983, Ornstein & Ehrlich 1989, Wachtel 1989:48, Wolfe 1991). Alexithymia is a disorder which causes people to behave in a pre-programmed manner and take a cynical attitude toward wanted information, explored by David Wolfe (as one example) when analyzing executives’ denial of unpleasant news about market developments (1991:40-44). 38 In his preface to Overshoot, William Catton writes that “ own exposure to population pressure, a major indicator of the common source of our mounting frustrations, has been sufficiently marginal and intermittent to permit me to see it in relief. Constant exposure to it would have prevented me (as it has prevented so many others) from seeing its real nature. Complete insulation from it would have precluded awareness and concern. Even with my advantageous situation, it took me years to see what I was looking at...” (1980:viii). is surprising that there is little literature available on that subject. The few publications that address social denial, analyze group behaviours in controlled experimental contexts; fewer discuss non-experimental social crises such as the Holocaust or the threat of nuclear annihilation (Edeistein eta!. 1989, Macy 1983, Suefeld eta!. 1992:96-100). In fact, 40 Societal denial is widespread. One example is our blind faith in redemption through scientific progress. Another is “...the further development of entertainment industries based on reality-avoidance.. .“ (Slaughter 1993). Also, it becomes evident in situations when the victims are blamed, as was done by IMF Managing Director and Chairman of the Executive Board, Michel Camdessus. He claims that poverty [and not the high consumption of industrial societies or the global economy], is the prime reason for environmental destruction (Camdessus 1992). A similar assertion can be found in the World Commission on Environment and Development’s report which states that, “...the cumulative effect of [the poor’s impact on the ecosphere] is so far-reaching as to make poverty itself a major global scourge...” (WCED 1987:28). More widespread is the addiction to the illusion of permanent economic and infrastructure growth (Chiras 1992b:95, Wachtel 1989:16-22,50, Sanders 1990, WCED 1987:213-215),° or the common response of not wanting to see the self-evident, as typified by flood victims all over the world who rebuild their homes in the same old place (Salholz 1993). “Accusing the Cassandras” is another variation on the theme (Ray 1993, Simon & Kahn 1984, and many critiques of the Limits to Growth report). Albert Hirschman writes that the “...denial of reality that is practised testifies to the power and vitality of the disappointment experience. We engage in all kinds of ingenious ruses and delaying actions before admitting to ourselves that we are disappointed, in part surely because we know that disappointment may compel us to a painful reassessment of our preferences and priorities...” (in Kassiola 1990:34) the UBC library on-line catalogue shows 23 entries under the subject heading “nuclear warfare -- psychological aspects.” However, social denial in the context of the ecological crisis lacks discussion in the literature, even though the crisis is so tightly linked with individual behaviour. The foreword to the Touchstone edition of Goleman’s Vital Lies, Simple Truths is one of the few exceptions (1986:11-14); another one is Sandra Postel’s introductory chapter to the State ofthe World 1992 called “Denial in the Decisive Decade” (Brown et al. 1992a). Clearly, research about the psychology of societal denial in the context of the sustainability crisis needs to be conducted urgently. At this point, we can only speculate whether such denial is rooted in ignorance, naive optimism, or suppressed knowledge, and whether it is individually or culturally rooted, etc. 40 The current debate on replacing Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge or the Greater Vancouver Regional District’s The Livable Region Strategic Plan of 1993 typify such societal denial by not addressing sustainability implications of the presented choices. 41 In summary, it is widely acknowledged in academic literature that the current ecological decline is worrisome and the persistence of social misery in the world is distressing. Moreover, the dissenting voices are not able to dispel these concerns. However, it seems that mainstream science, our official sensory organ, is limited in its understanding and capacity to act upon these challenges. Further, there is much indication that a major stumbling block to action is the enormity of the issue which feeds in a sense of hopelessness, fear or denial. Effective action toward sustainability therefore requires, first, the establishment of the connections between the facets of the sustainability crisis, and second, to explore the mechanisms that have perpetuated unsustainable lifestyles. B. MAKING THE CONNECTIONS: THE COMMON JZHEME OF THE SUSTAINABILITY CRISIS It is widely acknowledged that the above facets of the sustainability crisis are tightly linked (Boothroyd 1992a, Brown et a!. 1984a-1994a, Burrows et al. 1991, Chiras 1992a, Clark & Munn 1986, Corson 1990, Durning 1992, Kumar et a!. 1993, The Ecologist 22(4)). For example, increased human demand can accelerate ecological deterioration, thereby exacerbating poverty. Poor people often economically depend on high reproduction rates which further entrenches poverty. Higher human demands and local ecological deterioration increase the dependence on carrying capacity of distant places thereby impacting the social and ecological fabric in other places of the world. In fact, the facets of the sustainability crisis are not only linked, but they suffer from a similar dynamic, the “Tragedy of the Commons”, or rather, to be more accurate, the “Tragedy 42 of Free Access.” Ecologist Garrett Hardin reiterated in 1968 the wisdom of Aristotle that, “. . .what is common to the greatest number gets the least amount of care.. .“ (1973/1993: 145). In contrast to Aristotle, he emphasized its tragic social implications. To illustrate how gains to the individual can ultimately be outweighed by the aggregate losses to society, Hardin uses an agricultural example. He compares the individual shepherd’s benefits of increasing his or her herd size to the individual share of the resultant costs. Since the benefits will always seem greater to the individual shepherd, each has an incentive to add animals to the pasture, thereby ruining it by overuse (1973/1993:132). And, this tragedy is precisely the mechanism of the global ecological downward spiral. However, as mentioned, the “Tragedy of the Commons” should rather be called the “Tragedy of Free Access.” Hardin misinterpreted the historic meaning of “commons” in his classic analysis (as Hardin himself later acknowledged). He was not, in fact, describing a commons regime in which rights and authority are vested in members of the community, but rather an open or free access regime in which ownership and authority are vested nowhere (Aguilera-Klink 1994:223-227, Berkes 1989a [particularly Berkes & Farvar 1989], Ophuls eta!. 1992:193, The Ecologist 22(4): 127). Ironically, and as will be discussed later, Hardin advocated resolving the tragedy through a social contract, or by “ coercion, mutually agreed upon...,” to use his words, in itself a definition of a “commons” regime (Aguilera-Klink 1994:222-223, Berkes 1989b:85). This “Tragedy of Free Access” is also widely discussed in various fields under different names. In 1950, researchers at the RAND Corporation described a similar phenomenon as the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” which is now commonly discussed in game theory (Poundstone 1992). Economists refer to “externalities” and study their impact on market failures. Daly and Cobb 43 also identify this tragedy as a key mechanism causing the sustainability crisis, but name it “pervasive externalities.” However, as they point out themselves, “externalities” is a misleading term when describing vital issues such as the destruction of life-support services. They ridicule the concept, if used in the sustainability context, by calling it an “ad hoc corrections introduced as needed to save appearances, like the epicycles of Ptolemaic astronomy” (Daly & Cobb 1989:37,141-146). Some economists also call the “Tragedy” a “public good problem”, and Michael Jacobs labels it graphically “Invisible Elbow” (1993:22). Common property management is studied by resource economists and scholars in resource management, and has got its own literature and conferences (Berkes 1989a). The “Tragedy of Free Access” characterizes the mechanisms of the key conificts in each facet of the sustainability crisis. From the ecological perspective, this tragedy is particularly obvious. Maximizing the personal use of nature’s services (including resource supply and waste assimilation) is beneficial to the individual, but can lead to an over-exploitation of nature which negatively affects society at large -- to say nothing of other species. Prominent examples of such negative impacts are the accumulation of greenhouse gases, the depletion of atmospheric ozone, the generation of acid rain, the decimation of whale populations, the overharvesting of fisheries with consequent collapses, and rapid deforestation. Natural capital stocks everywhere are drawn down and global absorptive sinks are filled to over-flowing (Rees & Wackernagel 1992). As humanity’s levels of resource throughput are the product of population size and average per capita resource 44 consumption, these trends are exacerbated by growth in both consumption and population.41 In effect, our global safety net is being shredded as the “Tragedy of Free Access” is played out on a global scale. All counthes now face the same potentially limiting factors simultaneously (e.g., ozone depletion, exhausted fisheries, potential climate change) in a geopolitically uncertain world. In fact, the micro-economic conditions reinforce such unsustainable behaviour patterns as investment is directed into ventures that increase economic productivity, thereby closing a positive feedback loop (Wackernagel & Rees 1992). From the socioeconomic perspective, the population crisis is a clear example of the “Tragedy of Free Access.” In this case, the tragedy is not only manifest in the contradicting interests of individuals and society, but also in the conflict between various social groups and humanity as a whole. The first conflict between individuals and society is obvious. Reproductive decisions are taken by individuals, while the cumulative ecological and social effects of the aggregate population is carried by everybody, independent of their reproduction. Economic conditions might make it necessary for poor families to have a large number of offspring, even though this becomes a stumbling block for the wellbeing of their local society (Li 1992).42 In fact, fast growing populations with over 50 percent of their people under the age of 15 will 41 This does not suggest that one percent growth in population has necessarily the same impact as one percent growth in consumption. One percent growth of an already high per capita consumption (or of an affluent population) has obviously a larger impact than one percent growth of low per capita consumption (or of a less affluent population). Also from an ethical perspective, growth of consumption for those with low consumption seems more necessary and defensible than growth in affluent consumption. 42 In contrast, for affluent families, low reproduction rates might be economically beneficial: low numbers of offsprings help to maintain a high concentration of wealth and allow large investments into each offspring’s education. Also, with increasingly long education spans, the time horizon for potential economic pay-back to the parents becomes so long that its net present value at the time of conception might be negligible in comparison to the investment costs of child raising. 45 never be able to afford effective health care or adequate education (Catley-Carison 1994). The affluent parts of humanity might have the means to help slow down population growth. They could provide funds for education, health care and social programs (particularly for women) (Burrows et a!. 1991:32 1), but they might see reducing population growth as being in conffict with their economic short-term interests. This conflict between various social groups and humanity manifests various dimensions. For instance, in industrialized countries, people and governments seem less worried about local overpopulation than about the aging of their societies for fear of reduced pensions once they retire. Indeed, to keep their population younger, some industrialized countries even encourage local population growth. In addition, affluent sectors of society might perceive growing poor populations as an opportunity, rather than as a threat: poor people are a cheap source of industhal and domestic labour, as for example evident in many South East Asian countries (Hadi 1993), in the sex trade in Thailand (The Vancouver Sun, August 6, 1994:B2), and in the manual workforce of (sometimes illegal) immigrants in industrialized countries. At the same time, in the face of the unprecedented superiority of Western military power, these rising populations might not be seen as a serious security threat to high-income countries. This disincentive structure points toward another “Tragedy of Free Access” situation, in which those who have the means of making the changes are not willing to, thereby perpetuating or even exacerbating the human suffering of others. From the political perspective, the “Tragedies of Free Access” phenomenon arises from the distancing between actions and their effects. The increased distance between action and effects, which handicaps corrective feedback, characterizes not only the globalizing economy but also the political decision-making within nation states. 46 In the political domain, most rights and responsibilities are separated. Not only in representative democracies, but also in direct democracies such as Switzerland, where those who vote are not always those who will carry the burden of the decision. This becomes particularly evident when local groups defend their own interests at the cost of other groups or parts of society (sometimes identified as the NIMBY syndrome). A local example are the residents of the neighbourhoods around the Arbutus corridor in Vancouver who oppose higher density for fear of increasing local traffic, thereby augmenting transportation pressures in the entire Fraser Basin. Another example are communities who oppose the treatment of hazardous waste, while not opposing the local production of such waste. Military build-ups constitute another dimension of this “Tragedy of Free Access.” In fact, much of the writing about the “Tragedy of Free Access” phenomenon was motivated by the Cold War grid-lock situation (Axelrod 1984, Poundstone 1992). Nevertheless, since the end of the Cold War, local arms races and trade in military equipment have continued to feed into this tragedy: those selling or operating this military equipment are hardly affected by the economic burden of arm races, or by the physical and psychological hardship of war, while the suffering is inflicted on others. In the macro-economic domain, globalization has entrenched the “Tragedy of Free Access” as economic activities and their social and ecological impacts are further and further separated. The design, advertisement, production, distribution, consumption and disposal of products gets spread over countries, if not continents. Food products are no exception: “.. . One fourth of the grapes eaten in the United States are grown 11,000 kilometres away, in Chile, and the typical mouthful of American food travels 2,000 kilometres from farm field to dinner plate...” (Brown et al. 1991a: 159). The social and ecological externalities that are consequences 47 of the expanding global market -- such as rapid urbanization, pollution, or community break downs -- become pervasive. In other words, impacts are no longer locally confined but become systemic. This obscures the consequences and side-effects of most economic actions (Daly & Cobb 1989:141-146). The increased complexity of the global economy and the devolution of nation states make remedial action an ever bigger challenge. From the epistemological perspective, the focus of generating knowledge which benefits a particular group rather than society as a whole (because such knowledge pays back those who financed the research) is another example of the “Tragedy of Free Access.” While market-driven knowledge generation seems to be highly adaptive to individual economic needs and “wants”, it also accelerates the expanding spiral of production and consumption. However, other concerns of humanity as a whole, such as ecological limits, social equity, community vitality or spiritual well-being, lose out. Since today’s economic activities are dictated by those who introduce them first (“primacy of action”), society as a whole cannot decide on whether it wants these new technologies, but must bear the costs of its side effects (see also Steiner 1993:5 1). Examples include the introduction of nuclear power, genetic engineering, telecommunication and television, automobiles, video-games, the “Green Revolution”, air traffic, and military technology. At least since the end of the Second World War, under the leadership of the industrialized countries, economic research and technological breakthroughs in communications and transportation capacities have backed the globalization of a world economy. Economic agreements have consciously been put in place to accommodate economic and technological innovations in support of the globalization evident today. In consequence, aggregate economic production has skyrocketed, thereby accelerating resource consumption to such an extent that it has now exceeded nature’s carrying capacity. In other words, the scientific model behind 48 conventional economic development can be identified as a root cause of the sustainability dilemma (Peat Marwick 1993b, Chiras 1992a). In those cases where individual and societal interests are at odds, this instrumental approach will exacerbate the “Tragedy of Free Access” by amplifying selfish human traits such as greed and acquisitiveness. Our scientific machinery has not been successful in addressing this crisis. Science’s strength is its “micro” approach (i.e., developing specific, sophisticated, technological gadgets in a lab), while failing to address “macro” concerns (i.e., understanding the connected global issues, thinking about the implications of the “unknowability” of complex systems, or at least acknowledging the impossibility of ecological or global “management”). The scientific reductionist approach, in both analysis and application constitutes the epistemological dimension of the “Tragedy of Free Access” phenomenon. From the psychological perspective, the “Tragedy of Free Access” becomes particularly apparent. On the one hand, individuals in today’s Western society feel insignificant, overwhelmed and powerless when confronted with the global dimensions of the sustainability crisis. As the benefit of individual or even national sustainability efforts accrue to humanity as a whole, such action feels like martyrdom. Also, the globalizing cash nexus alienates and commodifies, thereby further separating the individual from a sense of community. On the other hand, the social and ecological crises are denied partly because the implications are too intimidating and require profound change in the way people live. Such change might require that the rich give up some of their material wealth so that the suffering of the poor could be mitigated and long-term productivity of nature would not be further compromised. The emotion-laden environmental debates document the anxieties of people when faced 49 with such fundamental dilemmas and challenges. The consequent knee-jerk reactions often lead to further protection of the immediate self-interests of a particular group while hindering co operative behaviour, thereby exacerbating the conflict. Realizing the implications of the global issue can lead to despair and various forms of social denial. This translates into the low priority of sustainabiity issues on political agendas. C. REACTING TO TIlE CRISIS: EXPLORING TIlE NECESSARY CONDITIONS FOR SUSTAINABILITY So far, this chapter has discussed why humanity’s current way of living is not sustainable. Building on the last section, I discuss what the characteristics or necessary conditions are for developing a sustainable way of life. Sustainability is a simple concept: living with each other within the means of nature. This is the essence of WCED’s widely accepted definition of this concept (1987:43). But it is a startling, even alarming, concept - and that explains why progress is so slow. Sustainability shocks because it reminds the wealthy part of humankind of some bleak realities: the needs of the poor are not being met today and the current demands on nature are undermining the future capacity of nature to meet the needs of future generations. It is also alarming because it implies This is also the underlying message of the 10 sustainable development definitions listed in Rees (1989) and the over 20 definitions listed in Pearce et al. (1989:Annex). And, there is much academic agreement on the symptoms of the crisis. However, interpretations of this message, or its implications for action, are contradictory (Lélé 1991). Sharachchandra Ldlé acknowledges that these various interpretations are not caused by a lack ofunderstanding the issues, but rather by the reluctance to acknowledge the implications of the underlying message (1991:618). In other words, and in contrast to the view that we are witnessing a “...clash of plural rationalities each using impeccable logic to derive different conclusions...” (Thompson in Redclift 1987:202), the deliberate vagueness of the concept is merely a reflection of the distribution of power in the political bargaining. It is not a manifestation of sustainable development’s insurmountable intellectual intricacy (see also Milbrath 1989:323). “...Unless we are prepared to interrogate our assumptions about both development and the environment and give political effect to the conclusions we reach, the reality of unsustainable development will remain...” (emphasis added, Redclift 1987:204). 50 that the human race cannot continue on its current path: profound changes are required. In particular, high income earners in industrialized societies must significantly reduce their resource consumption and waste production if everybody is to be able to live decently. In spite of the simple message carried by “sustainability”, the concept suffers from semantic ambiguity stemming from the fact that it refers to a state as well as to a process (see also footnote 2 in Chapter I). On the one hand, it refers to a state in which human consumption does not exceed nature’s productivity, and on the other hand, to the process of achieving this state. The first three facets of the sustainabiity crisis discussed above inform about the state of sustainability, while the last three indicate conditions for the development of sustainability. As explained later in this section, the state of sustainability depends simultaneously on the health of three spheres (Figure 1.1). These spheres are: Figure 1.1: ..Healt[, Three spheres of health Personal health is embedded in community health, which is embedded in ecosystem health. (Source: UBC Task Force 1994). 51 a) Ecological health: Using of nature’s productivity without damaging it (ecological condition for sustainability). b) Community health: Fostering social well-being through the promotion of fairness, cooperation, inclusion, equity, and connectedness (political condition for sustainability). c) Individual health: Strengthening individual well-being through the provision of food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, leisure and so forth (socioeconomic condition for sustainability) (Wackernagel 1993a). To develop sustainability, society needs tools to understand and communicate about the sustainability challenges (epistemological condition for sustainability). It must acknowledge and accommodate the debilitating fear of change (psychological condition for sustainability) and finally, devise decision-making processes that include people and re-establish the links between rights and responsibilities (political condition for sustainability). 1. THE ECOLOGICAL BOTTOM-LINE FOR SUSTAINABILITY: A CASE FOR STRONG SUSTAINABILITY Sustainability requires living within the productive capacity of nature. Therefore, we need to know how to identify and measure nature’s productivity. Human societies depend not only on labour and human-made capital, but also on nature, or “natural capital” (Costanza & Daly 1992). Even though the concept of natural capital has not yet been developed into an operational definition, various interpretations of natural capital have been advanced. The narrowest definitions identify natural capital mainly as commercially available (industrial) renewable and non-renewable resources (Barbier 1992). However, a more complete definition of natural capital This section draws from Wackernagel & Rees (1992). 52 must not only include all the biophysical resources and waste sinks that are needed to support the human economy, but also the relationship among those entities and processes that provide life support to the ecosphere. In short, natural capital is not just an inventory of resources; it includes those components of the ecosphere, and the structural relationships among them, whose organizational integrity is essential for the continuous self-production of the system itself.45 Indeed, it is this highly evolved structural and functional integration that makes the ecosphere the uniquely liveable “environment” it is. In effect the very organisms it comprises produce the ecosphere (Rees 1990c, 1992a). Geoclimatic, hydrological, and ecological cycles do not simply transport and distribute nutrients and energy but are among the self-regulatory, homeostatic mechanisms that stabilize conditions on Earth for all contemporary life-forms, including humankind. When debating the ecological conditions for sustainability, the question arises whether natural capital itself has to remain constant (“strong sustainability”), or whether a loss in natural capital is acceptable if compensated through an equivalent accumulation of human-made capital (“weak sustainability”) (Costanza & Daly 1992, Daly 1989:250-252, Pearce et a!. 1989, Pearce & Turner 1990, Pezzey 1989, Rees 1992a). As natural capital cannot be substituted by human- made capital (Daly 1992:250), but rather remains a prerequisite for human-made capital, “strong sustainability” becomes the criteria for judging whether humanity lives within nature’s means. Therefore, the ecological bottom-line of sustainability is met if each generation inherits “Organization” signifies those properties and relationships that must be present for a thing to exist. Maturana and Varela (1992:39-52) refer to the unique self-producing and self-regulating properties that define living systems as “autopoietic organization”. 53 an adequate per capita stock of essential biophysical assets alone -- independent of the human- made capital stock. This biophysical stock, or natural capital, must be no less than the stock of such assets inherited by the previous generation. However, some scholars do not subscribe to the strong sustainability criterion. A few, such as Pearce and Atkinson (1993), use the weak sustainability criterion as their analytical approach, but without providing convincing arguments for its ecological validity.47 The most forceful contestants of the strong sustainability perspective can be divided into two camps. The first interprets the ecological crisis only as an issue of pollution, and not of resource scarcity. This position is common in environmental economics (e.g., Dasgupta & Heal 1979), but can no longer be maintained in the face of such widespread phenomena as the loss of biodiversity, deforestation, and the collapse of fisheries. The second camp consists of people who deny or ignore the ecological crisis altogether, as discussed in the first section of this chapter (Gee 1994, Simon & Kahn 1984, McKibbin & Sachs 1991, Giersch 1993), a position that is barely defensible (Homer-Dixon 1994). However, as pointed out later, the major debate is not about the validity of the strong sustainability criterion but rather about how to organize human activities, still maintaining our natural capital stock. In fact, within the field of Ecological Economics there is wide support for the strong sustainability interpretation, from the ecological as well as the economic perspectives represented in the field (Jansson et a!. 1994, in particular 46 However radical the constant stocks criterion might appear, it still reflects anthropocentric values. Emphasis is on the pragmatic minimum biophysical requirements for human survival. However, the preservation of biophysical assets essential to humankind does imply the direct protection of whole ecosystems and thousands of keystone species, and thousands more will benefit indirectly from the maintenance of the same systems upon which humans are dependent. In short, the most promising hope for maintaining significant biodiversity under our prevailing value system may well be ecologically enlightened human self-interest. Of course, should humankind shift to more ecocentric values, its own survival might be assured even more effectively. Respect for, and the preservation of, other species and ecosystems for their intrinsic value, would automatically ensure human ecological security. For a brief discussion see footnote 7 in Chapter ifi. 54 Turner et al. 1994). 2. THE SOCIOECONOMIC CONDITIONS FOR SUSTAINABILITY As a minimum, sustainability requires that everybody’s basic needs be satisfied. However, ecological limits and the poor record of wealth distribution through the “trickle-down” effect of conventional economic development suggest that continued economic growth will not be able to achieve this goal. And there is increasing evidence that economic success is actually undermining ecological integrity as, generally speaking, those who can access the largest amount of resources (and have the entrepreneurial spirit to transform them effectively into demanded goods and services) perform best in the global economy. However, securing basic needs for everybody is not enough. It also requires an improvement in quality of life. In fact, people will be reluctant to plan for sustainability if this path is not seen as an improvement to their lives. Many scholars believe that if society chooses wisely, such options still exist, particularly for industrialized societies (Roseland 1992). For example, carefully designed sefflement patterns which promote aesthetics, density, community interaction, greenspaces and non-motorized transportation have the potential massively to reduce industrial societies’ resource consumption and waste generation while significantly improving quality of life. Indeed, only those policies and projects that satisfy these two imperatives can move us toward sustainability. In particular, municipalities could play an increasingly important role in planning for sustainability. And they could start today: through community economic development as well as transportation and land-use planning (Roseland 1992, Harrington 1993, Parker 1993, Beck 1993). 55 3. THE POLITICAL CONDITIONS FOR SUSTAINABILITY As long as competition remains a major organizing force of society, nobody will ever be satisfied with what they have got. In fact, as Fred Hirsch pointed out, once our basic needs are met, people start to focus on relative and not absolute wealth (1976). Such systemic and constant dissatisfaction keeps people on a never ending spiral of wanting more (Wachtel 1989). Consequently, “enoughness” becomes an alien concept (Durning 1992). Therefore, to meet everybody’s basic needs and to improve people’s lives requires more co-operative forms of interaction. Co-operation does not depend on altruism, but rather on reciprocity, as pointed out by Robert Axeirod’s simulation games with its winning “Tit for Tat” strategy (1984). In fact, there might be an evolutionary advantage to co-operative behaviour (Berkes 1989b:72-76). Constructive reciprocity is only possible if the participants trust each other. Without social justice and mutual respect such trust cannot be established, but might lead to devastating situations such as social collapses, conificts and civil war (Gurr 1985, Homer- Dixon 1993, Kaplan 1994, Ophuls et al. 1992). Failing to build trust between the members of a society will encourage a competitive mode of interaction which will further erode mutual trust, and which will feed into the never-ending and ultimately self-destructive race to generate more. Increased cooperation depends on transparent and inclusive decision-making processes (WCED 1987:65). This requires forums for political debate, an acknowledgement of conflicts within society, but also an awareness and understanding of the sustainability dilemma and of the implications of “business-as-usual”. Reconnecting rights and responsibilities, therefore, becomes a key requirement for dealing with the “Tragedy of Free Access” (The Ecologist 22(4): 195-204). In fact, this follows 56 Garrett Hardin’ s own proposition of instituting “.. . mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon...” (1968/1993:139) -- which means, as pointed out earlier, to establish a commons regime (Berkes 1989b:85). Such an endeavour depends primarily on the wide and authentic participation of people affected by the decisions. It requires the rebuilding of what Fikret Berkes and Carl Folke call, “cultural capital”, namely, guarding cultural diversity, recognizing traditional ecological knowledge, building institutions, organizing collective action, and supporting cooperation (1994:139-146). Building cultural capital and developing inclusive decision-making will cost a lot of people’s time. For example, such decision-making requires time for developing and participating in the political processes as well as for improving literacy in scripture, numbers, and ecological understanding (Orr 1992) -- but there is no democratic alternative. Furthermore, to link actions and effects, to reduce the international pressures on local communities, to strengthen local communities, and to allow a greater range of options might also require the gradual decoupling of local economies from the global economy rather than strengthening the links (Daly 1993). 4. THE EPISTEMOLOGICAL CONDITIONS FOR SUSTAINABILITY Planning for sustainability hinges on society’s broad understanding of the sustainability dilemmas. Promoting this understanding demands a profound change in the way people picture knowledge, particularly as the popular belief that “reductionism and fragmentation can generate universal answers to all human challenges” is such a debilitating and paralysing illusion. It no longer suffices to merely acquire knowledge. Instead, people might need to learn to ask questions. Thinking about the present human condition and its implication for the future should include questions such as: whether current decisions open or close opportunities for future generations; whether the models that guide our decision-making acknowledge or are compatible 57 with the fact that human activities depend on nature’s productivity; whether their view of quality of life is compatible with ecological integrity, or whether there are ways to rethink priorities to make personal “success” compatible with sustainability; and finally, who loses and who wins from the status quo, and from particular sustainability initiatives. Also, knowing about how to cooperate with people holding other values, beliefs, and worldviews become skills on which constructive planning approaches depend. Furthermore, rather than understanding parts and details, the exploration of connections and systemic relationships must be emphasized (Vester 1983). Capacity must be built for conducting interdisciplinary, collaborative, action-oriented research on relevant issues (Fnedmann 1987:389-4 12). Acknowledging the limits of scientific inquiry and the implications of an increasing knowledge deficit becomes a first step toward understanding the constraints for action. Similarly, recognizing the precautionary principle, rather than using uncertainty as a legitimization of business-as-usual, becomes a precondition for developing sustainability (Reichert 1993, Turner et al. 1994:270,276, Costanza 1994). In fact, this is consistent with the several thousand years old basic principle of the medical profession: primum non nocere (usually attributed to Hippocrates [460-377 BC], but it might stem from Asclepiades [124-? BC], according to Robert Woollard [1994a1). To envision and to plan requires developing concrete and positive images that can compete with the images from advertising and television (Steen-Jensen 1994, The Media Foundation 1993). This will also improve and stimulate communication between people and make the debates more accessible. 5. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL CONDITIONS FOR SUSTAINABILITY Social denial must be overcome for society to move effectively toward a more sustainable 58 lifestyle.48 This means dealing with deep-rooted fears and taboos. Everybody must be encouraged, first, to reflect upon what matters to them, and second, to listen to what they already intuitively know -- rather than repressing it. This also means acknowledging and celebrating that human beings are a part of nature (Rees 1990c), even though people have, in contrast to other living beings, the innate ability to reflect and to transform their environment. Overcoming social denial requires trust on various levels: decision-making processes must become transparent enough to make them trustworthy, social trust must be built through social justice and mutual connectedness. Also, people must perceive choices and options, and must learn to trust themselves. At the same time, feeding into social denial must be stopped. Blaming the messengers for the message about ecological limits, encouraging inaction due to lack of “scientific evidence” about the causes of the sustainability crisis, or only providing selected information about the sustainability crisis to children and high school students to “protect” them, detracts from moving toward sustainability. On the political level, developing sustainability should become an attractive choice rather than a moral obligation. Moral pressures will only produce resentments and will not be able to sustain long-lasting transformation. In fact, most likely they are counterproductive. 48 For the lack of literature on overcoming social denial, insights from the psychology of individual denial might be used. For example, Esther Kübler-Ross’ stages of coping, which are “denial, rage and anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance,t as proposed in her widely respected book On Death and Dying (1969), might be helpful parallels for understanding social processes (1975:10). Of course, social denial is more complex: some parts of society profit from the denial while others pay for it. Also, in contrast to individual health or addiction-related denial, many social transformation processes do not take leaps and are far from homogeneous. 59 D. DEVELOPING SUSTAINABILITY: THE NEED FOR PLANNING TOOLS THAT CAN TRANSLATE SUSTAINABILITY CONCERNS INTO EFFECTIVE ACTION These multiple facets of the sustainability crisis demonstrate the constraints and opportunities of the challenge. Understanding these facets and their connection becomes a first planning step toward sustainability. In other words, without prior “...recognition of necessities...” society will not be successful in establishing “ coercion, mutually agreed upon...”, the social contract for achieving sustainability (Hardin 1968/93:139). To develop such a new social contract, new planning tools are needed that capture these sustainability concerns and help translate them into public action. To be productive and successful, such planning tools have to address all the facets of the sustainability crisis simultaneously. They have to: • promote ways of living that can be supported within the ecological constraints; • ease the socioeconomic tension. As many scholars have pointed out, poverty alleviation is one of the essential conditions for ecological sustainability, and vice versa (Goodland & Daly 1993) -- even though it is quite conceivable that not everybody can reach the standard of living, presently characterizing industrialized societies; • develop transparent, engaging and participatory decision-making processes which can cope with the pressures of the global economy and the hurdles of local institutions, and which can build and maintain mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon; • include and build on a wide scope of knowledge and stimulate critical thinking. These tools must sharpen the debate between conflicting assumptions and beliefs, and help cope with uncertainty, generality, and systemic relationships; and • provide mechanisms to overcome fear, social denial, inertia and other psychological stumbling blocks in the way of moving toward sustainability. 60 Clearly, the process of developing sustainability depends on a successful integration of ecological, economic and social policies in which economic success, social well-being and ecological integrity become compatible (IJBC Task Force 1994, Folke & Kâberger 1991b). In contrast, addressing only one facet of the sustainability crisis while disregarding the others could be counterproductive to the cause. For example, programs which aim at increasing nature’s productivity, but do not take into account socioeconomic or political concerns have been failing painfully as in the case of large damming projects, nuclear power programs or “Green Revolution” policies. Developing a planning tool for sustainability is the challenge that this dissertation is taking on. A tool that can guide society from concern to action must help to understand the constraints, frame the issues, allow transparent and authentic communication, and monitor progress toward sustainability. As daunting as this task appears, there is already much literature available that covers various aspects of such a planning tool. On the one hand, there is burgeoning literature on sustainabiity from a substantive perspective (for references see above). On the other hand, a growing amount of literature discusses processes of social learning, change and transformation. These procedural aspects can be found in the areas of planning theory, organizational theory and social activism (Carnal 1989, Carson 1990, Christensen 1985, Coover et al. 1977/85, Forester 1989, Friedmann 1987, Meadows et a!. 1992, Milbrath 1989, Theobald 1987). The task now is to connect the parts. 61 ifi. ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT OR APPROPRIATED CARRYING CAPACITY: DEVELOPING A TOOL FOR PLANNING TOWARD SUSTAINABILITY Planning tools assist society in translating concerns into public action (Boucher 1993). This chapter presents the Ecological Footprint or Appropriated Carrying Capacity concept (EF/ACC), a new tool for planning toward sustainability. A. THE CONCEPTUAL FOUNDATION OF EF/ACC The EF/ACC concept analyzes human activity from a biophysical perspective and starts from a recognition that human activities depend on the productivity of natural capital. It is motivated by the concern that natural capital is limited and that this capital’s draw-down reduces its productive capacity (Folke et a!. 1994:5). The primary task of the EF/ACC tool becomes to measure natural capital and the flows that we draw from it. However, its use goes well beyond the mere measurement of these constraints, as discussed below. Also, it draws on a rich history of biophysical assessments and builds on parallel concepts that measure ecological constraints. 1. ASSESSING NATURAL CAPITAL As noted, “strong sustainability” requires that each generation must inherit an adequate per capita stock of essential biophysical assets no less than the stock of such assets inherited by the previous generation (see Section II. C .2). Now, the question arises how this stock of essential biophysical assets can be measured. David Pearce et a!. identify three possible approaches to measuring natural capital -- physical inventory, present valuation of stocks, and market prices (income flows). They fmally settle for monetary measures on grounds that constant physical capital would l• .be appealing 62 for renewable resources, but, clearly, has little relevance to exhaustible resources since any positive rate of use reduces the stock...” (Pearce et al. 1990:10). This view needs to be challenged. Using money values as a measure for natural capital depletion can be misleading, not only because money is confused with material and social wealth (Vogt 1948:64), but also for the six following reasons:’ First, biophysical scarcity is hardly reflected in market prices (Hall 1992:109-110). And even if it was, it might not be useful to assess constancy of natural capital stocks. According to neoclassical theory, the marginal price of increasingly scarce resource commodities should increase. If this neoclassical premise is correct, rising prices (which should indicate increased scarcity) could hold the income from a particular natural capital stock constant, while the stock is actually in biophysical decline. Thus, constant money income may foster the illusion of constant stocks while physical inventories actually shrink. Or in contrast, prices might fall (suggesting resource abundance) while the stock is being reduced in biophysical terms as illustrated by timber or fossil fuel prices in the last twenty years (World Resources Institute 1992:242). A prominent example of interpreting such declining prices with resource abundance is Harold Barnett and Chandler Morse’s study (1963). However, market prices do not describe absolute biophysical scarcity, but rather the commodity’s scarcity on the market.2 This market scarcity is only partially determined by the What follows is not an argument against monetary analysis per Se. Monetary analysis is crucial when developing budgets, or when deciding whether to build a school, a hospital or a theatre. Cash-flow strategies and a number of other business decisions are unthinkable without sound monetary analysis. The point is, however, that monetary analysis is not suitable for analyzing the ecological facet of sustainability. 2 This confusion is also well illustrated by the well-publicized bet between Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon in which both committed the error of confusing biophysical and market scarcity (flerny 1990). 63 biophysical resource scarcity. More influential factors are the state-of-technology, the demand, the level of competition, extraction, processing and transaction costs etc.3 In fact, the impact of biophysical scarcity on market prices is still small.4 Prices are therefore not a reliable yardstick for measuring sustainability. Second, monetary analyses are systematically biased against future values -- discounting makes nature’s assets of the future look less valuable the farther away in time they are (Hampicke 1991:127, Harvey 1993:5, Price 1993). For example, while land portrays future production potentials, monetary wealth contains little information about long-term income and ecological productivity. Third, another factor that diminishes the usefulness of monetary indicators for long-term assessments are the distortions from market fluctuations. Monetary wealth is subject to David Pearce et a!. show a partial agreement with the position presented. In spite of citing Ozdemiroglu’s paper on Measuring Natural Resources Scarcity: A Study ofthe Price Indicator (1993) and concluding that “...marketed natural resources do not show evidence of any scarcity...”, they say earlier that “economists like to use prices as indicators of scarcity, although there are technical disputes about the suitability of the indicator” (1993:6). They also state that”...those who object to a preoccupation with sustainability also tend to be ‘resource optimists’ ... [who] tend to point to evidence of expanding resource discoveries and to declining trends in resource prices. But this evidence relates to resources that are marketed, and these are not the focus of concern. So, while it may be comforting (only may be, since the evidence is not conclusive) to observe no scarcity in some resources, it is hardly reassuring...” (1993:5). In addition, I would argue that not only the biophysical scarcity of non-market resources (such as air, climate, biodiversity) are of concern but also the deterioration of market resources such as witnessed with the collapse of fish stocks, deforestation, decline of fossil fuel stocks etc. For example, of the 50 cents per litre payed for gasoline at the Vancouver gas station, less than four cents go toward royalty payments (or payments for resource depletion). Assuming an oil prices of 15 dollars a barrel (159 litres), this can be calculated by detracting the exploration costs of about six to eight dollars per barrel, and extraction and the processing costs of approximately two to four dollars per barrel (typical Canadian figures according to Boriana Vitanow, financial analyst of a Calgary oil company [1994]). In fact, in Canada, the resource royalties charged by the government amount to about 15 to 30 percent of the gross production’s value, depending on the quantity of oil extracted and the age of the operation -- or between two and five dollars per barrel (Vitanow 1994). Hence, the average Canadian motorist, driving 24,000 kilometres a year with a car which uses 12 litres per 100 kilometres, would contribute a mere $35 to $90 a year to resource royalty payments -- very little compared to the total yearly operating costs of $7,400 (Canadian Automobile Association, reported in The Vancouver Sun, August 3, 1994). 64 exogenous fluctuations of world market prices, while biophysical wealth such as ecologically productive land in a region represents an endogenous factor of long-term food and resource security. Money reflects the economic strength of one region as compared to that of the world economy, but does not reveal the ecological integrity of the natural capital underlying this economy. Fourth, monetary analysis cannot distinguish between substitutable goods and complementary goods.5 In the monetary balance sheet, all prices are added or subtracted as if goods that are priced the same would be of equal importance to human life, or as if they were substitutable. However, many services from nature are essential and therefore not commensurate with some human-made gadget of equal dollar value. In other words, once nature is over- exploited, a loss of nature’s services cannot be compensated by a gain in manufactured goods (Daly & Cobb 1989:72). For example, to get fish on one’s dinner plate, a fish stock and fishing equipment are needed. And, even though the fish stock might be worth the same amount of dollars as seven Rolls Royces, seven Rolls Royces and the best fishing equipment would not generate any fish. In fact, natural services and human-made goods are not fully complementary either, in contrast to what Herman Daly and John Cobb (1989) suggest, because human-made goods depend on natural services, while the opposite is not the case. Fifth, the potential for growth of money seems unlimited which obscures the possibility that there might be biophysical limits such as a global carrying capacity. To use Herman Daly’s H. Goeller and Alvin Weinberg’s claim that resources are infinitely substitutable is discussed in Chapter II. 65 metaphor, monetary assessments do not recognize the boat’s Plimsoll line, an indication of the maximum loading capacity of the boat. Pareto efficiency6 -- the current measure of macro economic health -- ensures only that the ship sinks optimally and does not counteract the sinking itself (Daly 1992). Sixth, an even more serious objection is that monetary measures say nothing at all about nature’s critical stocks and processes such as hydrological cycles, the ozone layer, CO2 absorption, ecological thresholds, irreversibilities, or the health of whole ecosystems for which there are no markets (Harvey 1993:5, Rees 1992a, Stirling 1993:97-103, Vatn et a!. 1993, Wackernagel 1992:30-36). In summary, monetary approaches are blind to critical biophysical realities. The stock of essential biophysical assets can be assessed meaningfully only in biophysical terms.7 The essential natural capital needs of an economy must, therefore, be understood as the biophysical stocks required to produce the biophysical “goods and services” that this economy consumes from global flows to sustain itself without compromising future production. Building on Salah El Serafy’s monetary argument (1988), this should also include the non-renewable energy 6 Pareto efficiency assumes that the optimizing principle must be “utility maximization” rather than minimizing human suffering or future regrets as proposed by Karl Popper (in Afrane 1991:6). Clearly, the adoption of Popper’s “negative utilitarianism” would lead to a radical shift in political priorities. In spite of these arguments, David Pearce and Giles Atkinson rank various nations’ sustainability from the neoclassical assumption that natural and human-made capital are substitutable (1993:104). They claim that “. . .an economy is sustainable if it saves more [in monetary terms] than the depreciation on its man-made and natural capital...” (1993:106). As a result, Japan, the Netherlands, and Costa Rica head the list of sustainable countries, while the poorest countries in Africa lead the list of the unsustainable economies. Apart from the authors’ fallacious assumption of substitutability, they also ignore that rich countries depreciate other countries’ natural capital stock, thereby preserving their own as demonstrated in the case of Japan or the Netherlands. Clearly, this study becomes another illustration of the absurdity to assess sustainability from a monetary perspective. Nevertheless, the authors conclude obliviously that “...we argue strongly that efforts to monetise the values of those functions advances the development of an ecologically based economics...” (1993:106). 66 resources which can be used sustainably only if, in compensation, an entropically equivalent amount of biophysical capital is being accumulated. In other words, the biophysical capital to sustain a given material standard of living can be defined as the minimum per capita stock required to provide all the resources and waste sinks necessary, while simultaneously maintaining the functional integrity and productivity of the stocks themselves. It follows that, rising material standards or increasing population levels necessarily require corresponding increases in available aggregate natural capital stocks, something difficult to achieve in a “full” world. 2. DEFINING EF/ACC Putting the “strong sustainability” principle to work hinges on finding a meaningful biophysical measurement unit for aggregating the various biophysical stocks or carrying capacity needs of an economy. For this purpose, this thesis further advances an ecological accounting concept that uses land area as its biophysical measurement unit8. This approach starts from the assumption that every major category of consumption or waste discharge requires the productive or absorptive capacity of a finite area of land or water (ecosystems). Adding up the land requirement of all these categories provides an aggregate or total area which we call the “Ecological Footprint” of a defined economy on Earth.9 This area represents the carrying capacity which is “appropriated” (or occupied) by that economy for providing the total flow of goods and services. Another name for the Ecological Footprint is, therefore, the “Appropriated Carrying Capacity” of the economy. More formally, this concept is defined as: 8 See also Rees (1992), Rees & Wackernagel (1992), and Wackernagel (1991, 1992). This metaphor, first suggested by William Rees, was chosen to capture and extend our conception of the human impact on the ecosphere, and to build upon related concepts in planning such as the urban or infrastructure footprints, meaning the land area directly occupied by a particular structure. Robert Cahn also used this metaphor for his 1978 book Footprints on the Planet: A Search for an Environmental Ethic. 67 Definition: The Ecological Footprint or the Appropriated Carrying Capacity (EF/ACC) is defined as the aggregate land (and water) area in various categories required by the people in a defined region a) to provide continuously all the resources and services they presently consume,’° and b) to absorb continuously all the waste they presently discharge using prevailing technology.1’In other words, the EF/ACC of a population is the land which is needed to exclusively produce the natural resources and services it consumes and to assimilate the waste it generates indefinitely under present management schemes.’2 It is the land that would be required now on this planet to support the current lifestyle forever. Conventionally, carrying capacity is defined as the “...maximal population size of a given species that an area can support without reducing its ability to support the same species in the tu” (Daily & Ehrlich 1992:762). However, it is problematic to apply this definition to human beings living in a global economy, because regions are no longer isolated -- people consume resources from all over the world. Indeed, economists regard trade flows as one way to overcome the constraints on regional carrying capacity imposed by local resource shortages. 10 Consumption refers to all the goods and services consumed by a household, as well as those goods and services which were consumed by government and businesses to provide that household’s goods and services. This definition can be expanded for other sustainabiity assessments. For example, EF/ACC, analyzed from the perspective of industrial production, can reveal how much carrying capacity a region gives up to produce the exports that are required to pay for the imports. encompasses the consumption of renewable resources and of fossil energy as well as the human impacts which reduce biological productivity. A complete EF/ACC analysis would therefore include the additional land (and water) area required to compensate for the loss of biological productivity due to pollution, contamination, radiation, erosion or salination. Also, it would incorporate non-renewable, non-consumed resources (such as aluminum or iron) insofar as it accounts for their processing energy and for the pollution effects that their use and production entail. However, as explained in Chapter IV, the current approach is still leaving out some of these functions of nature to simplify the calculation procedure. This makes the results underestimate the land-area actually required -- without compromising the tool’s heuristic value. 68 Furthermore, in contrast to animals, resource consumption by people is not fixed by their biology. While most animals do not consume much beyond their food, the bulk of people’s material consumption consists of non-food items such as energy or forestry products. This leads to individual consumption levels that can vary by many orders of magnitude: the farm helpers in rural India might represent the lower extreme of the scale, board members of transnational companies the upper echelon. For these reasons, the definition of EF/ACC is based on two modifications of the conventional conception of carrying capacity. The EF/ACC concept • does not just count people. Instead, it stands for the impact on nature of the aggregate consumption by a population. After all, it is the total ecological impact (= population * per capita ecological impact) that counts, not population alone (Hoidren & Ehrlich 1974); and, • is not based on “maximum yield” of a geographically fixed resource stock, but rather on the current total consumption of nature’s services by a given population. 3. THE ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT AND ITS CONCEPTUAL ANCESTORS Biophysical assessments of human needs and human dependence on nature have a long history. Certainly, there must be several thousand year old oral tales about the relationship between people and land. David Durham traces the concept of carrying capacity back to Plato’s Laws, Book V, where the latter stated that a: suitable total for the number of citizens cannot be fixed without considering the laud and the neighbouring states. The land must be extensive enough to support a given number of people in modest comfort, and not a foot more is needed (in Durham 1994:4). 69 According to William Ophuls and Stephen Boyen, early Christian and Chinese scholars also worried about the destruction of habitat (1992:12-13). The first scholarly book on sustainable practice in the English language might be John Evelyn’s Sylva: A Discourse ofForest Trees and the Propagation of Timber from 1664 (Garbarino 1992:9). In North America however, George Perkin Marsh’s study Man and Nature, from 1864, was most influential in increasing the awareness of nature’s limited capacity to provide for human demands. Ecological accounting can be traced back to at least as early as 1758. In that year, Francois Quesnay published his Tableau Economique in which the relationship between the productivity of land and wealth creation is discussed. Since then, many scholars have developed conceptual approaches and accounting procedures to analyze the relationship between people and nature. Some have focused on an analysis of energy flows within the economy (e.g., Jevons 1865, Podolinsky 1880, Sacher 1881, Boltzmann 1886 [the last three in Martinez-Alier 1987], Lotka 1925, Georgescu-Roegen 1971, 1980). Others have examined economies from the perspective of carrying capacity or land-use requirements (e.g., Malthus 1798, Jevons 1865,13 Pfaundler 1902, Wahien 1945, Vogt 1948:18-45, Osborn 1953, Stamp 1958, Borgstrom 1965, 1973, Urban & Rural Land Committee 1973, Bishop et al. 1974, Rees 1977, Schneider et al. 1979, Catton 1980, Hare 1980, Ehrlich 1982, Higgins et al. 1983 (or FAO 1984), Hedge 13 Apart from analyzing the role of energy in society, Jevons also described the concept underlying EF/ACC in his 1865 classic The Coal Question: The plains of North America and Russia are our corn-fields; Chicago and Odessa our granaries; Canada and the Baltic are our timber-forests; Australasia contains our sheep-farms, and in Argentina and on the western prairies of North America are our herds of oxen; Peru sends her silver, and the gold of South Africa and Australia flows to London; the Hindus and the Chinese grow tea for us, and our coffee, sugar and spice plantations are all in the Indies. Spain and France are our vineyards and the Mediterranean our fruit garden, and our cotton grounds, which for long have occupied the Southern United States, are now being extended everywhere in the warm regions of the earth (1865/1965:411). 70 McCoid 1984, Mahar 1985, Overby 1985, Harwell & Hutchinson 1986).’ With Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (1968), and the MIT team’s Limits to Growth report to the Club of Rome (Meadows et a!. 1972), these concerns reentered the public debate and have not vanished since. 15 Today, the debate on how to make human activities sustainable is shaped by two camps: the “Limits to Growth” advocates and the “Growth of Limits” advocates. The latter position is probably best represented by Julian Simon and Herman Kahn who claim that: .because of increases in knowledge, the earth’s “carrying capacity” has been increasing throughout the decades and centuries and millennia to such an extent that the term “carrying capacity” has by now no useful meaning (1984:45). Julian Simon and Herman Kahn are not alone. In fact, there is a large literature, including parts of the Brundtland report that translates sustainable development into the self- contradictory notion of “sustainable growth” (WCED 1987:206-234, Block 1992, Reilly 1994). 4. THE ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT AND ITS CONCEPTUAL SIBLINGS There are a growing number of biophysical approaches that try to measure human impacts in order to understand the ecological constraints and to measure progress toward sustainability (Callenbach 1990, Herendeen 1994, Stead & Stead 1992). These assessments are increasingly prominent in the political debate, but have not yet been able to successfully challenge the decision-makers’ monetary focus. This section provides a brief overview of the 14 Agro-economist Juan Martinez-Alier (1987) provides a fascinating history of this debate spanning from 1865 (Jevons’ The Coal Question) to the 1940’s. 15 For a discussion of the impact of this debate on social theory and political ideology see Redclift (1987:7-12,37- 51) or Paehlke (1989). 71 nine major biophysical approaches and compares them to the EF/ACC concept. 1) Human carrying capacity studies analyze the capacity of regions to support human activity. Examples are studies by Gretchen Daily and Paul Ehrlich (1992), David Pearce (1987:259, et a!. 1991:114-134), Gonzague Pillet (1991), David and Marcia Pimentel (1990, 1994), Sandra Postel (1994) and Peter Vitousek et a!. (1986). Particularly interesting is Philip Fearnside’s probabilistic approach on ecosystem viability for supporting human activity in the Amazon forest (1986). These studies are useful to assess whether particular activities can be sustained by local ecosystems. However, to understand the linkage between the global ecology and a regional economy, this traditional carrying capacity concept can be misleading. An example is David Pearce’s perspective, which attempts to analyze the relationship between economic performance and the resource base by, similar to Daily and Ehrlich’s perspective (1992), measuring “...the maximum number of people or families that could be supported on the basis of the known resource base...” (1987:259). However, in general, explaining the urgency and scale of a resource problem from this perspective ignores the global context of present economic systems. Therefore, Pearce’s approach, which equates poverty and famine in the Sahel Zone with exceeded local carrying capacity, would be too simplistic to describe many economies. Hongkong, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, to name only a few, exceed by far their carrying capacity, while belonging to the economically most prosperous countries on Earth. ii) Resource accounting or environmental accounting was pioneered by the Norwegian government in 1974, and followed by the French government in 1978 (Pearce 1989:95, Theys 72 1989:40-53). Resource accounts require an annual inventory and statistical analysis of a vast array of resources including minerals, biochemical stocks, fluxes (solar radiation, hydrological cycles, wind) and space (Friend 1993). However, these accounts do not suggest an interpretation of the data. Also, it is not evident which aspects of nature should be included in these accounts and which are, or can be left out. On the one hand, it is not feasible (nor possible) to account for everything, and on the other hand, not all life-supporting functions of nature are known or understood. Therefore, “...the use to which these [accounts] can be put, in terms of economic analysis that has policy relevance, is unclear...” (Pearce et at. 1989:99). lii) Energy analyses have been propagated through ecological (E. P Odum 1959/71, H.T Odum 1971, 1983, with the “eMergy” concept; Lieth & Whittaker 1975, Vitousek et a!. 1986, with net primary production) as well as through technical studies (Hannon 1975, Thomas 1977, Costanza 1980, Mitsch et at. 1981, Cleveland et a!. 1984, Hall et at. 1986, Pimentel 1974, 1991, Giampietro et at. 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, O’Connor 1991:95-122, Pillet 1991, Smil 1991, Ruth 1993). While today, the latter approach is referred to as “energetics”, it was called “net energy analysis” in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Most of these studies are motivated by the fact that, as direct energy costs constitute only a minute percentage of industrialized countries’ GNP, the crucial role of energy to society is underestimated by monetary analysis. Clarifying the dependence of human activities on energy inputs is the major strength of the energy analysis. Therefore, this approach has also regained some interest in the CO2 debate, particularly when analyzing potentials for CO2 emission reductions (Hofstetter 1991, Smith 1993). However, more general economic analysis based on energy might struggle with problems similar to those of monetary analysis. Herman Daly points out that “...just as the economists’ assumption of infinite substitutability of capital, labour, etc., is unrealistic, the energy theorists’ 73 assumption that energy is the proper common denominator of all resource scarcity is likewise unrealistic...” (Daly & Umafia 1980:167). Moreover, those studies that trace all energy flow back to solar radiation (as for example done “with eMergy”) focus on a factor that is not itself limiting. The key limiting factor for human life is the biochemical energy that can be accumulated by the (living) ecosphere, not the sun-light that falls on Earth. For example, one little plant that might be the only organism growing on one hectare of the Sahara desert is probably ecologically as well as economically less “significant” than one hectare of tropical forest, even both receive the same solar input. iv) Environmental impact assessments (ETA) evaluate whether the ecological impact of a new project is acceptable. Over the past 20 years, ETA has grown to become the major proactive environmental policy instrument in North America, though, it has arguably had little success in stopping environmental deterioration. This failing can be attributed to weaknesses such as ETA’s: • one-shot, short-term structure at the end of the planning stage rather than one which monitors or evaluates the projects on an ongoing basis; • project by project approach which generally ignores cumulative effects in a regional or global context; and • fragmented and often discretionary self-assessments (that at best have followed guidelines and are now being instituted by law) as opposed to having transparent assessments conducted according to ecologically informed procedures by third parties (Rees 1980, 1990d).6 v) State-of-Environment indicators (or sustainability indicators, as they are sometimes 16 For a more generous formulation of the same criticism, see David Lawrence (1994). 74 called) document the state and trend of various quantifiable environmental variables such as DDT accumulation in egg yolk, amount of waste generated, or total land area protected. Indicators based on scientific measurements enjoy widespread public credibility even though the pollution standards and benchmarks are often not scientifically determined and are set by political choice (Genoni 1993). Many environmental initiatives of international organizations such as the Group-of-Seven (G-7) or OECD encourage the development of state-of-environment indicators.17Both Canada’s and British Columbia’s State of the Environment Report are fruits of these initiatives (Environment Canada 1991, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks 1993).’ However, state-of-environmental indicators have serious limitations. First, they focus on “the dangers of the environment to human health” rather than “the threats of human activities to the integrity of the biosphere.” Second, by providing various sets of indicators on a multitude of aspects, they fragment the issues related to sustainability. This could weaken a more comprehensive and systemic understanding of the sustainability crisis. vi) Ecological efficiency refers to the ratio of services received to ecological impact caused. This impact includes the service’s embodied resource input as well as the capacity for 17 The G-7 initiative to develop such indicators was put forward by Brian Mulroney at the meeting in Paris in 1989. 18 There are many more organizations working on sustainability indicators, including: Statistics Canada; the Canadian National Round Table; the Ontario Round Table; the World Resource Institute; the Woridwatch Institute; the federal government of the Netherlands; the Oregan Progress Board;and various UN organizations (Peat Marwick 1993). Literature on sustainability indicators include Anderson (1991), Brown et a!. (1992b), Caracas Report 1990, Daly and Cobb (1989), Davis (1993), Gosselin (1992), Henderson (1992), Lawson (1991), Onno eta!. (1991), Victor eta!. (1991). Beckerman (1980), Carley (1981), Innes (1990), MacRae (1985) and Miles (1985) discuss more generally the role of social indicators. 75 absorbing the corresponding waste19 accumulated over the entire life cycle. Many studies identify improving ecological efficiency as a key strategy for achieving sustainability (WCED 1987:215-2 16, Schmidheiny 1992:37-39, Koechlin & Muller 1992:36-39). To measure ecological efficiency, various approaches have been developed. One is the increasingly common “life cycle analysis” (e.g., Cole & Rousseau 1992, Fecker 1990, Frischknecht et al. 1991, Fritsche 1989, Hofstetter 1992, Ledergerber et al. 1991, Muller & Hanselmann 1993, Oko-Institut 1987, Stahel 1991, Suter & Hofstetter 1989, Tötsch & Polack 1992). Another approach is the “Material Intensity per Service Unit” (MIPS) developed by Friedrich Schmidt-Bleek at the Wuppertal Institute (Fresenius Environmental Bulletin 1993, Schmidt-Bleek 1993, Weizsäcker 1994). Ecological efficiency is useful for comparing similar technologies on their ecological impacts, but it is not sufficient for determining the sustainability of a technology per Se. After all, the total impact depends not only on the impact per unit but also on the number of units consumed. Other wealcnesses of this method include the dependence on detailed data that become obsolete quickly due to fast changes in production technologies. Also, the comparison between the results of such studies can be hampered by incompatible and poorly defined analytical systems boundaries (Bringezu 1993). However, these studies are helpful for informing EF/ACC analyses. vii) Regional metabolism studies trace the stocks and flows of resources within a region. Studies include (Newcombe et al. 1978, Baccini & Brunner 1991, Wailner & Narodoslawsky 1994). Ken Newcombe et al. trace the “...flow and end-use of energy and other materials in 19 Typically, the capacity for waste absorption is measured in terms of “critical mass (or volume)” of air, water, and soil. This refers to the amounts of air, water and soil that would be polluted up to the legal standards by the release of that product’s or service’s waste. 76 Hong Kong...”, and conclude that “...the extrapolation [of the study] to a global future, show[s] that rapid urbanization is a resource-expensive process...” (1978:3). The purpose of Peter Baccini and Paul Brunner’s study is primarily to better understand heavy metal cycles and their future pollution potentials, while Peter Waliner and Michael Narodoslawsky developed their study to facilitate the closing of material cycles within regions, thereby creating “Islands of Sustainability” (1994, 1994) Closing resource cycles would become a practical attempt to reduce a region’s Ecological Footprint. vifi) Regional models, often computer aided, such as World3 (Meadows et al. 1972, 1992) simulate the interaction between key variables such as resources, population, pollution and consumption patterns, and calculate trends under different scenarios. Further studies include Mesarovic and Pestel (1974), ROBBERT Associates (1990/1992), Robinson et a!. (1990-1994) and Shaw (1993). Educational software packages such as SIM CITYTM or SIM EARTHTM from Maxis Software use similar approaches to provide players with an opportunity to experiment with complex systems. However, these computer models’ high level of sophistication depends on large quantities of data, on a precise understanding of the mechanisms and connections, and an explicit declaration of the working assumptions for the models to produce a meaningful output -- conditions which are seldom met. Furthermore, this level of sophistication can compromise on the model’s transparency and flexibility which are both essential to engage people and to gain the public’s political support. ix) Ecological space studies translate ecological impacts into a land-use area, This approach is closest to that of the EF/ACC concept. Some studies only focus on agricultural land appropriation (Gerster 1987:159, Thiede in Redcliff 1987:93). Others are more comprehensive, including Wouter de Groot (1992:273-282), Giampietro and Pimentel (1991), and Overby 77 (1985). Jim MacNeill and his colleagues acknowledge that industrialized countries “...breath, drink, feed, and work on the ecological capital of their ‘hinterland,’ which also receives their accumulated waste...” and call it a country’s “shadow ecology” (199 1:58). Closely related to the Ecological Footprint concepts are the Sustainable Process Index (SPI) by Anton Moser and Michael Narodoslawsky (Moser et a!. 1993, Narodoslawsky et a!. 1994), or the concept of “Environmental Space” developed by the Dutch Friends of the Earth (Buitenkamp et al. 1993). In contrast to EF/ACC, the Sustainable Process Index only looks at industrial processes and not at entire economies. Environmental Space, however, is similar to EF/ACC in its scope, but does not aggregate all of the human demands on nature into an one land use area, but provides separate indicators for various aspects such as agricultural land and forestry, fossil energy, and non-renewable ores. Also, it focuses on resource availability rather than on resource appropriation. And, by specifying the limits in resource flows, rather than in areas which are necessary to produce these flows, this Environmental Space approach might get exposed to criticism from technological optimists who claim a potential for increasing ecological productivity. B. THE HVE RATIONALES FOR EF/ACC 1. ECOLOGICAL RATIONALE A meaningful portrayal of natural capital must be the starting point of any tool for planning toward sustainability. Such a tool must adequately represent key functions of the biosphere and their role for human life. The EF/ACC tool uses land area as a proxy for many important forms of natural capital. As discussed below, land is used as it represents the ecosystems and their photosynthetic productivity, and thereby the essence of natural capital. In 78 particular, measuring natural capital in terms of land areas is appropriate as it captures Earth’s fmite nature, and as its capacity to support photosynthesis reflects the two basic thermodynamic laws and other ecological principles. i) Liebig’s Law and the competing uses of nature: In any system and process, there are always some necessary factors in limited supply that prohibit further expansion or production. This fundamental ecological insight is called “Liebig’s Law”2° and led originally to the use of industrial fertilizers in agriculture. For example, if plant growth is stunted by the lack of potash, fertilizing with potash alone will boost plant growth. The crop can now continue to grow and to access more of all its required nutritive substances until some other factors become limiting; the next limiting factor for this crop might be water, so still higher production will need irrigation, etc. Similarly, if available supplies of one factor or service are committed to one thing, they cannot be used for something else. For example, a city that draws water from the adjacent eco systems might compromise productivity in these ecosystems, as witnessed in the conflict between agricultural and residential water-use in California. Or, the effluent of a city might compromise the fishing in that area. Air pollution can compromise the use of water for human consumption, as observed in Chilliwack BC. In essence, this shows that the various uses of nature are in competition. One use of a source, or a sink, may prohibit another use of that source or sink. Particularly, pollution and contamination issues have demonstrated that the over-use of natural capital sinks may destroy their potential as sources. 20 In the middle of the last century, the German agro-chemist Justus von Liebig postulated the “Law (or Doctrine) of the Minimum” for plant growth. He observed that every field will contain a variety of concentrations of various plant nutrients ranging from superabundant to undersupplied. He found that “it is by the minimum that the [growth of] crops are governed” (Liebig 1863:207). 79 To establish an account of these competing and mutually exclusive uses of nature, EF/ACC converts individual uses into a land area equivalent. Having various kinds of different human uses and activities converted into land areas makes the ecological impacts of these uses comparable and permits us to add them up. This cumulative impact approach illustrates how the various ecological concerns add further stress onto the ecosphere, and that these concerns are linked. In other words, all the different human uses and functions of nature -- such as: providing water, food and fibres; maintaining biodiversity (out-crowding of species and the reduction of wild life habitat); absorbing waste; or, providing living space for human beings -- are in competition with each other; they are not fragmented independent activities.2’Accounting for the land areas that are used exclusively for one purpose avoids double counting of land areas. This means that the total Ecological Footprint can be calculated by simply adding up the parts. Some of the competing uses of nature can be sustained by the present carrying capacity of the globe. Other uses draw down nature’s assets. However, to the consumer of goods and services, it is not clear whether these goods and services were produced from the interest of natural capital (or the natural income) or from depleting the principal. Examples are the harvests from overexploited fisheries and forests, agricultural products from land that is being degraded by its use (erosion, salination, etc.), and the draw down on fossil fuels. Living on the principal can be interpreted as living on illusionary or “phantom” carrying capacity (Catton 1980:28- 21 Of course, not all uses of nature are in absolute competition with each other. Many traditional agricultures have developed growing systems that allowed various uses of the same space. And indeed, this is also the intention of newer management regimes. Clearly, the current linear approach of using land to feed people in the city, and then use another ecosystem to absorb the corresponding human waste could be improved if the ecological cycles were closed and the human waste (in some sterilized form) would be brought back to the agricultural land. In fact, this would be one way of reducing our Ecological Footprint. This shows how the EF/ACC concept also represents the difference between linear and circular ecological and material flows in the biosphere. 80 30,4278)•fl Living on illusionary carrying capacity could make people assume that nature’s productivity is higher than it actually is. An example is the buffalo hunting in the North American prairies that drove a seemingly abundant resource into sudden and unexpected near- extinction (Ponting 1992:174-175), or, more timely, the recent collapse of the East Coast cod fishery. Today, less land is actually used to provide all of nature’s services than if they were provided on a sustainable basis because the current harvest of many resources exceeds the sustainable yields of the land and is based in part on natural capital liquidation. In other words, the Ecological Footprint is larger than the land that is currently in production. However, future generations (starting from right now) will have to pay dearly for the temporary transgression of local and global long-term carrying capacity: not only will they have to satisfy the needs of an increased population, but also they will be endowed with reduced ecological productivity of the Earth’s degraded carrying capacity. ii) The first and second law of thermodynamics, and the role of photosynthesis. Using land area as its measurement unit makes EF/ACC consistent with the first and second law of thermodynamics. In fact, compared to energy flux (or even Odum’s solar income), land is a more appropriate indicator to reflect both energy constancy (first law), by accounting for the solar energy income of a particular area, and energy quality (second law), by the qualitative and quantitative bioproductivity of that area. In contrast, energy accounting only encompasses energy 22 Catton defines “phantom carrying capacity” as “...illusory or extremely precarious capacity of an environment to support a life form or a way of life. [The phantom carrying capacity refers to] that proportion of a population that cannot be permanently supported when temporarily available resources become unavailable...” (Catton 1980:278). 23 For a history of similar events see Ponting’s chapter on “The Rape of the World” (1992:161-193). 81 constancy. As the availability of biochemical energy has become the limiting factor for economic activities, it must become the focus for accounting, not embodied solar energy. For example, Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain suggest that indicators for national wealth or income should move from the GNP to the Gross Natural Product, because, “...for the human population, biomass production is the basis for sur’’ival, main source of income and the protector of the environment...” (in Carley et a!. 1992:45, see also Agarwal & Narain 1992:72-74). In other words, what counts is the solar flux onto the land multiplied by the photosynthetic net efficiency of land, which averages about 0.3 percent (Smil 1991:324).24 The attributes of land, however, go even beyond the two laws of thermodynamics. Land also represents life and can be seen as a proxy for certain life-support functions such as rain collection, exchanges of gases, waste absorption, biogeochemical cycling, self-production and renewal, or link between and nutritional basis for organisms. In short, land supports photosynthesis which is the basis of all food chains of the fauna, and thereby suspends the ecosphere, which is “...a highly improbable, far-from- equilibrium, self-producing, dynamic, steady-state system, ... [far] above thermodynamic death...” (Rees 1994c: 10). For this reason, airsheds are not accounted for in this calculation model because air is mainly a carrier facilitating energy and matter flows, but not a source of primary ecological production. In fact, all life in the air feeds on food chains which originate in water or land based photosynthesis. 24 Ecosystems’ photosynthetic efficiency can be anywhere between zero and 2 percent, while the peak field efficiency could reach as high as 5 percent (Smil 1991:324). 82 iii) The finiteness of the planet. In contrast to (solar) energy or money, land is finite,25 and its total amount can easily be measured. Therefore, land is a good representation of planet Earth’s finite nature. Indeed, the surface of the Earth is 51 billion hectares, and cannot be expanded.26 In total, 17 billion of them are terrestrial, only 8.9 of them being ecologically productive (Wright 1991:293, World Resources Institute 1992:262). Actually, the total amount of ecologically productive land on the globe has been in steady decline, by approximately one half percent in area since the end of the 1970’s (World Resources 1992:262), and probably more in productive capacity. iv) Human dependence: “no planet, no profit”. The finite character of land reflects more realistically the biophysical wealth (or capital) on which humanity has to live than energy or money can. Because the EF/ACC concept provides a measure to contrast current ecological production with current economic consumption, it indicates whether there is ecological room for economic expansion, and if not, how economic expansion might affect the natural capital stock. The concept also underscores the need for adequate stocks of renewable and replenishable natural capital as a necessary condition for a humane existence; in other words, for sustainability. More particulary, EF/ACC helps to determine the ecological constraints within which society operates, to set political benchmarks to avoid further ecological overshoot, and to monitor progress towards becoming sustainable. EF/ACC provides a measure of current (or 25 With the notable exception of the Dutch. However, they have abandoned the project. On Nevertheless, it would be interesting to analyze how many years it takes for that re-claimed land with its new ecological productivity to pay back the invested resources required to establish this land (the lost productivity of the sea should be deducted too). 26 The Earth’s diameter is about 12,700 [1cm] (or 40,000 [km] I jr). Hence, its surface comes to ir * (diameter)2 = 510 million [1cm2] or 51 billion hectares. 83 expected future) economic consumption against which to contrast current (or likely future) ecological production, thereby revealing a “sustainability gap” or the overshoot of local (and global) carrying capacity by industrialized societies (Rees & Wackemagel 1994). 2. SOCIOECONOMIC RATIONALE The Ecological Footprint not only represents ecological constraints but can also inform on socioeconomic conditions of, and conflicts within, a population. Three areas are explored; namely, EF/ACC as a “yardstick,” as a tool to analyze and anticipate ecologically induced social and economic conflicts, and as a concept to link ecological and economic understanding. i) An ecological yardstick. Similar to monetary currencies, EF/ACC permits us to compare different activities on the same scale. In fact, it provides a yardstick for measuring the natural capital requirement of various activities, processes or technologies. This yardstick can be applied to any level of analysis, be it a single activity, an individual, a household, a city, a region, a country or the entire globe. However, in contrast to monetary currencies, the ecological yardstick only focuses on the ecological aspects and does not provide a comparison of ecological impacts with social or economic ones. Focusing on the ecological constraints separately is consistent with the “strong sustainability” interpretation which maintains that the natural capital stock must be maintained independent of social or economic capital formation. The EF/ACC yardstick becomes a way to measure ecological efficiency (how much of natural capital’s income is necessary to provide a given service), and ecological dependence (how much natural capital is necessary to support an economy), but does not illuminate social preferences. Or, the EF/ACC could be interpreted as an ecological camera that takes (static) pictures of current practices and bio-chemical flows. 84 EF/ACC’s yardstick can help to determine whether the decoupling of the economy from biophysical resource throughput (or qualitative growth, how some call it) is taking place (see Chapter VII). It can also test whether economic and technological efficiency gains have decreased or increased a particular economy’s Ecological Footprint. ii) Social and economic conflicts. Analyzing the relationship between an economy and its resource requirements from the EF/ACC perspective enables people to understand not only ecological but also socioeconomic impacts of current economic activities, and allows them to explore the forces and mechanisms that are threatening to liquidate global resource assets. By demonstrating that natural capital has become the limiting factor for resource dependent human activities, it shows how certain economic activities by one group preempt other group’s activities, now or in the future. EF/ACC reveals the extent to which wealthy people and countries have already “appropriated” the productive capacity of the ecosphere through both commercial trade and unaccounted demands on open access source and sink functions. This points to potential conflicts between and within societies. By putting economic development in the context of ecological constraints, it also challenges the most basic assumptions of growth-oriented international development models as exemplified by the Hong Kong, Japanese or Swiss post-war development paths, which other countries so desperately try to imitate. By showing that Pareto efficiency might not necessarily be the limiting factor for future economic development, and that societies may already have run out of “elsewheres” that can compensate for their ecological deficits, EF/ACC analyses put light on the need to shift policy priorities from economic growth to equity and quality of life considerations. 85 In a global economy, where exponentially increasing demands are competing for dwindling resources, it is in the self-interest of any economy to analyze its current and future resource requirements and to compare them with the productivity of the resource stocks to which it has jurisdiction or permanent access. In other words, the question is whether the people of an economy will be able to continue to appropriate enough carrying capacity to satisfy their resource needs in the future, a constraint with which any economy will have to cope in the long run. iii) Ecological economics. The EF/ACC concept can inform efforts to link ecological and economic understanding. Most importantly, EF/ACC highlights the ecological and thermodynamic basis of economic processes. It does this not only within a theoretical framework, but also in practical applications as is shown in Chapter V. EF/ACC recognizes productive natural capital as the basis or pre-condition for human-made wealth. More specifically, by distinguishing between available and total appropriated productivity from nature, EF/ACC can distinguish between sustainable natural income and non-sustainable natural income which is used as the economic input -- a distinction that conventional economic analysis does not provide, but which is essential for maintaining natural capital.27 In other words, EF/ACC adds an understanding of the functioning and throughput requirements of society’s respiratory and digestive system, while economic analyses of circular flows (such as System of National Account approaches) only inform about society’s cardio-vascular system (Daly 1993:56). 27 Neoclassical economist John R. Hicks provided a useful definitions of sustainable income, saying that “the purpose of income calculation in practical affairs is to give people an indication of the amount which they can consume without impoverishing themselves” (1946:171). Economists have used this definition to determine the maximum level of monetary income flows that can be maintained without diminishing the monetary capital stock. Similarly, to determine the sustainable natural income from a “strong sustainability” perspective, Hicks’ perspective must be applied to natural capital. 86 The EF/ACC concept is complementary to, and compatible with, many economic analyses. EF/ACC analyses can provide an account of the embodied services from nature at any stage in the circular flow of money. In other words, they estimate how much of nature’s biophysical productivity (or carrying capacity) is necessary to provide all the consumed goods. Or, if the economy is analyzed from a production perspective rather than the consumption perspective, it reveals how much of nature’s productivity is necessary to generate the value added to pay for the consumed goods.28 EF/ACC can also cover blind spots of monetary analysis when effects of biophysical scarcity, long range discounting, unsustainable harvests, or resource dependence need to be interpreted. Thereby, EF/ACC analysis promotes the necessary shift from unsustainable consumption of to investment in natural capital, a key requirement for developing sustainability. Furthermore, EF/ACC gives economic stability a new ecological dimension: it helps people realize that uninterrupted access to the required “carrying capacity” (the continuity of resource flows and waste sinks) is a precondition for any stable economy. Also, EF/ACC encourages the extension of traditional economic cost/benefit and marginal analyses to the macro level. Recognition of the economy’s biophysical requirements and constraints forces consideration of the cumulative effects of growth, the notion of optimal scale, the ecological impact of trade and particular technologies, and the implications of ecological inequities at the regional, national, and global levels. 28 An example would be to analyze how much bioproductivity a staple economy gives up through exports to pay for their industrial imports (which in return represent embodied bioproductivity, but of course, much less per dollar than staple goods). 87 3. POLITICAL RATIONALE The Ecological Footprint assists political-decision making in two ways. It provides explicit information about ecological constraints which highlight important ethical questions. Further, as explained in section ii, it assists in conceptualizing the dilemmas and conificts, fostering a common understanding of the issues, and providing a means to monitor progress toward sustainabiity, thereby helping to build agreement on, and support for, action. i) Ethical questions. EF/ACC emphasizes the material and energy dependence of human beings on Earth’s “web of life.” EF/ACC shows how the human economy is inseparable from those of other species and fundamentally depends on the continuity of various resource stocks, waste sinks and life support services from all over the world. Further, by communicating the existence of biophysical limits and the realization that people’s uses of nature are competing, it raises pertinent social and economic questions. For example, it forces over-consumers to face the otherwise hidden trade-off made between their own consumption levels and the poverty and human suffering that results somewhere else. By making these trade-offs visible, it questions whether the biophysical limits mean that not everybody in the world can have a decent life, or whether equity and redistribution should take precedence over economic efficiency and expansion. By quantifying both intra- and inter-generational inequities and showing that not everyone can become as materially rich as today’s average North Americans or Europeans without undermining global life support systems, this should impose greater accountability on the wealthy and give the poor greater leverage in bargaining for development rights, technology transfers, and other equity measures. EF/ACC assessments might therefore strengthen the case for international agreement on how to share the Earth’s productive capacity more equitably and how to use it more carefully. 88 Apart from the socioeconomic dilemma, the EF/ACC perspective also challenges the predominant extensionist perspective about humanity’s right to appropriate a large percentage of nature’s bio-productivity29while being only one of several million species living on the planet. The way that people perceive nature (i.e., their woridview or value system) influences how nature’s services are being used. For example, in the context of the global economy, people (and many jurisdictional systems) assume that land belongs to people. This was not always the case. In fact, in Europe, it was not until about 1100 AD that land became a commodity (Ponting 1992:154). In contrast, many hunting-gathering, and agricultural societies live “in place,” consider a particular place as their home, or feel that they belong to the land, rather than the reverse. For example, in the case of the Quichua in Eastern Ecuador, the Maasai and the Samburu of Kenya, and the Tribal Filipinos, Davis Shelton summarizes the relationship of these peoples to the land as follows: Indigenous peoples -- in contrast to the Western economists and development planners -- do not view the land as a “commodity” which can be bought and sold in impersonal markets, nor do they view the trees, plants, animals and fish which cohabit the land as “natural resources” which produce profits or rents. To the contrary, the indigenous view -- which was probably shared by our ancestors prior to the rise of the modern industrial market economy -- is that land is a substance endowed with sacred meanings, embedded in social relations and fundamental to the definition of a people’s existence and identity. Similarly, trees, plants, animals and fish which inhabit the land are highly personal beings (many times a “kinship” idiom is used to describe these beings) which form part of their social and spiritual universe. This close attachment to the land and the environment is the defining characteristics of indigenous peoples; it is what links together, in a philosophical and cosmological sense, numerous geographically disparate and culturally diverse peoples throughout the world (Shelton et al. 1993). Maintaining that they belong to the land and that this land is the origin of life reflects 29 As a reminder: Peter Vitousek eta!. suggested in 1986 that human activities appropriated over 40 percent of the terrestrial Net Primary Productivity. As pointed out in Chapter V, this figure might actually be over 100 percent if further functions of nature are included. 89 these peoples’ respect for and commitment to living within local carrying capacity. However, when people think that land belongs to them, local carrying capacity constraints become irrelevant to their decision-malcing as they can expand their land base or can start to appropriate extraregional carrying capacity. For this task, economic purchasing power or military force is used. Many of the “great civilizations” such as Rome, the Ottoman Empire, the European colonial empires, as well as today’s China (in Tibet), Morocco (West Sahara) and Indonesia (in East Timor) -- to name a few -- are prominent examples of military based extraregional appropriators of carrying capacity, while modem industrial countries (and past and modem city states) rely mainly on appropriation through purchasing power. While revealing important relationships and dependences, EF/ACC’s ethical position remains anthropocentric -- similar to the “constant natural capital” criterion (see footnote 45 in Chapter II). It demonstrates that it is in humanity’s best self-interest not to over-exploit nature. Such an enlightened form of self-interest is in itself a significant step toward sustainability. Even though some people argue for other species’ intrinsic right to exist, using this anthropocentric perspective might be more effective because it reflects the common denominator of today’s industrial societies, thereby facilitating communication. Nevertheless, it provides for other species to the extent that their maintenance reduces risks to human(e) survival. ii) A transparent and simple framework for planning toward sustainabifity. The EF/ACC concept provides a simple framework for understanding the ecological bottom-line of sustainability. Putting sustainability in simple and concrete terms helps to build common understanding, and sets a framework for action. For example, EF/ACC gives decision-makers a physical criterion for ranking policy, project, or technology options according to their impact on ecological sustainability. 90 Making the sustainability challenges more transparent by providing explicit objectives, spelling out the assumptions, and providing a reproducible method, stimulates the public debate. This shows EF/ACC’s potential as an awareness and communication tool between people which could assist planning tasks and the willingness to support change toward sustainability. Without feedback and monitoring, planning is doomed to fail. Until now, there were no clear yardsticks to measure progress in ecological terms when planning toward sustainability. However, the EF/ACC tool, and its procedure for assessing natural capital consumption, can be used as a proxy for measuring progress towards ecological integrity, a pre-condition for sustainability. Furthermore, EF/ACC underscores the global imperative for local action. It demonstrates an inter-regional ecological multiplier effect of industrial levels of consumption on the welfare of human populations and other species everywhere. By exploring the contribution of both population and material consumption to global ecological decline, EF/ACC emphasizes the need for policies to control both, and provides a tool to assess the success of particular technologies to alleviating this dilemma. 4. EPISTEMOLOGICAL RATIONALE The EF/ACC concept organizes and interprets information without getting lost in insignificant details. As explained in the following sections, it does this by using land as an accounting unit, by making links between issues rather than fragmenting them, and by providing interpretations of the constraints rather than developing deterministic predictions. 91 i) Accounting. EF/ACC provides a simple accounting model for ecological services. For most accounting purposes money is used because, being fully convertible, it is the limiting factor3° for many of people’s activities.31 Also the constancy of monetary units (i.e., they do not change spontaneously over time) allows us to keep track of capital stocks and flows by simply adding incomes and subtracting expenditures. However, because monetary approaches are not suitable for sustainability assessments, as discussed above, EF/ACC uses land areas as the accounting unit. Fortunately, in this context, land has similar qualities as money. In a “full” world, ecologically productive land is also a limiting factor, and land areas remain constant over time (even though its productivity might decline or improve); and in fact, as mentioned above, for the last 45 years, approximately half a percent of the ecologically productive land area was degraded per year [Oldeman in Postel 1994:10]). In contrast to money, land accounts for only the ecological services on which human life depends, not for social and economic necessities. When planning for sustainability, this limitation might actually be interpreted as an advantage over monetary convertibility, because the ecological condition for strong sustainability must be met independently of the other sustainability conditions. In fact, convertibility might tempt the human mind to see prospects for trading off one objective for another one. 30 This might be regarded as an application of Liebig’s Law of the Minimum to theory building. However complete a theory or model purports to be, it cannot include everything about reality. By definition, every model is nothing but a simplification or interpretation of a more complex reality. However, to be effective at conveying the essence of reality, models must incorporate the limiting factor which determines the behaviour of that particular reality in that particular context. Good theory finds a balance between inclusiveness and effective simplification. Effective models are simple to apply, but are “good enough” to capture the essence. For example, the human body temperature is a good variable to describe the health of the human body. The theory that “temperatures over 36.7 Celsius are bad” is an enormous simplification, but a highly operational one — i.e., the theory is for most cases “good enough.” 31 While humanity’s activities as a whole are limited by natural capital, the individual’s apparent constraint is his or her purchasing power. 92 ii) Connection of issues. Land connects most of the ecological issues that humanity is facing. Land-use conflicts and out-crowding of other species is one obvious manifestation. But also, pollution and contamination have an impact on land. Milder forms of pollution and contamination make the harvest from such land less desirable for human consumption, while heavy contamination could significantly harm any kind of life on that and adjacent land. Water shortages might lead to salination of agricultural land, wind erosion or desertification. Also, increased UVB radiation due to ozone depletion might stunt photosynthetic productivity, which then would increase the EF/ACC if consumption remains constant (see Chapter IV). C02- induced climate change might lead to a flooding of productive land close to the shore and destroy ecosystem productivity through desertification or through rapid changes in average temperatures and climatic patterns. This shows why EF/ACC comprehensively covers and connects these various threats to ecosystem health -- even cumulative impacts. The EF/ACC approach is also conservative: it underestimates the amount of nature that is required to sustain a given lifestyle with prevailing technology. First, it assumes an industrial mode of land-use,32 and assumes that this land-use is sustainable, which it is not (see Chapter V). Second, EF/ACC leaves out many of nature’s functions, due to conceptual difficulties and lack of data. This shows why EF/ACC underestimates the actual carrying capacity appropriation. iii) Interpreting data and trends. The EF/ACC concept does not extrapolate current trends or predict future paths of society. And it does not advocate determinism. In fact, EF/ACC 32 The EF/ACC concept is useful to compare lifestyles between people in either agricultural or industrial societies. It is particularly apt to understand the ecological dependence of urban people. However, the concept becomes less meaningful when comparing, for example, a Vancouver citizen with a traditional Innuit, because their consumption stems from incomparable land uses. The former receives most products from intensively and industrially-exploited ecosystems, while the latter lives extensively on fragile and low-yield ecosystems. 93 provides a coarse ecological picture of what is happening today in light of prevailing technology and management regimes. This means that EF/ACC is descriptive rather than prescriptive. A descriptive approach helps to acknowledge constraints and to stimulate development of realistic options and choices. The tool does not predetermine whether it is possible to decouple economic activities from ecological throughput because of improved technology. But it provides a yardstick to test the claims and asks necessary questions. This simple yardstick makes EF/ACC a heuristic tool for understanding issues and their connections to other concerns. By providing a framework for comparisons, it assists practitione