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

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ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT AN]) APPROPRIAThD CARRYINGCAPACITY:A TOOL FOR PLANNING TOWARD SUSTAINABILITYbyMATHIS WACKERNAGELDip!. Ing., The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ZUrich, 1988A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFDOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHYinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES(School of Community and Regional Planning)We accept this thesis as conformingto the r ired standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAOctober 1994©Mathis Wackernagel, 1994In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilmentof the requirements for anadvanceddegree at the Universityof British Columbia, I agree thatthe Library shall make itfreely available for reference andstudy. I further agreethat permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposesmay be granted by the headof mydepartment or by his or her representatives.It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis forfinancial gain shall notbe allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)&toof of Ciwivryejb’i’t/Pios-ii’iiGf(il r€dvakhidi’eThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDateO6))DE-6(2/88)ABSThACTThere is mounting evidence that the ecosystems of Earth cannot sustain current levels ofeconomic activity, let alone increased levels. Since some consume Earth’s resources at a rate thatwill leave little for future generations, while others still live in debilitating poverty, the UN’sWorld Commission on Environment and Economic Development has called for development thatis sustainable.The purpose of this thesis is to further develop and test a planning tool that can assist intranslating the concern about the sustainability crisis into public action. The research advancesthe concept of “Ecological Footprint” or “Appropriated Carrying Capacity” (EF/ACC) as aplanning tool for conceptualizing and developing sustainability. To meet this purpose, Idocument 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, empiricallyanalyze its usefulness to actors in the public domain.The research shows that the EF/ACC concept can link global social and ecological concerns toindividual and institutional decision-making. Though the tool needs further refinement to makeit readily applicable to the planning practitioners’ everyday decisions, it has proved useful as aconceptual 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 andproject assessments for municipalities and regions. With these examples, EF/ACC hascontributed to translating sustainability into concrete terms and to providing direction forplanning toward sustainability.IITABLE OF CONTENTSAbstractiiTable of ContentsiiiList of TablesviiList of FiguresviiiAcknowledgement . . .ixINTRODUCTIONA. The Challenge1B. The Purpose of this Thesis Research 4C. Structure of the Thesis’ Presentation6D. Scope of the Thesis7E. Significance of the Thesis9II. THE SUSTAINABILITY CRISIS: EXPLORING ITS FACETS ANDLINKINGITS THEMES10A. Why Worry? Examining the Sustainabiity Crisis 111. The ecological crisis132. The socioeconomic crisis213. The political crisis 234. The epistemological crisis285. The psychological crisis 38B. Making the Connections: The Common Theme ofthe Sustainability Crisis 42C. Reacting to the Crisis: Exploring the Necessary Conditions forSustainability501. The ecological bottom-line for sustainabiity:a casefor strong sustainability522. The socioeconomic conditions for sustainability .553. The political conditions for sustainability 574. The epistemological conditions for sustainability .* 575. The psychological conditions for sustainability . .58D. Developing Sustainability: The Need for Planning Tools that CanTranslate Sustainability Concerns into Effective Action60111III. ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT OR APPROPRIATED CARRYING CAPACITY:DEVELOPING A TOOL FOR PLANNING TOWARD SUSTAINABILITY .. 62A. The Conceptual Foundation of EF/ACC 621. Assessing natural capital 622. Defining EF/ACC 673. EF/ACC and its conceptual ancestors 694. EF/ACC and its conceptual siblings 71B. The Five Rationales for EF/ACC781. Ecological rationale 782. Socioeconomic rationale 843. Political rationale 884. Epistemological rationale 915. Psychological rationale 95IV. DEVELOPING A CALCULATION PROCEDURE FOR ASSESSING EF/ACCOF AN ECONOMY 97A. Establishing an Operational EF/ACC Definition 97B. Outlining the Calculation Procedure 1001. The land-use of consumption 1002. Consumption categories1013. Land and land-use categories 1024. The matrix 111C. Adopting the Calculation Procedure to Specific Applications . . . 114V. ASSESSING THE IMPACT OF PEOPLE, THEIR CONSUMPTION AN])THEIR TECHNOLOGY: EF/ACC APPLICATIONS 117A. The Appropriated Carrying Capacity of an Average Canadian . . 1171. The purpose of this calculation . . 1172. The calculation procedure 1183. Examples of translating consumption into land-use 1204. Results and comparisons 1225. The precision of EF/ACC estimate 126B. Other EF/ACC Applications 1271. Technology assessment 1282. Local and regional decision-making 1293. National and international decision-making 1324. Social equity 1345. Social behaviour and public education 136ivVI. EXPLORING EF/ACC’S USEFULNESSFOR PLANNING TOWARDSUSTAINABILITY139A. Measuring “Usefulness”1391. Choosing interviewing asthe research method . . 1392. Establishing two scales1413. Identifying potential barriersto the EFIACC tool 1434. Selecting key informants1465. Developing an interview questionnaire1506. The process of the questionnaire-basedinterviewresearch1557. Limitations of this interviewresearch 156B. Documenting the Interview Results1591. The key informants’ understandingof sustainability 1602. The key informants’ supportfor theEF/ACC concept165C. Analyzing the Interview Results1751. Evaluating EF/ACC’susefulness1762. Evaluating the interviewprocess as anEF/ACC application188VII. CONCLUSION193A. Conclusion with Respect tothe Research Objectives193B. Suggested Areas for Further Research1991. Tool improvements: includingall competing usesof nature2002. Local applications:analyzing the impact ofsettlement patterns and consumption2013. Larger scale applications: analyzingthe impactof regional and national policies2034. Communication: makingthe tool and its ideasmore accessible2065. Behavioral analyses: exploring thesocial psychologyof the sustainability crisis207C. Implications of the EF/ACC Tool for Planning2081. Creating publicawareness2092. Planning for sustainablenational andinternational development2133. Planning sustainablecommunities 216BIBLIOGRAPHY219VAPPENDICES.246Appendix 1: Land Area Equivalent for Fossil Fuel: Three CalculationApproaches 247Appendix 1.1: Energy-Land Equivalence Ratio Based onEthanol Production 248Appendix 1.2: Energy-Land Equivalence Ratio Based onCO2 Absorption 252Appendix 1.3: Energy-Land Equivalence Ratio Based onCreating Renewable Substitutes 255Appendix 2: Background Data for the Land-use Consumption Matrix 257Appendix 2.1: Data for Calculating the Average Canadian Footprint 258Appendix 2.2: Supplementary Tables on Food Consumptionand Energy 292Appendix 2.3: Data References (for Data in Appendix 2) 303Appendix 2.4: Abbreviations and Units 307Appendix 3: Interview Research 308Appendix 3.1: Summary of Draft Handbook Reviews 309Appendix 3.2: List of the Interviewed Key Informants 310Appendix 3.3: The Questionnaire 311Appendix 3.4: Excerpts from the Answers of the Key Informants . 325viLIST OF TABLESTable 4.1Table 4.2Table 5.1Table 6.1Table 6.2Table A1.1Table A1.2Table A2. 1Table A2.2Table A2.3Table A2.4Table A2.5Table A2.6Table A2.7Table A2.8101103123142152251253292295297298299300301302The five main consumption categoriesThe eight main land and land-use categoriesThe consumption land-use matrixScales for sustainability perspectives and EF/ACC supportStructure of the interviewsComparing results of various ethanol productivity studiesCO2 sequestering by forest ecosystemsGeneral dataCanadian crop production and consumptionCanadian animal products and their consumptionFood supply and caloric value for an average CanadianEmbodied energy in various materialsConsumption energy conversionSpecific energy contentApproximate conversion ratios for biomass productivityvi’LIST OF FIGURESFigure 1.1 Three spheres of health 51Figure 6.1 Distribution of key informants according to their sustainabilityunderstanding and support for the EF/ACC tool 177Figure 7.1 David Pearce’s “policy wedge” to decouple consumption fromresource throughput 205viiiACKNOWLEDGEMENTStudying in Vancouver at the Schoolof Community and Regional Planningwas a richand enjoyable experience.I felt fortunate about being surroundedby nature’s beauty and, evenmore, about being embedded ina community of caring and supportive friends.Especially grateful am Ito my academic friends and mentors, firstand foremost mysupervisor and “Doktorvater BillRees, but also the other committeemembers Peter Boothroyd,Tom Hutton and Bob Woollard.In addition, I was generously supportedby the UBC Task Forceon Healthy and SustainableCommunities, particularly by itscoordinator Janette McIntoshaswell as by the other members ofthe Task Force composed of mycommittee (but Tom), LarryGreen, Clyde Hertzman, Judy Lynam,and Sharon Manson-Singer whoall stimulated andencouraged my research. Alsomany people in the Vancouver areawho I met through my workwith the Task Force or who I interviewedfor my research providedme with many insights andmuch inspiration.Further I would like to thank myother friends from Community Alternatives,from theSchool of Community and RegionalPlanning and the Centre for HumanSettlements, fromInternational House, and the friends whoI have met through them. Theircompany was alwaysinspiring. Particular indebtednessgoes to my family and friendsabroad who have accompaniedme in thoughts, letters and visits.The greatest gift of my time herein Vancouver has been the many friendswho havebecome family, and many of myfamily who have become closefriends. Thank you all.ixI. INTRODUCTIONA. THE CHALLENGEThere is mounting evidence that the ecosystems of Earth cannot sustain currentlevels ofeconomic activity, let alone increased levels (Goodland 1991, Meadows et a!.1992:97-103,Postel 1994, Rees & Wackernagel 1992:383). However, economic activities,measured by theGross World Product, are growing at four percent a year’ -- which correspondsto a doublingtime of under 20 years (UNDP 1993:149, Brown et at.1992b:67). One factor of this expansionis the growth of the world’s population, which is expected toalmost double between 1990 andthe year 2050 (United Nations 1991). The other ecologically significant factoris the rise in percapita consumption which, in thelast 40 years, has been increasing even faster than the humanpopulation (Hoidren & Ehrlich 1974, Brown et at.1992b:77).Today’s form of conventional economic development waslaunched after the SecondWorld War, and has become a major element of most nations’ political agendas.Its aim hasbeen to integrate local economies into the global economy, which leads toaccelerated industrialproduction (and resource consumption) (Smith 1994, Ohmae 1990,Samuelson & Nordhaus1985:870, 857-868). However, increasing economic productionhas neither levelled incomedifferences, nor satisfied the basic needs of the world’s poorestone billion people. While twentypercent of the world’s people live in unprecedented wealth, atleast twenty percent live inconditions of “absolute poverty” (UNDP 1993:12). Therefore,the conventional economicdevelopment approach has been challenged for not catering effectively to the needsof the poor(Dube 1988, Friedmann 1992, Friedmann & Weavers 1979, George 1984 & 1992,Hadi 1993,Hayter 1985, Laquian 1993).1The Gross World Product rose in 1987 dollars from $3.8 billion in 1959 to $18.8 billion in 1990.This expansioncorresponds to an average growth rate of 4.1 percent. For the 1980’s, the average growth rate was three percent(Brownet al. 1992b:67).1Now, in the face of global ecological constraints,the criticism becomes even moresevere. Currently, humanity appears to deplete nature, through resourceharvesting and wastegeneration, faster than nature can regenerate itself. By 1986, human activities were alreadyappropriating over forty percent of nature’s terrestrialnet primary productivity -- or in otherwords, humanity was channelling through its economy over forty percent of nature’s chemicalenergy and living matter, which are constantly being accumulated by the land-based naturalprocesses of photosynthesis (Vitousek et a!. 1986). If the appropriation of other functions ofnature are added, such as waste absorption (e.g., biodegrading effluents or sequestering CO2from fossil fuel burning) and life support services (e.g., preserving biodiversity or providingclimate stability), there is indication that the world may already be effectively “full” of humanactivity (Goodland 1991, Daly 1991, Rees & Wackemagel 1992).The resource appropriation which has supportedthe last decades’ economic growth andthe rise of industrialized countries’ standard ofliving has, at the same time, resulted in thedegradation 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 aburden, particularly to the poor. Many scholars believe that continuing on this path mightnotonly 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 Sachs1992a & 1993, Shiva 1991, The Ecologist 22(4), Trainer 1989).In 1987, with the release of Our Common Future by the United Nations WorldCommission on Environment and Development (WCED), discussions about the destructivesocialand ecological impacts of humanity’s current approach to development became prominent on2political agendas. The starting point for the World Commission’s work was theiracknowledgement that humanity’s future is threatened. The Commission opened its report bydeclaring:We all depend on one biosphere for sustaining our lives. Yet each community, each country, strives for survivaland prosperity with little regard for its impacts on others. Some consume the Earth’s resources at a rate thatwould leave little for future generations. Others, many more in number, consume far too little and live withthe prospects of hunger, squalor, disease, and early death (1987:27).To confront these challenges of excessive resource consumption and persistent socialmisery, the Commission called for sustainable development, defined as “...development thatmeets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meettheir own needs...” (1987:43). In other words, the conventional economic developmentimperative of maximizing economic production must be reoriented toward minimizing humansuffering today and in the future. This depends, on the one hand, on reducing ecologicaldestruction -- mainly through lowering the resource throughput that the human economy drawsfrom nature -- and, on the other hand, on improving many people’s quality of life.How to meet the challenge of developing sustainability2has stimulated much academicand political debate. Expressions of this growing interest in sustainabiity issues have been2In this thesis, I use the expression “developing sustainability” rather than “rustainable development” becausedevelopment is often confused with growth (Daly 1991:243, Kumar et al. 1993:3). This becomes particularly evidentwhen some people as William Reilly (1994) advocate “sustainable growth.” Also, Brian Burrows eta!., in their otherwisewell-informed book, write that “... the emphasis shifted from advocacy of zero growth to a recognition of the need forsustainable development, which would include some economic growth, but in a pattern sufficiently well balanced tominimise 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 economicproduction, while at the same time providing more consumption to the poorest. Further, the depletion of renewableresources 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 livesustainably (a state), to the process of getting there (a process), to the current unsustainable lifestyle (problem), or tostrategies to solve the crisis (solution). Therefore, debates about “sustainable development” can be confusing sinceobjections could be interpreted as disagreement with the problem definition, the proposed solutions, the goal ofsustainability or the process of getting there. As discussed in Chapter II, there is little disagreement on the problem, butmuch on how to address it.3international events such as the 1992 UNCED - “Rio Conference” (United Nations Conferenceon Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, June 3-14, 1992);national and provincialactivities such as Round Tables and government-sponsored research initiatives; and localinitiatives in schools, municipalities and businesses. However, there is little commonunderstanding 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 effectiveat reversing the ecological and social trends. On the one hand, human use of nature apparentlycontinues to exceed global carrying capacity (nature’s renewable productivity). On the otherhand, social health, as indicated by a sharpening of economic and social polarization, isdeteriorating, locally and globally (Kaplan 1994, Pimentel & Pimentel 1994, Postel 1994, Brown1994, Brown et al. 1992b). One deficiency of current sustainability initiatives is the lack ofaccepted monitoring tools to measure progress toward sustainability; another is the poor publiccomprehension of the sustainability crisis (Peat Marwick 1993b). Without a clear and generallyaccepted framework of basic criteria for sustainability and without popular support, sustainabilityinitiatives are without direction and fail to move industrial society towards critical social andecological objectives. Therefore, planning tools which can be used to raise public awareness ofthe issues and dilemmas, measure progress towards sustainability, and direct action, could makean important contribution to the development of sustainability.B. THE PURPOSE OF THIS THESIS RESEARCHThe purpose ofthis thesis is tofurther develop and test a planning tool that can assist intranslating the concern about the sustainability crisis into public action. As a planning toolforconceptualizing and developing sustainability, the concept of “Ecological Footprint” or“Appropriated Carrying Capacity” (EF/ACC) is proposed.4EF/ACC is a simple, yet comprehensive tool: it provides an accounting framework forthe biophysical services that a given economy requires from nature. It is calculated by estimatingthe land area, in various categories, necessary to sustain the current level of consumptionby thepeople in that economy, using prevailing technology. An economy’s full EcologicalFootprintwould include all the land whose services this economy appropriates from all over the globetoprovide necessary resource inputs and to assimilate corresponding waste outputs. TheEF/ACCconcept thereby demonstrates the ecological dependence of economic systems. It is bothananalytical and heuristic device for understanding the sustainability implications of differentkindsof human activities, and serves as an awareness tool and an action-oriented planning tool fordecision-making towards sustainability.The EF/ACC concept builds on the human carrying capacity debate (e.g., Meadowseta!. 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 researchby Prof. William E. Rees, and later by myself, at The University of British Columbia (Rees1978, 1986, 1992, Cousins & Wackernagel 1991, Wackemagel 1991, 1992, 1993a[see copyin Appendix 3.3], Wackernagel & Rees 1992, Rees 1992, Rees & Wackernagel 1992, Wackernagel et a!. l993). The concept has already found many applications (including Wada 1993,Beck 1993, Harrington 1993, Parker 1993, Commonwealth Forum 1994, Davidson & Robb1994, 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’ “regionalcapsule” (1986) and “personal planetoid” (1992c).5C.STRUCTURE OF THE THESIS’ PRESENTATIONDeveloping a planning tool requires tasks such as: identifying and conceptualizing thesustainability problem; distilling keyissues and mechanisms; clarifying and making explicit thepersonal motivations; values andworking assumptions; identifying possible strategic interventionpoints; testing conceptual approaches; and then consolidating and refining them.Therefore, before discussing the EF/ACC concept, I propose a problem statement inChapter II which exposes the concerns that motivated this research and provides some contextabout the issues. I also explore the sustainability crisis and five of its major facets by reviewingdefinitions of, and perspectives on, sustainability from the literature. Particular, the “constantnatural capital” principle as the ecological “bottom-line” requirement for sustainability isemphasized, while acknowledging that it is difficult to measure this capital. I also discusssocioeconomic, political, episternological and psychological conditions for moving towardsustainability -- and analyze their implications for new planning tools.To achieve my overall research purpose of further developing and testing a tool forplanning toward sustainability, I divide it into four research objectives which are explored in thesubsequent chapters. They are:• to introduce and describe EF/ACC as a new planning tool for developing sustainability, andthen 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 havebeen or are being completed (Chapter 1’); and,•to explore empirically how useful administrators and planners, business people andeconomists, and community activists and local politicians perceive the EF/ACC tool to6be when planning toward sustainability (Chapter VI).Finally in Chapter VII, I draw the conclusionsfrom the research findingsand explore thefindings’ implications for planning.D. SCOPE OF THE STUDYRather than discussing paths and strategiesfor developing sustainability, Iexplore in thisthesis the usefulness of one particular tool forplanning toward sustainabilitywhich couldstimulate the sustainability debate, helpdevelop strategies, and evaluatetheir effectiveness.EF/ACC has further evolved in the contextof the work with the UBC TaskForce on PlanningHealthy and Sustainable Communities andtheir engagement with variousmunicipalities andcommunity groups. Also, the EF/ACC toolis meant to be appliedin conjunction with othersustainability tools and processes suchas for example the “SocialCaring Capacity” conceptthatis being developed by some membersof the UBC Task Force (1994,Aronson & Charles 1993).The activities and concepts of theTask Force are documented by theUBC Task Force (1994),Janette McIntosh (1993), Bob Woollard(1994b), and me (1993a, 1994).For the purpose of thisthesis, I focused the research on theEF/ACC tool, its applicationsand its perceivedusefulness.4The UBC Task Force, composed of Peter Boothroyd(School of Community and RegionalPlanning), LawrenceGreen (Health Promotion),Clyde Hertzman (Health Care and Epidemiology),Judy Lynam (Nursing), SharonMausonSinger (Social Work), Janette McIntosh(Task Force co-ordinator), WilliamRees (Co-Chair, School ofCommunity andRegional Planning), Robert Woollard(Co-Chair, Family Practice), me(and more recently Alec Ostry andMike Carr),started from the acknowledgementof the two key sustainability imperatives,namely the need:a) to reduce society’s (material) draw onnature, andb) to improve society’s quality of life,and maintains that onlythose policies and projects that satisfy thesetwo imperatives move us towardsustainability.Sustainability imperativesrefer to the goals that initiatives or activitieshave to meet in order to be sustainable.Thesustainability conditions, outlinedin Chapter II, suggest characteristics forsuch initiatives that seem necessaryto meetthese goals: the political, epistemologicaland psychological conditionsaddress the process side, while theecological andsocioeconomic conditions encompassthe substantive aspects. In thisthesis, I addressed mainly the firstsustainabilityimperative.7The thesis documents one EF/ACC application that estimates the land appropriation ofhuman consumption. Land (or ecosystems) were classified into eight land-use categories, whileconsumption was divided into five main consumption categories. The application relies on asimplified operational definition which permits the assessment of EF/ACC’s magnitude ratherthan documenting the land appropriation with a percentage precision. The key is to emphasizethe conceptual accuracy rather than precision in measuring the material draws on nature.5In theapplication (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 discussedtoo.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 documentthe reasoning and understanding by a variety of actors in the public domain, and uncover themesand patterns that influence the psychological predisposition of these actors to plan towardsustainability. Such information is significant when testing the usefulness of the tool because ithelps to identify limitations for planning toward sustainability and possible improvements of theEF/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 togood reproducibility of the results (or displaying a low variance -- independent of accuracy). To take the metaphor ofa gun, accuracy refers to how close the centre of the bullet-holes’ cluster comes to the target, while precision indicateshow dense the cluster of the bullet-holes is, regardless of the cluster’s location to the target. For example, the GrossNational Product (GNP) is a very precise tool and can be reproduced within a small margin of error; however, it isinaccurate as a tool for measuring national income because many activities and services, such as informal work or lossin ecosystem assets, are not included in the calculation.8E. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDYEF/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 asenergetics, environmental planning, impact assessment, resource management and ecologicaleconomics, but moves further in that it:a) reinterprets the carrying capacity concept as land per capita necessary to sustain anindividual’s throughput (“demand on nature”), rather than as capita per land (“supply ofnature”);b) connects all competing uses of nature by translating them into exclusive land-uses as landrepresents a limiting factor for nature’s productivity. For many uses it identifies biochemical energy (and the land needed to generate it) as the limiting factor for the humaneconomy. Using such a common ecological “yardstick” makes it possible to aggregatehuman uses of nature including appropriated biological productivity, consumed fossilenergy, 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 ofplanning tasks including communication, education, assessments, evaluations,comparisons, design, and decision-making; and±) examines and challenges the publics’ perception of sustainability and lacking support foraction by using an heuristic approach.9IL THE SUSTAINAB1LITY CRISIS:EXPLORING ITS FACETS AND LINKING ITS THEMESThe World Commission on Environment and Development’s opening statement revealedmany fundamental concerns about the current human condition (1987:27). Itacknowledged thathumanity is not living within nature’s productive capacity, thereby gradually destroyingit. It alsoconcedes that many people’s basic needs are still not being met. These concernsreflect the cruxof the sustainability crisis. According to the Collins Dictionaiy, a crisis is “... asituation wheresomething, such as your confidence in someone or something,is so heavily attacked orquestioned that there is serious doubt whether it will continue toexist...” (Sinclair 1987). I arguein this chapter that there is serious doubt whether thosesocieties with high-consumptionlifestyles, as enjoyed in industrialized countries over the last fifty years, will beable to maintaintheir current consumption level, and whether the less industrialized countrieswill be able toemulate the lifestyle of industrialized countries, as promised bythe conventional economicdevelopment paradigm -- and analyze the implications for planning tools.Even though human activities have ecologically “filled” the entire world,industrialsocieties still operate in an “empty-world” mode (Daly1991, Meadows et a!. 1992).Conventional economic development strategies continue to promote expansionof human activitiesin order to combat poverty and to tackle other social and ecological problems,many of whichare actually caused by the prevailing approach to development.This expansion-orientedeconomic development approach is supported by most governments,by the economic branchesof organizations such as the World Bank or the Organizationfor Economic Co-operation andDevelopment (OECD), and even by sections of the WorldCommission’s report (WCED1987:213-215).10On one level, a large percentage of the people in the North and South know about thedestructiveness of the current development path. For example, a comprehensive Gallup studydirected by Riley Dunlap and conducted in 12 Northern and 12 Southern countries, documentsthe widespread concern about the future of humankind (Dunlap 1993). But this widespreadconcern is not translated into the action necessary to reverse the ecological trends and to improvethe less fortunate people’s quality of life. The lack of political action cannot be attributed to anyshortage 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 humanpredicament.1Clearly, we need planning tools that go beyond delivering information in order to bridgethe gap between mere concern about the sustainability crisis and effective political action. Asstated, exploring such a planning tool is the purpose of this thesis. However, before addressingmy main research objectives, I discuss the concerns that motivated and directed this research andexplore the sustainability crisis through its ecological, socioeconomic, political, epistemological,and psychological aspects.A. WHY WORRY? EXAMINING THE SUSTAINABILITY CRISISAn average person from the industrialized world does not experience the immediacy ofthe sustainability crisis. This person typically shops in supermarkets overstocked with anoverwhelming variety of goods, and watches television ads which show the newest, and1Examples 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 HumanEnvironment in Stockholm (UNCHE 1973), or the second conference on Environment Futures in Reykjavik in 1977Polunin 1980).11technologically most advanced cars dashing through lush and unpopulated landscapes. Not onlyis 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 ofconsumption has had detrimental effects: global resource stocks are being used faster then theycan replenish themselves. This imbalance characterizes the ecological crisis.In the meantime, poverty remains rampant. One third of the global population lives inabsolute poverty (UNDP 1993:12). As discussed below, some scholars even argue that prevailingdevelopment programs have generally increased, rather than curtailed, poverty (even in the caseof some low-income countries with rapid economic growth rates). The persisting povertyexemplifies the socioeconomic crisis. On the whole, local and global political institutions havenot been successful in counteracting these trends, and future political breakthroughs in this areado not look promising. While some maintain that government institutions are a part of theproblem, and that deregulation and structural adjustment would be a positive step towardsustainability (Block 1990), many others insist that effectively addressing the above crisesdemands the leadership of global institutions and the establishment of international agreements(WCED 1987, MacNeill 1991:74-128). It is not clear whether global economic integrationstrengthens or detracts from such aims. While globalization has improved communication linksand stimulated economic growth, it has weakened the political institutions of nation states and2As a rough estimate: in 1991, the average Canadian earned approximately 20,740 [$US GNP/cap/year] (WorldResources Institute 1994:257). In the same year, wheat prices were at 0.140 [$USIkg] (World Resources Institute1994:262). 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 likesoybeans, that person could buy about 230 [kg/day], each kilogram containing approximately 220 [g] of proteins and12,000 [kj] of available energy --or over 200 times the daily requirements (World Resources Institute 1994:262, de Looy1987: 136 (data for dry beans)).12regional governments, thereby reducing government’s potential policy choices -- a dilemmaidentified as the institutional or political crisis.Most public science institutions, which are viewed as the official “sensory organs” ofindustrialized societies, have been hampered in their efforts to apprehend these crises, let alonedeal with them. Science’s industrial successes have fortified those parts of the scientificenterprise which concentrate on narrow and marketable studies while compromising on inquiriesdealing 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 ofscientific 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 psychologicalbarriers are referred to as the psychological crisis. In this section, I explore these five facets ofthe sustainability crisis. For each facet, I describe the key symptoms and trends, and assess thesuccess of current public action to counteract these trends.1. THE ECOLOGICAL CRISISThe 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 (Brown1994: 179-187). Also, stratospheric ozone is being depleted; the release of greenhouse gasesThe literature is not conclusive about whether the decrease in per capita grain production over the last 10 yearsis a long-term trend. Data from the World Resource Institute between 1970-1990 are consistent with Brown’s 1950-1993time series which show a decrease in average per capita productivity of food after 1984 (World Resources Institute1992b, Brown 1994:186 based on USDA data). However, John Bongaarts is optimistic aboutthe future of grainproduction, 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 manypoor countries. The course of the events will depend crucially on their governments’ ability to design and enforceeffective policies that address the challenges posed by mounting human numbers, rising poverty and environmentaldegradation...” (1994:42). In contrast, plant physiologist William Paddock believes that population growth rates areunderestimated, while progress in plant productivity is overstated resulting in misguided optimism (1994:52-65).13has changed the atmospheric chemistry andmight lead to climate change; erosion anddesertification is reducing nature’s biological productivity;irrigation water tables are falling;contamination of soil and water is jeopardizing the quality of food; other naturalresources arebeing consumed faster than they can regenerate; and biological diversityis being lost -- toreiterate only a small part of a long list (Brown et at. 1984-1994, Burrows et a!.1991, Chiras1992a, Clark & Munn 1987, Corson 1990, Goodland 1991, Myers 1984, and Scien4ficAmericanSeptember 1989). These trends indicate a decline in the quantity and productivityof nature’sassets, or, in the language of Ecological Economists,the depletion of “natural capital” (Janssonet at. 1994).At the same time, the human population and its demands on nature are growing.Between1950 and 1990 alone, the industrial roundwood harvest doubled, fish catchesincreased five fold(and fell since 1989), water use tripled, and oil consumption rosenearly sixfold (Postel 1994:7,Brown 1994: 179). While human demands are growing exponentially, nature’s sustainableproductive capacity is in decline. These opposing trends showhow human consumption has cometo exceed the global productive capacityof nature.5Harvesting in excess of nature’s productiveDonella Meadows eta!. compare the increase of various human activities between 1970 with 1990, and documentin most cases a doubling. For example, the world population grew from 3.6 to 5.3 billion, registered carsincreased from250 to 560 million, energy consumption nearly doubled, truck transportation in OECD countries more thandoubled, andwaste generation in OECD countries increased by 40 percent (1992:7). For statistical surveys on humanactivities(including resource harvest) and nature’s productivity see Worldwatch (Brown et a!. 1992b, 1993b), WorldResourcesInstitute (1986-1994), United Nations Human Development Report (1990-1994), WorldBank (1978-1993). Other sourcesinclude 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 theUnited NationsEnvironmental 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 30percent(see Chapter V). Also, marine carrying capacity is now fully occupied by humandemands: the current global fish harvesthas reached (and since 1989 fallen back from) the Maximum Sustainable Yield as estimated by FAO (in Brown1994:179). However, according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), with currentpopulation levels the world industrial output would have to be increased by a factor of 2.6 if consumption ofmanufactured goods in developing countries were to rise to current levels in industrialized countries (WCED 1987:213).14capacity is possible only temporarily, at the cost of drawing down nature’s assets and weakeningits regenerative capacity.Even though there is wide acknowledgement of, and concern about, the growing humandemands on a limited and already overtaxed planet (Dunlap 1993), there remain some scholarswho 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 areflection of icnowledge, while George Gilder maintains that resources are “.. . a productof the human will and imagination...” (Fritsch 1991:299, Gilder 1981 cited in Daly &Cobb 1989:109). Similarly, H. Goeller and Alvin Weinberg’s biophysical resourceassessment, titled The Age of Substitutability, argue that “...most of the essentialresources are in infinite supply: that as society exhausts one raw material, it will turn tolower-grade, inexhaustible substitutes...”7(1976:683). While this may be true for somespecific industrial inputs, such as copper which is being replaced by glass fibres,substitutability does not work for most ecological services on which human activitiesdepend. A major flaw in these assertions about substitutability is their ignorance ofIn 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 5.3times larger.6Most of the scholarly disagreement about “sustainable development” is not so much about the symptoms of thecrisis, but rather about the strategies on how to achieve it. For example, strategies are proposed to advance or reverseeconomic deregulation, technological efficiency, global government, privatization, consumption taxes, or trade, to namea few.‘They also argue that humankind would need an inexhaustible energy source such as nuclear fusion, breederreactors or solar energy, and are positive that such sources can be developed.15human dependence on critical life-support functions of nature.8Human activities not onlyrequire minerals and other industrial resources, many of which are substitutable, but alsorenewable biological resources, waste absorptive capacity and numerous life supportservices for which there are no known or satisfactory substitutes. Finally, the second lawof thermodynamics asserts that the biophysical availability of a resource is ultimatelydetermined 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 thebiophysical non-marketed resources (Pearce & Turner eta!. 1993:5) nor that of marketedresources.9Evidently, for essential process resources without a market, prices failabsolutely. Also, interpreting increases in economic reserves of non-renewable assetsignores the fact that the total stock is declining all the same, and that it may become8Ignorance of what William Rees calls humanity’s “...obligate dependence on nature...” (1990c) -- and in thecrudest sense, on its bio-chemical flows -- is widespread in economics (see also Folke 1991). In fact, in mostdevelopment oriented economics texts, nature’s constraints are not even mentioned, with the exception of oil supply andprices. If “environmental concerns” are addressed, then it is only to point out that, building on economist Ronald Coase’sapproach for internalizing “social cost,” environmental degradation is caused by lacking property rights (examples areBlochliger et al. 1991, Bromley 1991, Giersch 1993:163-164, McKibbin & Sachs 1991, Jeffrey Sachs 1993). EconomistPeter Kennedy argues that “...those presumed preferences [between which types of natural capital to conserve] are notconsulted to examine the possibility that future generations may actually prefer substitution of manufactured capital fornatural capital...” (1993:7). There are several problems with this statement. First, it does not recognize that naturalcapital is already in decline. Second, individual preferences and social preferences might fundamentally contradict aspointed out in the next section. And third, many essential ecological needs dependent on natural capital are not a matterof individual or social preference. For example, human bodies need inter alia 10,000 [kj] of healthy food per day, andthat this is non-negotiable (Schmidheiny 1992:39).The section on the blindness of monetary analysis for assessing natural capital in Chapter ifi provides morediscussion on this subject.16increasingly difficult to exploit the remaining stockfor entropic reasons. En any event,focusing on marketed industrial resourcesis again a much too narrow interpretation ofhuman dependence on nature, as pointed out above.Despite Marcus Gee’s claim almost every measure, life onEarth is better than ever before...” (including risesin world GNP, total exports, adultliteracy, food production in developing countries, andcrude-oil reserves; 1994:A1,Dl),there is no guarantee that these trends can be sustained-- particularly on a per capita basis -- nor is there indicationthat those most in need arebenefitting from these increases.•charges ofscientific fraud and misinformation(Ray1993)10.However, the claim that the useof probabilistic results amounts to scientificfraud is misleading. Science is by definitionnot able to predict conclusively events that cannot bereplicated. Science can onlyinterpret available data and test hypotheses to developtheory and explore probabilities.Refuting an argument on the grounds that the scientificevidence does not conclusivelyprove future effects is, therefore, merely a reflectionon the limits of science, and cannotbe interpreted as a negation ofthe argument.11 In summary, these scholars’ refutationsof the ecological crisis are based onan incomplete model and partial analyses.Nevertheless, their argument enjoy much publicand political support because theyconveniently rationalize status quo and inaction.The relationship between habitat productivity andpopulation (including humanpopulation) has been a scientific topic for over 200years (Martinez-Alier 1987). Biologists have10Particularly, the climate change debate has witnessed variousbooks which deny the crisis from this perspective.Examples are Balling (1992) and Michaels (1992).This is further discussed in the section on theepistemological crisis.17documented that the population ofmost species examined levels out as their demands approachthe productive capacity of theirhabitats (Krebs 1985:207-22 1). The upper limit at which thepopulation can be sustained is referred to as the carryingcapacity of the habitat (Kormondy1969:66).Invader species generally come to exceed the long-term available carryingcapacity withconsequent rapid population decline. William Cattoncalls this phenomenon “overshoot.” A well-known and much cited example of overshoot isthe introduced reindeer population on St.Matthew’s Island which grewexponentially from 29 individuals to about 6,000 within nineteenyears. Three years later, only 42 animalsremained (Krebs1985:221).12Alternatively, thecarrying capacity of a habitat can change. Populationsizes are subject to fluctuation due toclimactically induced decreases in net primary productivityor limited absorptive capacities whichgive rise to pathogens (Krebs 1985:324-349, Fenchel1987:19-23). Similarly, local humanpopulations have frequently collapsed afterovershooting their carrying capacity, or whenresource (habitat) productivity has declined.The rapid population decline by at least one orderof magnitude on the Easter Islands around 1680 (Catton 1993,Ponting: 1992:1-7), plague wavesin Europe13 (Ponting 1992:228-232, Fenchel 1987:19-23),famines such as the Irish PotatoFamine in 1845 (Paddock 1994:53-54, Catton 1980:247-250),the Chinese famine during theGreat Leap Forward (1959-1960), and the chronic famines on partsof the African continentsince the early l980s are prominent examples of events where overshootleading to disease,declining productivity, or other limitations on carrying capacityhas contributed to human12Other examples of crashing animal populations are documented in Krebs (1985:221-223) and Stott(1994:66-69).13For this decline, the limiting factor was not the availableresources, but the insufficient human waste absorption.This same event could also be interpreted from the perspectiveof the pathogens: these pathogens invaded an area ofabundant carrying capacity (dense human population). By kiffing their hosts off (and by theirhosts acquiring resistance),the pathogens depleted their carrying capacity which resulted in theeventual crash of the pathogen population.18population collapses.The situation today differs from these historic examples.Today, overshoot is occurringon a global scale, not just in isolated pockets of theworld. One manifestation is the speed atwhich the globe is losing biological diversity as human beings appropriate agrowing share ofnature’s primary productivity. Also unprecedentedin human history is the yearly four percentgrowth in consumed goods and services over thelast forty years (UNDP 1993:2 12, WorldResources Institute 1992:246).While in 1950 there were still 3.6 hectares of ecologicallyproductive land remaining per capita, less than 1.6are left in1994.14A global population of10 billion - expected by 2030 - would leave humanitywith only 0.9 hectares per capita, withsome of it degraded.’5This is one-fourth ofthe per capita area 80 years earlier (WorldResources Institute 1992, Postel1994:11).Not many of the few countermeasures inplace have been successful in addressing theconflict between increasing human demand andnature’s supply. In spite of such widespreadpolicy instruments as Environmental Impact Assessment and increasinguse of environmentaltaxes and regulations, many important trends havenot been mitigated. For example, in the twocountries with arguably the most advanced environmental impactrequirements -- namely, theNational Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in the USA, and the EnvironmentalAssessment andReview Process (EARP) in Canada -- energy consumption is stillon the rise, and resource14See Chapter V.15Over the last 45 years 1,964 million hectares of productive landwere degraded, 30 percent of it throughdeforestation (Oldeman in Postel 1994:10). Similarly, the Union of Concerned Scientistsclaim that since 1945 elevenpercent of Earth’s vegetated surface has been degraded, whichwould correspond to over 1,200 million hectares, orarea larger than India and China combined...” (1992). Assumingcontinued yearly decline at the same rate, this wouldresult in the degradation of another 900 to 1,500 millionhectares or 12-20 percent of the remaining ecologicallyproductive land.19depletion has not been curbed. The latter is evident in the North Atlantic collapse of the cod fishstock affecting the Canadian East Coast, and in the forest land-use conflicts everywhere on theNorth American West Coast.No international efforts have been able either to gather the political momentum necessaryto address the ecological crisis despite some partial international agreements on particular issues.Examples of those agreements: the 1989 Basel Convention on the Control of TransboundaryMovements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal; the Convention on International Trade inEndangered Species (CITES) from the 1970’s, and more comprehensively, the 1992 GlobalBiodiversity Strategy; the 1992 UN Convention on Climate Change; and, the 1987 MontrealProtocol on the reduction of CFC and halon gases, with its 1992 London Amendment (WorldResources Institute 1994:373-384, Environment Canada 1993, Corson 1990). In spite of thisimpressive list, ecological deterioration continues. While it might be argued that it is too earlyto measure significant improvements, there is much evidence to indicate that we would beunwise to rely on the promises of these agreements. Many sustainability concerns are notaddressed by such agreements (including soil conservation, deforestation, resource consumption,and population), and many of the conventions lack rigorous standards, ratification or effectivemechanisms 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 statisticaland some consulting services -- rather than being more pro-active. Worse, in the case of theFAO, their promotion of monoculture, capital intensive agriculture, and export crops isconsidered counterproductive to sustainabiity by many scholars and development groups(TheEcologist 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 politicalawareness of the issues, but it is doubtful whether these events have developed effective20responses (The Ecologist 22(3), 22(4), New Internationalist 246, Sachs 1993:6-66). Even themuch-praised Montreal Protocol on the reduction of ozone-depleting CFCs is constantlyjeopardized by circumvention (Meadows et a!. 1992:141-160). One example which illustratesthe circumvention of the Protocol was reported by The Economist, which stated that in December1993: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 vehicleswithout CFCs. Car makers have found it hard to produce simple and reliable ways to refit old cooling systemsto take substitutes. ... Another culprit may be some 10,000 tonnes of CFCs imported from Russia, supposedlyto be cleaned up and returned, which is said to have found its way illicitly onto the European market (January29, 1994:69).In summary, ecological deterioration and the parallel growth of human activity mark asharpening conflict. Many international and local efforts have tried to help mitigate this conflictwithout much effect; the gap between human demands and nature’s supply widens.2. THE SOCIOECONOMIC CRISISEven though aggregate global consumption has never been as high as today (and, asmentioned, continues to increase) poverty is not receding (UNDP 1993:149, Brown et a!.1992b: 110-111).16Of the 5.7 billion people on Earth, over 1.1 billion people in the developingworld are malnourished, i.e., they cannot afford the necessary daily level of calorie intake16Detailed figures on the state of poverty in the world are hard to find. One reason is the difficulty of definingpoverty (for example, the World Bank uses two benchmarks in defining poverty as a per capita purchasing power of lessthan $370 or $275 per year (1990:27)). Also, poor people work predominantly in the informal sector of the economywhich lacks statistical assessments. Urbanisation and industrialization might also cause significant increases in monetarytransactions, but it is questionable whether these changes translate into higher standards of living. Finally, the commonmonetary analyses of poverty on a country by country basis distort reality. They do not reveal distribution within thecountries, 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 furtherpolarization of incomes has been a general phenomenon in industrialized countries since the 1980s to the effect that thelowest quintile is worse off today than in the early 1980s -- not only in relative but also in absolute terms. It is thereforeparticularly disturbing that the World Development Report 1990 of the World Bank which addressed poverty focusedmainly on per capita GDP growth as a key strategy and main indicator for poverty abatement, while discounting theirfew head-count statistics on poverty even though they do not show a trend of poverty reduction in absolute terms.21required to function fully and in good health (Durning 1989). The poorest fifth of the world’spopulation earns 150 times less than the richest fifth. In 1960, this relative difference in incomewas about half that ratio (UNDP 1993:11). Moreover, of the 1.1 billion people residing inindustrialized 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. Citiesin 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 16years. By 2025, cities will house over 60 percent of the population in those regions, a trendwhich 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 23cities in developing country exceed the WHO air quality guidelines for suspended particles andsulphur dioxide emission (Laquian 1993). Waterborne diseases, smog, dust, leaching substancesfrom hazardous waste, unsafe roads and utilities are a constant threat to urban populationsleading 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 areimpeding their own future well-being, being caught in a downward spiral of ecologicaldestruction, high fertility, and health hazards (Leonard & Petesch 1990:37, Durning 1989).Women bear the brunt of the problems associated with poverty. In 1970, the UnitedNations Commission on the Status of Women reported that women perform two-thirds of thework hours while earning 10 percent of global income and owning less than one percent of the22world’s property (United Nations 1970). Income figures,however, reflect only one aspect ofpoverty. Economic hardship is often accompanied byhigh mortality rates, diseases, illiteracy,and discrimination (Boucher 1992).There is mounting evidence that conventional economic development effortsof the lastforty years have not been effective in alleviating the plightof the poor, not even through “trickledown” effects.17 In fact, an abundant literature blamesconventional economic development forexacerbating poverty (Dube 1988, Duming 1989,Ekins 1986 &1992, Friedmann 1992, George1984 & 1992, Goldsmith et al. 1991, Goodland & Daly1993, Hadi 1993, Hayter 1985, Laquian1993b, Meadows et a!. 1992,Wolfgang Sachs 1992a & 1993, Shiva 1991, The Ecologist 22(4),Trainer 1989).3. THE POLITICAL CRISISThe rapid globalization of the world economy in the lastfew decades has transformedthe balance of political power.Two major forces can beidentified. On the one hand, the debtcrisis has weakened many Northern and Southern governments(George 1992). At the same time,capital mobility has increased international taxcompetition and reduced the revenues of manygovernments. While mutual international dependencethat results from global integration mayreduce the danger of military conflicts,it also reduces choices in social, economic and ecological17Some possible exceptions in the South in which industrialization has led to two-digiteconomic growth ratesinclude the Asian tigers, namely, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Koreanow joined by the South of China,and Vietnam. The four Asian tigers have invested theirincreasing revenues in education thereby building aninternationally competitive high-tech labour force (Globe and Mail June 4, 1994:A6). While someauthorities praise thegovernments of these countries for their obsession with economicdevelopment and rapid modernization, others point outthe irreversible social and ecological destruction that comeswith it and that may ultimately outweigh the economic gains.Also, it is questionable whether these cases can be replicatedby other countries. These “tigers” may just happen to bethe winners of a negative-sum game in which thosewith the most resource-intensive high-tech economies do best, whileothers -- particularly those with low-throughput economies -- carry theburden (Bello & Rosenfeld 1992, Lohmann 1990,Sarangi & Sherman 1993).23policies. In particular, theglobal economy’s “New World Order” has led toderegulating theeconomy and cutting backsocial spending in the North. Elsewhere, structuraladjustmentprograms have been used to reduce publicspending, open markets for transnational corporations(Bello & Cunningham 1994:87), and transformSouthern economies into exporters of primarygoods for industrialized countries.This further strains local social and ecological healthandresults in unilateral, rather than mutualdependence.Clearly, these economic strategies havebeen successful in accelerating trade. In constantdollars, international trade increasedfourfold between 1960 and 1988, and the value of all thecurrently traded goods corresponds toover 60 percent of the goods produced all over the world(World Bank 1990:185,189,205). As aresult, production has become increasingly specializedand segregated, increasing many countries’dependence on trade relationships (UNCTC 1993).The opening of global trade is consideredthe key factor for the rapid and sustained economicgrowth over the last 45 years (Smith1994). Indeed, it has been international and continentaltrade agreementssuch as GAIT (1947 and subsequent rounds),’8 EEC, andNAFTA, thedevelopment of vast transportation andcommunication capacities, and the expansion ofinternational currency markets that havemade a global economy of this magnitude possible.The abolition of the gold standard in 1976 has enabledunprecedented capital mobility.Today, daily currency trades exceed $1 trillion,or about 20 times the value added by the globaleconomy in the same time period (The EconomistMarch 27, 1993, Paul Kennedy 1993:5 1,World Bank 1990:183). Thisquantum leap in capital mobility has been a boost tothoseinterested in international businessoperations and international investments,namely,For a discussion see The Economist (December 4,1993:11,23-26).24transnational corporations and their shareholders. For instance, in 1990, only 56 countries wereincluded 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 StephanViederman comments, the latter “...have none of the responsibilities of government for socialwelfare, education, health care and the like...” (1993:10).The enhanced mobility of goods, capital, and business people has intensified thefunctional integration of territories, and has exposed economies to greater competition. Thepolitical downfall is that competition for taxes and concentration of financial strength intransnational corporations have weakened the negotiating and regulatory power of local, nationaland 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, constantlyrefuelled by higher profit expectations.2°To feed accelerating economic production, and to keepup with rising financial expectations, economies naturally expand their appropriation of nature’sproductivity, thereby depleting natural capital assets (Hall 1990). This increased pressure onbiophysical resources has intensified social tension and international conflicts as exemplified bythe continuous civil wars in West Africa (Kaplan 1994). Another example is the furtherdamming of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in Turkey to collect irrigation water, thereby19Furthermore, “ trade of the 350 largest TNCs [or Transnational Corporations] accounts for almost40 % of world merchandise trade...”. Their sales add up to nearly one third of the combined national products of theindustrialized countries (Daly & Goodland 1994:89, New Internationalist 1993, No.246. p18).20Paul 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 ontwenty-four hours a day and creates a single market...” (1993:51). However, more than 90 percent of the trading isunrelated to [merchandise] trade or capital investment (Paul Kennedy 1993:5 1).25reducing the water flow by about two thirds. If the project goes ahead -- and it has already beenstarted -- this could inflame volatile conflicts not only between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, but alsowith the Kurdish people. In fact, according to Stephan Libiszewski from the Environment andConflicts Project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the threat of reducing water flowhas been used by the Turkish government to force Syria to relinquish their support for theKurdish movement, and it is likely that Syria in return will use the Kurdish guerillas to retaliateagainst reduced water flow (1994:9). Many wars have been fought to secure oil supply, mostrecently, the 1991 Gulf War. Conflicts over biological resources are also on the increase. Thestruggles over fisheries around Iceland or on the East Coast of Canada (both having sufferedfrom fisheries collapses which have not recovered yet), or conflicts over forestry practices allover 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 conflictsare still widespread -- despite the end of the “Cold War.” According to the UNDP, over 60countries are afflicted by internal conflicts, leading to over 35 million refugees in developingcountries alone (1993:12). How biophysical scarcity translates into social conflicts is explainedand 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 agenciesthat the UN Security Council has not yet fully acknowledged non-military sources of instabilitysuch 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 arestill not being addressed. On the contrary, destructive modernization projects including dammingand resource extraction still dominate development efforts and may well exacerbate socialconflicts. Rather than adjust their development strategies, most governments rely on military26power to keep the conflicts at bay -- often at tremendoushuman costs, as witnessed inArgentina, Chile, China, Indonesia, Iraq, the Philippines,Rwanda, and Turkey, to name a few.In particular, the Western world has demonstrated in the recentGulf War a military superiorityof such overwhelming proportions that the West’sconfidence in securing its global statusthrough military force rather than through co-operation hasbeen confirmed once more.In summary, globalization has led to rapid growth inindustrial production but may wellhave compromised local autonomy and jeopardized the social and ecologicalhealth of poorercountries. Through accelerated resource use, the potential for ecological conflictsincreases,while it appears that the political institutions, as well as the community networksthat couldmitigate such conflicts, lose capacity and devolve.Increasingly, as economies turn more andmore global, so more people will feel disempoweredand become alienated. If these trendscontinue, decisions made in corporate headquarters and by consumersof their products andservices will increase in importance compared to the formal political decisions.Also, corporatelobbying efforts within political institutions and through television mightaccelerate this trend.The lack of public involvement in long-range decision-makingbecame particularly evident in therecent processes of formalizing free-trade agreements such as the Uruguay GAITagreement orNAFTA. All these agreements were arranged with minimal input from the public-- in spite oftheir far-ranging consequences. As long as governmentspersist in focusing on economicexpansion, the range of possible political choices willnarrow and the competition for decliningresource stocks will intensify, thereby threatening geo-politicalstability.274. THE EPISTEMOLOGICAL CRISIS21“...We cannot regulate our interaction with anyaspect of reality that our model of realitydoes not include because wecannot by defmition be conscious of it...” commented Stafford Beer(1981). This self-referential trap isthe crux of the epistemological crisis. It becomes increasinglydoubtful whether dominant belief systems are adequatefor addressing current socioeconomic andecological issues. In particular,traditional science and economic analysis, which are thesocially accepted sensory organs ofsociety, are incapable of comprehending the sustainabilitycrisis (Capra 1982, Catton &Dunlop 1980, Colby 1991, Henderson 1991, Kassiola1990:205,59-70, Maturana & Varela 1992, Milbrath1989:115-134, Peet 1992, Reason & Rowan1981, Rees 1990c, Rees & Wackemagel 1992:387,Steiner 1992 & 1993).In public decision-making, traditional science (orrather the beliefs of scientificmaterialism) have become the dominantway of understanding issues and their context. Theprominence of neo-classical economics in politicaldecision-making serves as a perfect exampleof such scientific materialism. Also, atleast in affluent countries, the public’s faith in market-driven traditional science is alive and well. Many peoplebelieve that, through the use of science-driven technological innovations, humanity will always beable to defeat scarcity and ecological21When analyzing inquiry paradigms, Egon Guba and Yvonna Lincolnapproach them in three subsequent steps.They ask the ontological question: “What is the form and nature ofreality and, therefore, what is there that can be knownabout it?”, the epistemological question: “What is the natureof the relationship between the knower or would-be knowerand what can be known?”, and the methodologicalquestion: “How can the knower [or would-be knower] go aboutfinding out what he or she believes can be known?”(Guba & Lincoln 1994:108). Since I argue in this section that thescientific institutions have been unable to fully apprehend theecological and socioeconomic crises, let alone deal withthem, this issue falls mainly in the domainof the epistemological question. In fact, the essence of planning is the(epistemological) relationship between knowledge and action, to use John Friedmann’sdefinition of planning (1987).In this context, I define “science” as systematic inquiry withtransparent documentation. “Traditional science”refers here, more narrowly, to the not necessarily sequential process ofidentifying a clearly defined and testable question,pursuing this question in a systematic and replicable manner usingquantifiable measures and statistical significance, anddocumenting the research process and findings in a logical order. Incontrast, “scientific materialism” refers to theworldview which holds that eventually everything can be understood and masteredthrough scientific inquiry, and thatonly those things, which can beperceived by quantitative science, exist.28constraints. This belief in scientific materialism,industrial societies’ implicit mainstream“religion”, can be inferred from society’s• lack of alternative spiritual valuesor mythological beliefs (Berman 1989);•emphasis on science which concentrateson “how” rather than on “why” questions(Berman 1981, Henderson 1977:304);•notion that nature can be dominatedand managed by “how” science (Berman 1981, Kung1990, Milbrath 1989:1-6,l735),fland with this, a wide acceptance of hierarchicalandrocentrism;24•admiration or adoration oftechnological tools, and the “straight line” approach asmanifest in current linear thinking,designing, managing and producing (Hundertwasserin Nørretranders 1991:466, Steiner 1993);•pride in science’s success stories,such as technological sophistication and progress,micro- and macro-space exploration, industrial mass-productionand unprecedentedmilitary capabilities; and,•promotion of an exclusive culture of professionalism(Kettering Review 1994).23Milbrath discusses four of the common arguments,namely “humans are clever”, “we will develop unlimitedenergy”, “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 nucleartechnology provide good examples of some of theses arguments(Rifkin1985). In fact, even the stewardship concept inenvironmental ethics is based on the principle that nature canbecontrolled by humans (Beavis 1991:77-81). A furtherdiscussion of the philosophical undercurrent of exploitativeandinstrumental relationship to nature is provided byCarolyn Merchant (1980, 1992).An example of the view that technology and humaninventiveness can continue to expand global carryingcapacity is implied by the Vatican’s position for the1994 UN conference on population in Cairo. On the question of howto provide decent lives for agrowing human population, rather than arguing for a radical redistribution ofwealth, BishopJames MeCue from the US stated in a radio programby the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that similar to the pastone hundred years, human inventivenesscould increase nature’s productivity (CBC 1994).24section starts from the premise that the shift from theegocentric or androcentric (“male-oriented”) worldviewto a truly anthropocentric perspective would alreadysignificantly contribute toward achieving sustainability.However,it might be quite conceivable that asustainable society will adopt a more eco-centric perspective. Forfurther discussionsee also footnote 46 in this chapter.29At best, scientific inquiry is able to predict reproducible events. And this was the focusof classical science, such as Newtonian physics. For non-replicable events involving complexsystems such as social or ecological behaviour, scientific inquiry can only explore probableoutcomes, but never prove its predictive claims. Science’s technological success, however, hasfuelled the widespread public expectation that science can provide immutable answersto allchallenges, for replicable events (or simple, defined and controllable “micro-realities”characterized by “mechanical” reproducibility)25as well as for less clearly defined and morecomplex issues concerning the human condition (or complex, open and undefined “macro-realities” characterized by uncertainty). In fact, many key issues about human survival, suchasthe long-term effect of ozone depletion, climate change, deforestation or destructive humanbehaviour can only be formulated as concerns. These concerns cannot be conclusively answered,but only explored through probable scenarios and simplifying models. To wait for conclusivescientific evidence before making decisions will, by definition, exclude all long-term concernsfrom 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 bemisleading or dangerous to wait for science to deliver definitive answers.However, the woridview attributed to scientific materialism ignores the fact that, formacro-realities, science can only raise concerns and not answer them. In contrast, scientificmaterialism reflects the widespread faith in human ingenuity to manipulateand control thehuman condition. Science, from this perspective, is no longera method or a collection ofknowledge but, to use Lewis Mumford’s words, it has become a “megamachine” (1967:199) farAnd indeed, the scientific approach has led to incredible technological successes. The Economist identified themicroprocessor, the birth control pill, the telephone network, the jumbo jet, the off-shore platform, the hydrogen bomband the moon program as the seven modern wonders (December 25, 1993:47-5 1).30removed from what science purports to be.As long as society believes that science, and particularly the more instrumental traditionalscience, is the only objective, systematic and comprehensive method of inquiry to generateuniversal knowledge, the utilized science becomes an instrument of power for those who controlit. Furthermore, by excluding other approaches to knowledge, it makes society blind to manyissues and impedes the debate about science’s validity or limits. (Some debate on this issue canbe found in the feminist critique such as Bordo 1987, Harding 1986, Keller 1985, and Merchant1980, 1992; other aspects are presented by the socioecological critique which includes Capra1982, Ellul 1990, Goldsmith 1992, Griffin 1988, Naess 1989, Reason & Rowan 1980, Roszak1986, 1992, Steiner 1992, and Steiner et al. 1988).When criticizing traditional science, Peter Reason and John Rowan identify 18characteristics of the “scientific paradigm,” including positivism, reductionism, quantophrenia(or focus on quantification), detachment, conservatism, bigness, low utilization, inaccessiblelanguage, cause-effect determinism, and “fairy tales” in textbooks on the characteristics ofscientific research (1981: xiv-xvi). Instrumental rationality, and misleading objectivity are othercharacteristics that should be added to the list, which is discussed in the following paragraphs.26Reductionism, or the belief that phenomena can be understood by dividing them intoclearly defined observable parts, and which is driving traditional science has attracted severe26A comprehensive critique of mainstream science, and a discussion of alternative approaches to scientific inquiryis provided by Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln’s Handbook of Qualitative Research (1994) which containscontributions from over 30 leading social scientists.31criticism.27 The strength of traditional scientific analysis lies in examiningreproduciblespeqficities, trying to infer some fundamental universalities, such as the Maxwell equations, theNewton equations, and other fundamental laws of classical physics. Such inquiriesboil down toa search for the abstract and the pure, which explains some of the bias againstrelevantquestions such as how to overcome the impediments to sustainability, or whether thecurrent wayof gathering knowledge is adequate to face the sustainability challenges. Both questions lackscientific legitimacy.However, if society is to cope with the sustainability challenges, critical orsocraticthinking is what is most needed -- not merely the accumulation of morebits of conventionalscientific information28 (Roszak 1986:2 16). Unfortunately, the traditional scientific approachesrooted in reductionism have a poor record of analyzing and recommending howto cope with asituation that cannot be completely understood. Evidence of the generationof specificinformation, which lacks a context, rather than of critical thinking on relevant issues,can befound in the vast majority of the many thousands of scientific journals to which the UBC Librarysubscribes. In essence, by focusing on unrelated, specific pieces that shouldeventually andhopefully add up to some fundamental universalities, traditional science cannot capture systemicgeneralities. For example, “the current development path is unsustainable” or “economic growthcannot be sustained” are statements which are not specific enough. Neither are they falsifiableand refutable through the study of isolated special cases. Therefore, they are notviable researchTiEvery 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 systematicallyignoring thesignificance of the linkages between the parts when analyzing an issue.28Information, according to Claude Shannon et at., is a quantitative concept related to thermodynamicentropy andcan be measured in bits (1948 in Norretranders 1991:56-62). This quantitative approach to informationrepresents muchof today’s scientific output which is prolific, but increasingly devoid of understanding or meaning(Roszak 1986:13-14,156-176).32questions for traditional scientific inquires -- even though the overall social and ecological trendsare evident, and even though pursuing such questions is fundamental for securing a healthyhuman condition.Science’s reductionism lends itself also to an incremental understanding, thereby losingthe reference points. Slicing broad concerns into separate issues makes people blind to largerimplications, and legitimizes piecemeal approaches. Those approaches quite possibly encouragedisaster by seemingly insignificant increments. For example, while scientific research issuccessful in preparing for, and developing, industrial advances, traditional science practice isimpotent 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 economicworld 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 (Elgin1981:252-257). 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 interconnectedcontinuum of nature. ... Modern technology is indeed able to manipulate the world to an almost unimaginableextent. When it comes to infinite complexity and long term frame of social systems or ecosystems, thelimitations of science are particularly evident. Given these fundamental shortcomings, the status of science todayis profoundly disturbing (Goldsmith et a!. 1991:5-6).Robert Ornstein and Paul Ehrlich believe that this focus on incrementalism andreductionism is linked to the way our minds function: slow changes, long-term implications andconnections cannot easily be perceived by human brains (1990), a phenomenon called the “boiledfrog syndrome.” “...Frogs placed in a pan of water that is slowly heated will be unable to detectthe gradual but deadly trend. ... Like the frogs, many people seem unable to detect the gradualbut lethal trend in which population and economic growth threaten to boil civilization...”(Ornstein & Ehrlich 1990:74-75).33Particularly since World War II, socialscience has been characterized by quantophreniawhere everything is reduced to numbers.Sociology research looks like a collection of linearregressions, and economics has become so mathematicalthat Elizabeth Corcoran and PaulWallich asked in the Scientjflc American“... [are] economic principles simply obscured behindthe mathematics -- or have they vanished?...” (1992:142).Economist Clifford Cobb commentsthat thetyranny of quantification leads society to conclusions about well-beingwhich are surely wrong if one takes anoverall reasonable view of the economic landscape.But such a view is precisely what is impossible because ofthe use of these statistical abstractions. This tyranny of quantificationleads to another tyranny that shows in theepistemology that conventional economics uses. The tyranny of quantificationleads to the tyranny of precision,objectivity and certainty, i.e., that of positivism. If you cannotmeasure it precisely in a numerical manner andwith certainty, then it cannot be true (TheHuman Economy Newsletter 1992:1).Also, traditional (and politically acceptable) scientificresearch and applications rely onclear cause-effect relationships,or linear causation. However, in macro-settings, which cannotbe conclusively defined by aninitial condition, cause and effect are often not distinguishable andcan become meaningless concepts.In other words, by acknowledging only direct cause-effectrelationships, traditional science’s blindness to“chicken-and-egg” or systemic relationshipsbecomes problematic as this blindnesswill conceal most critical social or ecological concerns.29In this context, examination of situations whose cause-effect mechanismscannot be understoodmust be intensified. Clearly, philosophical debateson issues such as the precautionary principleseem to have contributed more useful guidancethan traditional scientific inquiry.The ideological mainstream of the scientific communityhas promoted a narrow concept29A reaction to this fundamental shortcoming oftraditional science is the systems thinking approach. Introductionsto 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), andWolstenholm (1990).34of rationality. For example, Graham Bannock et a!. in their Dictionary of Economics definerational as “contain[ing] no systematic error” (1987:346). This definition hinges on itsinterpretation of “systematic.” In economic theory, “systemic” typically refers to “internallyconsistent”, while the assumptions (such as maximizing individual self-interest or “maximizingpersonal utility”) do not need to be tested on external consistency. In other contexts (such as inengineering or traditional urban planning3),the word “systematic” seems to imply “approachesconsistent with scientific materialism”, while never acknowledging that the choice of thereference system determines the meaning of rational. Borrowing from traditional science, aninterpretation of rationality based on self-centred scientific materialism has become a coreconcept of the industrialized countries’ political discourse and a criterion for legitimizing goalsand objectives. This particular rationality concept has proven to be highly effective in theindustrial domain, but does lead to irrationalities and contradictions in the public domain froma social and ecological perspective. Such an instrumental approach to rationality (Kincheloe &McLaren 1994:140) facilitates the development of new devices, while being weak at addressingmacro-realities. For example, those developments in science which try to mitigate the negativeexternalities (or additional costs that are not accounted for in the price and market system) ofthe global economy are outpaced by the negative impacts of economic expansion. Ironically, thiseconomic expansion is stimulated by other scientific innovations, as evident with the newgigantic transport capacities and the powerful telecommunication networks.With Francis Bacon’s and René Descartes’ proclamation that there was no contradictionbetween (instrumental) rationalism and empiricism (Berman 1981:14, Roszak 1986:212),30For example, one of the Canadian Institute of Planner’s definitions states that “‘planning’ means the planningof the scientific, aesthetic and orderly disposition of land, resources, facilities and services with a view of securing thephysical, economic and social efficiency, health and well-being of urban and rural communities” (CIP, Charter Bylaw,Final Proposal, September 23, 1986).35instrumental rationality became the new moral yardstick and the new “divine principle” to guidehuman beings (and, ever since, has been confused with reason). Philosopher Herbert Marcusecommented that theunion of growing productivity and growing destruction; the brinkmanship of annihilation; the surrender ofthought, hope and fear to the decision of the powers that be; the preservation of misery in the face ofunprecedented wealth constitute the most impartial indictment - even if they are not the raison d’être of thissociety 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 thatscientific materialism (including individual self-interest) is objective or value-free. However, thisclaim to objectivity in science has been questioned by many scholars (Kassiola 1990, Milbrath1989:132-136, 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 herassumptions (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. Forexample, evidence seems to suggest that traditional scientific institutions such as universitieshave avoided integrative (or truly interdisciplinary) research on macro-realities. In fact, in thecase of sustainability, most of the literature, debate and studies seem to be generated by privateor semi-private institutes,31 or by dissident voices within mainstream organizations3231Examples 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, NewAlchemy Institute, Carrying Capacity Network, David Suzuki Foundation, Oko-Institutes in Germany, Greenpeace, SierraClub, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and many otherenvironmental organizations with research branches. In addition, there are many individual activists and writers such asHazel Henderson, Barry Commoner (?), Wendel Berry, and Murry Bookchin. Also in Switzerland, most leading edgeresearch on sustainability is conducted outside the universities. Examples are Ellipson, Oko-Zentren (Langenbruck andSchafweid), 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, ratherthan addressing the larger picture, would not be worrisome if society did not expect answers onmacro-problems from these institutions. Certainly, it is true that many of these micro-realitystudies which are embedded in a single academic discipline do not add up to an understandingof macro-realities, and are not even compatible with studies from other disciplines. In traditionalacademic institutions, there are few examples where natural science and social science areintegrated. Witnesses are the rift between economics and human ecology; or the diverseacademic fields which identify with an ecological approach, but where definitions of ecology arenot only different but incompatible.33In summary, rather than being just one tool for society to assist public debate and tocontribute to public decision making, instrumental or traditional scientific analysis has becomethe undebated but dominant woridview and apologist for modem society’s destructiveexpansionism. Thus, the weaknesses of the scientific process have become the weaknesses ofpublic decision-making. The “megamachinery” of traditional science has become a paralysingpolitical force which, by failing conclusively to prove complex issues, legitimizes inaction. TheCO2 debate provides a prominent example. As in so many other cases, the lack of completescientific certainty supports the politics of “business-as-usual” rather than promotingprecautionary action (Schneider in Reichert 1993:189).Daniel Wiener, Kulturprojekt Silvania, Duttweiler Institut, Institut de la Dure, etc.32Prominent examples of such voices are Herman Daly and Robert Goodland at the World Bank. Academics whowork outside their job descriptions include Paul Ehrlich, Garrett Hardin, Franz Moser, John Peet, David Suzuki, andRobert Woollard; in Switzerland Jean Ziegler, Pierre Fornallaz, Hans ChristofBinswanger, Theo Ginsburg(t)and MaxThflrkauf(t).Many “ecological studies” from various disciplines either exclude human beings from the ecosphere (biologicalecologists), do not acknowledge the humansphere as embedded in, and dependent on, the ecosphere (economists), orunderstand the “environment” barely as a socio-cultural construct (social scientists).375. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL CRISISThe psychologically rooted social behaviour is perhaps the most fundamental andinfluential barrier to sustainability.34 However, the low number of scholarly publicationsconcerning the psychological facet of the sustainability crisis suggests that it is a largelyneglected area.Two major psychological phenomena stand out. They can be summarized as the “activepromotion” and the “passive tolerance” of the current condition. The active promotion includesthe positive portrayal of unsustainable lifestyles through, for example, advertising (Durning1992: 117-135). The passive tolerance is manifested in the social denial of the current crisis asevident in industrialized countries’ perseverance in planning for more -- be it cars or economicgrowth -- rather than planning for sustainabilily.The active promotion of unsustainable lifestyles shows many faces. It is reflected in thevalues of the dominant worldview which have been summarized under names such as scientificmaterialism, 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 manyacademic disciplines -- as commerce and economics -- but even more so through “fraudulent andincessant advertising” (Sale in Kassiola 1990:6, Ewen 1988). This becomes particularly evidentwhen 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 abuseand suicide is a symptom of this psychological crisis.38Western-style billboards with English slogans have penetrated to every corner of theworld. This consumer culture has been promoted particularly aggressively in Eastern Europe.As a result, waste production has increased by magnitudes rather than percentages. Thepromotion 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 foodproducers (Weller 1993).Another factor in active promotion is television, which portrays the unsustainable lifestyleas a desirable and achievable dream for everybody. Apart from consumption-promotingcommercials, of which the average North American has seen about 350,000by age 20 (Wachtel1989:287), also regular television shows re-confirm the desirability of lavish lifestyles, justifydreams of material wealth and glamour, and foster misplaced “Disneyesque” images ofnature.35 Commercial television rarely conveys any sense of limits or “enoughness”, nor doesit establish intellectual connections between issues, people(s) and ecosystems (Durning 1992,Mander 1991:75-96, McKibben 1992, Wilson1974).36On the other hand, abstraction of thought is hailed by intellectuals asa great achievementof Western civilization. This fascination with abstract thought and the contempt for the visual,35The magazine Adbusters Quarterly published by the Vancouver Media Foundation regularly featuresdiscussionson that subject. Also remarkable is their production of anti-television and anti-consumption spots for commercialtelevision stations.36Another aspect of television was envisioned by George Orwell in his novel 1984.By separating people andproviding simplistic fast-paced and emotional messages, television can feed into the politics of mistrust and hate, whichundermines cooperative approaches. For example, in an article on television and fundamentalism,The Economistcommented that “.. .print isolates individuals, sponsoring rational, dispassionate analysis, [whereas] spokenwords [andtelevision in particular] encourage group thinking, sometimes mob-thmkm Scholars offermany learned explanations[as to why religious enthusiasts can challenge social order and political power]. One that they largely neglect is theimpactof audio-visual technology. The magic potency of the oral word and the encapsulated message by the visual icon aredethroning the written word...” (August 21, 1993:36).39which characterizes the academic community, has helped to create the context where commercialtelevision 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 ofconsumerism, stereotypes and hate.The active promotion of unsustainable lifestyles does not apply only to the industrializedworld. In fact, Helena Norberg-Hodge, former Director of the Ladakh Project, identifiespsychological pressure to modernize as the most important reason for the breakdown oftraditional societies, and points out that this psychological dimension is a much neglected aspectin the development debate (Goldsmith et al. 1991:8 1).The passive tolerance of ecological destruction and social malaise has been captured bydifferent 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 attitudetoward wanted information, explored by David Wolfe (as one example) when analyzing executives’ denial of unpleasantnews about market developments (1991:40-44).38In his preface to Overshoot, William Catton writes that “ own exposure to population pressure, a majorindicator of the common source of our mounting frustrations, has been sufficiently marginal and intermittent to permitme to see it in relief. Constant exposure to it would have prevented me (as it has prevented so many others) from seeingits real nature. Complete insulation from it would have precluded awareness and concern. Even with my advantageoussituation, 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 theHolocaust or the threat of nuclear annihilation (Edeistein eta!. 1989, Macy 1983, Suefeld eta!. 1992:96-100). In fact,40Societal denial is widespread. One example is our blind faith in redemption throughscientific progress. Another is “...the further development of entertainment industries based onreality-avoidance.. .“ (Slaughter 1993). Also, it becomes evident in situations when the victimsare 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 societiesor 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’sreport which states that, “...the cumulative effect of [the poor’s impact on the ecosphere] is sofar-reaching as to make poverty itself a major global scourge...” (WCED 1987:28). Morewidespread 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 thecommon response of not wanting to see the self-evident, as typified by flood victims all over theworld 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 theLimits to Growth report). Albert Hirschman writes that the“...denial of reality that is practised testifies to the power and vitality of the disappointment experience. Weengage in all kinds of ingenious ruses and delaying actions before admitting to ourselves that we aredisappointed, in part surely because we know that disappointment may compel us to a painful reassessment ofour 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 isso tightly linked with individual behaviour. The foreword to the Touchstone edition of Goleman’s Vital Lies, SimpleTruths is one of the few exceptions (1986:11-14); another one is Sandra Postel’s introductory chapter to the State oftheWorld 1992 called “Denial in the Decisive Decade” (Brown et al. 1992a). Clearly, research about the psychology ofsocietal denial in the context of the sustainability crisis needs to be conducted urgently. At this point, we can onlyspeculate whether such denial is rooted in ignorance, naive optimism, or suppressed knowledge, and whether it isindividually or culturally rooted, etc.40The current debate on replacing Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge or the Greater Vancouver Regional District’sThe Livable Region Strategic Plan of 1993 typify such societal denial by not addressing sustainability implications of thepresented choices.41In summary, it is widely acknowledged in academic literature that the current ecologicaldecline 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 mainstreamscience, our official sensory organ, is limited in its understanding and capacity to act upon thesechallenges. Further, there is much indication that a major stumbling block to action is theenormity of the issue which feeds in a sense of hopelessness, fear or denial. Effective actiontoward sustainability therefore requires, first, the establishment of the connections between thefacets of the sustainability crisis, and second, to explore the mechanisms that have perpetuatedunsustainable lifestyles.B. MAKING THE CONNECTIONS: THE COMMON JZHEME OF THESUSTAINABILITY CRISISIt is widely acknowledged that the above facets of the sustainability crisis are tightlylinked (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)). Forexample, increased human demand can accelerate ecological deterioration, thereby exacerbatingpoverty. Poor people often economically depend on high reproduction rates which furtherentrenches poverty. Higher human demands and local ecological deterioration increase thedependence on carrying capacity of distant places thereby impacting the social and ecologicalfabric in other places of the world.In fact, the facets of the sustainability crisis are not only linked, but they suffer from asimilar dynamic, the “Tragedy of the Commons”, or rather, to be more accurate, the “Tragedy42of Free Access.” Ecologist Garrett Hardin reiterated in 1968 the wisdom of Aristotle that,“. . .what is common to the greatest number gets the least amount ofcare.. .“ (1973/1993: 145).In contrast to Aristotle, he emphasized its tragic social implications. To illustrate how gains tothe individual can ultimately be outweighed by the aggregate losses to society, Hardin uses anagricultural example. He compares the individual shepherd’s benefits of increasing his or herherd size to the individual share of the resultant costs. Since the benefits will always seemgreater to the individual shepherd, each has an incentive to add animals to the pasture, therebyruining it by overuse (1973/1993:132). And, this tragedy is precisely the mechanism of theglobal 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 hisclassic analysis (as Hardin himself later acknowledged). He was not, in fact, describing acommons regime in which rights and authority are vested in members of the community, butrather 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 advocatedresolving the tragedy through a social contract, or by “ coercion, mutually agreedupon...,” to use his words, in itself a definition of a “commons” regime (Aguilera-Klink1994:222-223, Berkes 1989b:85).This “Tragedy of Free Access” is also widely discussed in various fields under differentnames. 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 Cobb43also 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 misleadingterm when describing vital issues such as the destruction of life-support services. They ridiculethe concept, if used in the sustainability context, by calling it an “ad hoc corrections introducedas needed to save appearances, like the epicycles of Ptolemaic astronomy” (Daly & Cobb1989:37,141-146). Some economists also call the “Tragedy” a “public good problem”, andMichael Jacobs labels it graphically “Invisible Elbow” (1993:22). Common property managementis studied by resource economists and scholars in resource management, and has got its ownliterature and conferences (Berkes 1989a).The “Tragedy of Free Access” characterizes the mechanisms of the key conificts in eachfacet of the sustainability crisis.From the ecological perspective, this tragedy is particularly obvious. Maximizing thepersonal use of nature’s services (including resource supply and waste assimilation) is beneficialto the individual, but can lead to an over-exploitation of nature which negatively affects societyat large -- to say nothing of other species. Prominent examples of such negative impacts are theaccumulation of greenhouse gases, the depletion of atmospheric ozone, the generation of acidrain, the decimation of whale populations, the overharvesting of fisheries with consequentcollapses, and rapid deforestation. Natural capital stocks everywhere are drawn down and globalabsorptive sinks are filled to over-flowing (Rees & Wackernagel 1992). As humanity’s levelsof resource throughput are the product of population size and average per capita resource44consumption, these trends are exacerbated by growth in both consumption and population.41In effect, our global safety net is being shredded as the “Tragedy of Free Access” isplayed out on a global scale. All counthes now face the same potentially limiting factorssimultaneously (e.g., ozone depletion, exhausted fisheries, potential climate change) inageopolitically uncertain world. In fact, the micro-economic conditions reinforce suchunsustainable behaviour patterns as investment is directed into ventures that increase economicproductivity, 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 contradictinginterests of individuals and society, but also in the conflict between various social groups andhumanity as a whole. The first conflict between individuals and society is obvious. Reproductivedecisions are taken by individuals, while the cumulative ecological and social effects of theaggregate population is carried by everybody, independent of their reproduction. Economicconditions might make it necessary for poor families to have a large number of offspring, eventhough this becomes a stumbling block for the wellbeing of their local society (Li1992).42Infact, fast growing populations with over 50 percent of their people under the age of 15 will41This does not suggest that one percent growth in population has necessarily the same impact as one percentgrowth in consumption. One percent growth of an already high per capita consumption (or of an affluent population) hasobviously a larger impact than one percent growth of low per capita consumption (or of a less affluent population). Alsofrom an ethical perspective, growth of consumption for those with low consumption seems more necessary and defensiblethan growth in affluent consumption.42In contrast, for affluent families, low reproduction rates might be economically beneficial: low numbers ofoffsprings 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 becomesso long that its net present value at the time of conception might be negligible in comparison to the investment costs ofchild raising.45never 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 populationgrowth. They could provide funds for education, health care and social programs (particularlyfor women) (Burrows et a!. 1991:32 1), but they might see reducing population growthas beingin conffict with their economic short-term interests. This conflict between various social groupsand humanity manifests various dimensions. For instance, in industrialized countries, people andgovernments seem less worried about local overpopulation than about the aging of their societiesfor fear of reduced pensions once they retire. Indeed, to keep their population younger, someindustrialized countries even encourage local population growth. In addition, affluent sectors ofsociety might perceive growing poor populations as an opportunity, rather than as a threat: poorpeople are a cheap source of industhal and domestic labour, as for example evident in manySouth 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 inindustrialized countries. At the same time, in the face of the unprecedented superiority ofWestern military power, these rising populations might not be seen as a serious security threatto high-income countries. This disincentive structure points toward another “Tragedy of FreeAccess” situation, in which those who have the means of making the changes are not willingto,thereby perpetuating or even exacerbating the human suffering of others.From the political perspective, the “Tragedies of Free Access” phenomenon arises fromthe distancing between actions and their effects. The increased distance between action andeffects, which handicaps corrective feedback, characterizes not only the globalizing economy butalso the political decision-making within nation states.46In the political domain, most rights and responsibilities are separated. Not onlyinrepresentative democracies, but also in direct democracies such as Switzerland, where thosewhovote are not always those who will carry the burden of the decision. This becomes particularlyevident when local groups defend their own interests at the cost of other groups or partsofsociety (sometimes identified as the NIMBY syndrome). A local example are the residentsofthe neighbourhoods around the Arbutus corridor in Vancouver who oppose higher density forfear of increasing local traffic, thereby augmenting transportation pressures in the entire FraserBasin. Another example are communities who oppose the treatment of hazardous waste, whilenot 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 ColdWar grid-lock situation (Axelrod 1984, Poundstone 1992). Nevertheless, since the end of theCold War, local arms races and trade in military equipment have continued to feed into thistragedy: those selling or operating this military equipment are hardly affected by the economicburden of arm races, or by the physical and psychological hardship of war, while the sufferingis inflicted on others.In the macro-economic domain, globalization has entrenched the “Tragedy of FreeAccess” as economic activities and their social and ecological impacts are further and furtherseparated. The design, advertisement, production, distribution, consumption and disposal ofproducts gets spread over countries, if not continents. Food products are no exception: “.. . Onefourth of the grapes eaten in the United States are grown 11,000 kilometres away, in Chile, andthe typical mouthful of American food travels 2,000 kilometres from farm field to dinnerplate...” (Brown et al. 1991a: 159). The social and ecological externalities that are consequences47of the expanding global market -- such as rapid urbanization, pollution, or community breakdowns -- become pervasive. In other words, impacts are no longer locally confined but becomesystemic. 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 ofnation states make remedial action an ever bigger challenge.From the epistemological perspective, the focus of generating knowledge which benefitsa particular group rather than society as a whole (because such knowledge pays back those whofinanced the research) is another example of the “Tragedy of Free Access.” While market-drivenknowledge generation seems to be highly adaptive to individual economic needs and “wants”,it also accelerates the expanding spiral of production and consumption. However, other concernsof humanity as a whole, such as ecological limits, social equity, community vitality or spiritualwell-being, lose out. Since today’s economic activities are dictated by those who introduce themfirst (“primacy of action”), society as a whole cannot decide on whether it wants these newtechnologies, but must bear the costs of its side effects (see also Steiner 1993:5 1). Examplesinclude 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 industrializedcountries, economic research and technological breakthroughs in communications andtransportation capacities have backed the globalization of a world economy. Economicagreements have consciously been put in place to accommodate economic and technologicalinnovations in support of the globalization evident today. In consequence, aggregate economicproduction has skyrocketed, thereby accelerating resource consumption to such an extent thatit has now exceeded nature’s carrying capacity. In other words, the scientific model behind48conventional economic development can be identified as a root cause of the sustainabilitydilemma (Peat Marwick 1993b, Chiras 1992a). In those cases where individual and societalinterests 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’sstrength is its “micro” approach (i.e., developing specific, sophisticated, technological gadgetsin a lab), while failing to address “macro” concerns (i.e., understanding the connected globalissues, thinking about the implications of the “unknowability” of complex systems, or at leastacknowledging the impossibility of ecological or global “management”). The scientificreductionist approach, in both analysis and application constitutes the epistemological dimensionof the “Tragedy of Free Access” phenomenon.From the psychological perspective, the “Tragedy of Free Access” becomes particularlyapparent. On the one hand, individuals in today’s Western society feel insignificant,overwhelmed and powerless when confronted with the global dimensions of the sustainabilitycrisis. As the benefit of individual or even national sustainability efforts accrue to humanity asa whole, such action feels like martyrdom. Also, the globalizing cash nexus alienates andcommodifies, thereby further separating the individual from a sense of community. On the otherhand, the social and ecological crises are denied partly because the implications are toointimidating and require profound change in the way people live. Such change might require thatthe rich give up some of their material wealth so that the suffering of the poor could bemitigated and long-term productivity of nature would not be further compromised.The emotion-laden environmental debates document the anxieties of people when faced49with such fundamental dilemmas and challenges. The consequent knee-jerk reactions often leadto further protection of the immediate self-interests of a particular group while hindering cooperative behaviour, thereby exacerbating the conflict. Realizing the implications of the globalissue can lead to despair and various forms of social denial. This translates into the low priorityof sustainabiity issues on political agendas.C. REACTING TO TIlE CRISIS: EXPLORING TIlE NECESSARYCONDITIONS FOR SUSTAINABILITYSo far, this chapter has discussed why humanity’s current way of living is notsustainable. Building on the last section, I discuss what the characteristics or necessaryconditions are for developing a sustainable way of life.Sustainability is a simple concept: living with each other within the means of nature. Thisis the essence of WCED’s widely accepted definition of this concept (1987:43). But it is astartling, even alarming, concept - and that explains why progress is so slow. Sustainabilityshocks because it reminds the wealthy part of humankind of some bleak realities: the needs ofthe poor are not being met today and the current demands on nature are undermining the futurecapacity of nature to meet the needs of future generations. It is also alarming because it impliesThis is also the underlying message of the 10 sustainable development definitions listed in Rees (1989) and theover 20 definitions listed in Pearce et al. (1989:Annex). And, there is much academic agreement on the symptoms ofthe 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, andin contrast to the view that we are witnessing a “...clash of plural rationalities each using impeccable logic to derivedifferent conclusions...” (Thompson in Redclift 1987:202), the deliberate vagueness of the concept is merely a reflectionof the distribution of power in the political bargaining. It is not a manifestation of sustainable development’sinsurmountable intellectual intricacy (see also Milbrath 1989:323). “...Unless we are prepared to interrogate ourassumptions about both development and the environment and give political effect to the conclusions we reach, the realityof unsustainable development will remain...” (emphasis added, Redclift 1987:204).50that the human race cannot continue on its current path: profound changes are required. Inparticular, high income earners in industrialized societies must significantly reduce their resourceconsumption and waste production if everybody is to be able to live decently.In spite of the simple message carried by “sustainability”, the concept suffers fromsemantic ambiguity stemming from the fact that it refers to a state as well as to a process (seealso footnote 2 in Chapter I). On the one hand, it refers to a state in which human consumptiondoes not exceed nature’s productivity, and on the other hand, to the process of achieving thisstate. The first three facets of the sustainabiity crisis discussed above inform about the state ofsustainability, while the last three indicate conditions for the development of sustainability.As explained later in this section, the state of sustainability depends simultaneously onthe health of three spheres (Figure 1.1). These spheres are:Figure 1.1:..Healt[,Three spheres of healthPersonal health is embedded in community health, which is embedded in ecosystem health.(Source: UBC Task Force 1994).51a) Ecological health: Using of nature’s productivity without damaging it (ecological conditionfor 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 forsustainability) (Wackernagel 1993a).To develop sustainability, society needs tools to understand and communicate about thesustainability challenges (epistemological condition for sustainability). It must acknowledge andaccommodate the debilitating fear of change (psychological condition for sustainability) andfinally, devise decision-making processes that include people and re-establish the links betweenrights and responsibilities (political condition for sustainability).1. THE ECOLOGICAL BOTTOM-LINE FOR SUSTAINABILITY: ACASE FOR STRONG SUSTAINABILITYSustainability requires living within the productive capacity of nature. Therefore, we needto know how to identify and measure nature’s productivity. Human societies depend not onlyon labour and human-made capital, but also on nature, or “natural capital” (Costanza & Daly1992). Even though the concept of natural capital has not yet been developed into an operationaldefinition, various interpretations of natural capital have been advanced. The narrowestdefinitions identify natural capital mainly as commercially available (industrial) renewable andnon-renewable resources (Barbier 1992). However, a more complete definition of natural capitalThis section draws from Wackernagel & Rees (1992).52must not only include all the biophysical resources and waste sinks that are needed to supportthe human economy, but also the relationship among those entities and processes that providelife support to the ecosphere.In short, natural capital is not just an inventory of resources; it includes those componentsof the ecosphere, and the structural relationships among them, whose organizational integrity isessential for the continuous self-production of the system itself.45 Indeed, it is this highlyevolved structural and functional integration that makes the ecosphere the uniquely liveable“environment” it is. In effect the very organisms it comprises produce the ecosphere (Rees1990c, 1992a). Geoclimatic, hydrological, and ecological cycles do not simply transport anddistribute nutrients and energy but are among the self-regulatory, homeostatic mechanisms thatstabilize conditions on Earth for all contemporary life-forms, including humankind.When debating the ecological conditions for sustainability, the question arises whethernatural capital itself has to remain constant (“strong sustainability”), or whether a loss in naturalcapital 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, “strongsustainability” 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 andVarela (1992:39-52) refer to the unique self-producing and self-regulating properties that define living systems as“autopoietic organization”.53an adequate per capita stock of essential biophysical assets alone-- independent of the human-made capital stock. This biophysical stock, or naturalcapital, must be no less than the stock ofsuch 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 astheir analyticalapproach, but without providing convincing arguments for its ecological validity.47The mostforceful contestants of the strong sustainability perspective can be divided intotwo camps. Thefirst 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 nolonger be maintained in the face of such widespread phenomena asthe loss of biodiversity,deforestation, and the collapse of fisheries. The second camp consists of peoplewho deny orignore the ecological crisis altogether, as discussed in the firstsection of this chapter (Gee 1994,Simon & Kahn 1984, McKibbin & Sachs 1991, Giersch 1993), a positionthat is barelydefensible (Homer-Dixon 1994). However, as pointed out later, the major debate is not aboutthe validity of the strong sustainability criterion but rather about how toorganize humanactivities, still maintaining our natural capital stock. In fact,within the field of EcologicalEconomics there is wide support for the strong sustainability interpretation, from the ecologicalas well as the economic perspectives representedin the field (Jansson et a!. 1994, in particular46However radical the constant stocks criterion might appear, it still reflects anthropocentric values. Emphasis ison the pragmatic minimum biophysical requirements for human survival. However,the preservation of biophysical assetsessential to humankind does imply the direct protection of whole ecosystems and thousands of keystone species,andthousands more will benefit indirectly from the maintenance of the same systems uponwhich humans are dependent. Inshort, the most promising hope for maintaining significant biodiversity underour prevailing value system may well beecologically enlightened human self-interest. Of course, should humankind shift to more ecocentric values,its ownsurvival might be assured even more effectively. Respect for, and the preservation of, other species and ecosystemsfortheir intrinsic value, would automatically ensure human ecological security.For a brief discussion see footnote 7 in Chapter ifi.54Turner et al. 1994).2. THE SOCIOECONOMIC CONDITIONS FOR SUSTAINABILITYAs 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 notbe able to achieve this goal. And there is increasing evidence that economic successis actuallyundermining ecological integrity as, generally speaking, those who can access the largest amountof resources (and have the entrepreneurial spirit to transform them effectively into demandedgoods and services) perform best in the global economy.However, securing basic needs for everybody is not enough. It also requires animprovement in quality of life. In fact, people will be reluctant to plan for sustainability if thispath is not seen as an improvement to their lives. Many scholars believe that if society chooseswisely, such options still exist, particularly for industrialized societies (Roseland 1992). Forexample, carefully designed sefflement patterns which promote aesthetics, density, communityinteraction, greenspaces and non-motorized transportation have the potential massively to reduceindustrial societies’ resource consumption and waste generation while significantly improvingquality of life. Indeed, only those policies and projects that satisfy these two imperatives canmove us toward sustainability. In particular, municipalities couldplay an increasingly importantrole in planning for sustainability. And they could start today: through community economicdevelopment as well as transportation and land-use planning (Roseland 1992, Harrington 1993,Parker 1993, Beck 1993).553. THE POLITICAL CONDITIONS FOR SUSTAINABILITYAs long as competition remains a major organizing force of society, nobodywill ever besatisfied with what they have got. In fact, as Fred Hirschpointed out, once our basic needs aremet, people start to focus on relative and not absolute wealth(1976). Such systemic and constantdissatisfaction keeps people on a never ending spiral ofwanting 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 moreco-operative forms of interaction. Co-operation does notdepend on altruism, but rather onreciprocity, as pointed out by Robert Axeirod’s simulation gameswith its winning “Tit for Tat”strategy (1984). In fact, there might be an evolutionary advantage to co-operativebehaviour(Berkes 1989b:72-76). Constructive reciprocity is only possible if theparticipants trust eachother. Without social justice and mutualrespect such trust cannot be established, but might leadto devastating situations such associal collapses, conificts and civil war (Gurr 1985, Homer-Dixon 1993, Kaplan 1994, Ophuls et al. 1992). Failing to buildtrust between the members ofa society will encourage a competitivemode of interaction which will further erode mutual trust,and which will feed into the never-endingand ultimately self-destructive race to generate more.Increased cooperation depends on transparent and inclusive decision-makingprocesses(WCED 1987:65). This requires forums for political debate, an acknowledgement ofconflictswithin society, but also an awareness and understanding of the sustainability dilemmaand of theimplications of “business-as-usual”.Reconnecting rights and responsibilities, therefore, becomes a key requirementfordealing with the “Tragedy of Free Access” (The Ecologist 22(4): 195-204). In fact,this follows56Garrett 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 (Berkes1989b:85). Such an endeavour depends primarily on the wide and authentic participation ofpeople affected by the decisions. It requires the rebuilding of what Fikret Berkes and Carl Folkecall, “cultural capital”, namely, guarding cultural diversity, recognizing traditional ecologicalknowledge, building institutions, organizing collective action, and supporting cooperation(1994:139-146). Building cultural capital and developing inclusive decision-making will cost alot of people’s time. For example, such decision-making requires time for developing andparticipating 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, tostrengthen local communities, and to allow a greater range of options might also require thegradual decoupling of local economies from the global economy rather than strengthening thelinks (Daly 1993).4. THE EPISTEMOLOGICAL CONDITIONS FOR SUSTAINABILITYPlanning for sustainability hinges on society’s broad understanding of the sustainabilitydilemmas. Promoting this understanding demands a profound change in the way people pictureknowledge, particularly as the popular belief that “reductionism and fragmentation can generateuniversal 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 learnto ask questions. Thinking about the present human condition and its implication for the futureshould include questions such as: whether current decisions open or close opportunities for futuregenerations; whether the models that guide our decision-making acknowledge or are compatible57with the fact that human activitiesdepend on nature’s productivity; whether theirview of qualityof life is compatible with ecological integrity,or whether there are ways to rethink priorities tomake personal “success” compatiblewith sustainability; and finally, who losesand who winsfrom the status quo, and from particularsustainability initiatives. Also, knowing about how tocooperate with people holding other values, beliefs,and worldviews become skills on whichconstructive planning approachesdepend. Furthermore, rather than understandingparts anddetails, the explorationof connections and systemic relationships must be emphasized(Vester1983). Capacity must be builtfor conducting interdisciplinary, collaborative, action-orientedresearch on relevant issues(Fnedmann 1987:389-4 12).Acknowledging the limits of scientific inquiry andthe implications of an increasingknowledge deficit becomes a first steptoward understanding the constraints for action. Similarly,recognizing the precautionaryprinciple, rather than using uncertainty as alegitimization ofbusiness-as-usual, becomes a preconditionfor developing sustainability (Reichert 1993, Turneret al. 1994:270,276, Costanza1994). In fact, this is consistent with the several thousandyearsold basic principle of themedical profession: primum non nocere (usually attributedtoHippocrates [460-377 BC], but it mightstem from Asclepiades [124-? BC], according to RobertWoollard [1994a1). To envision and toplan requires developing concrete and positive imagesthat can compete with the images from advertisingand television (Steen-Jensen 1994, The MediaFoundation 1993). This will also improve andstimulate communication between people andmake the debates more accessible.5. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL CONDITIONSFOR SUSTAINABILITYSocial denial must be overcome for society to moveeffectively toward a more sustainable58lifestyle.48 This means dealingwith deep-rooted fears and taboos. Everybodymust beencouraged, first, to reflectupon what matters to them, and second,to listen to what theyalready intuitively know-- rather than repressing it. This alsomeans acknowledging andcelebrating that human beings area part of nature (Rees 1990c), even thoughpeople have, incontrast to other livingbeings, the innate ability to reflect and totransform their environment.Overcoming social denial requirestrust on various levels: decision-making processesmustbecome transparent enough tomake them trustworthy, social trust must be builtthrough socialjustice and mutual connectedness.Also, people must perceive choices andoptions, and mustlearn to trust themselves. At thesame time, feeding into social denial must be stopped.Blamingthe messengers for the messageabout ecological limits, encouraging inaction dueto lack of“scientific evidence” about thecauses of the sustainability crisis, or onlyproviding selectedinformation about the sustainabilitycrisis to children and high school studentsto “protect” them,detracts from moving towardsustainability.On the political level,developing sustainability should become an attractivechoice ratherthan a moral obligation. Moralpressures will only produce resentments and will notbe able tosustain long-lasting transformation.In fact, most likely they are counterproductive.48For the lack of literature on overcomingsocial denial, insights from the psychology of individualdenial mightbe used. For example, Esther Kübler-Ross’stages of coping, which are “denial, rage and anger,bargaining, depressionand finally acceptance,tm as proposed inher widely respected book On Death and Dying (1969), mightbe helpful parallelsfor understanding socialprocesses (1975:10). Of course, social denial is more complex: someparts of society profit fromthe denial while others pay for it.Also, in contrast to individual health or addiction-related denial,many socialtransformation processes do not take leapsand are far from homogeneous.59D. DEVELOPING SUSTAINABILITY:THE NEED FOR PLANNING TOOLS THAT CAN TRANSLATESUSTAINABILITY CONCERNS INTO EFFECTIVE ACTIONThese multiple facets of the sustainability crisis demonstrate the constraints andopportunities of the challenge. Understanding these facets and their connection becomes a firstplanning step toward sustainability. In other words, without prior “...recognition ofnecessities...” society will not be successful in establishing “ coercion, mutually agreedupon...”, the social contract for achieving sustainability (Hardin 1968/93:139). To develop sucha new social contract, new planning tools are needed that capture these sustainability concernsand help translate them into public action. To be productive and successful, such planning toolshave 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 oneof the essential conditions for ecological sustainability, and vice versa (Goodland & Daly1993) -- even though it is quite conceivable that not everybody can reach the standardof living, presently characterizing industrialized societies;•develop transparent, engaging and participatory decision-making processes which can copewith the pressures of the global economy and the hurdles of local institutions, and whichcan build and maintain mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon;• include and build on a wide scope of knowledge and stimulate critical thinking. These toolsmust sharpen the debate between conflicting assumptions and beliefs, and help cope withuncertainty, generality, and systemic relationships; and•provide mechanisms to overcome fear, social denial, inertia and other psychological stumblingblocks in the way of moving toward sustainability.60Clearly, the process of developing sustainability dependson a successful integration ofecological, economic and social policies in which economic success,social well-being andecological integrity become compatible (IJBC Task Force1994, Folke & Kâberger 1991b). Incontrast, addressing only one facet of the sustainability crisis while disregardingthe others couldbe counterproductive to the cause. For example, programswhich aim at increasing nature’sproductivity, but do not take into account socioeconomic or political concernshave been failingpainfully as in the case of large damming projects, nuclear power programsor “GreenRevolution” policies.Developing a planning tool for sustainability is the challenge that thisdissertation istaking on. A tool that can guide society from concern to action must help tounderstand theconstraints, frame the issues, allow transparent and authentic communication,and monitorprogress toward sustainability. As daunting as this task appears, there is already much literatureavailable that covers various aspects of such a planning tool.On the one hand, there isburgeoning 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,changeand transformation. These procedural aspects can be found in the areas of planningtheory,organizational theory and social activism (Carnal 1989, Carson 1990, Christensen 1985, Cooveret al. 1977/85, Forester 1989, Friedmann1987, Meadows et a!. 1992, Milbrath 1989, Theobald1987). The task now is to connect the parts.61ifi. ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINTOR APPROPRIATED CARRYINGCAPACITY:DEVELOPING A TOOLFOR PLANNING TOWARD SUSTAINABILITYPlanning tools assist societyin translating concerns into public action(Boucher 1993).This chapter presents the EcologicalFootprint or Appropriated Carrying Capacityconcept(EF/ACC), a new tool for planningtoward sustainability.A. THE CONCEPTUAL FOUNDATIONOF EF/ACCThe EF/ACC concept analyzes humanactivity from a biophysical perspectiveand startsfrom a recognition thathuman activities depend on theproductivity of natural capital. It ismotivated by the concern thatnatural capital is limited and thatthis capital’s draw-down reducesits productive capacity (Folke et a!.1994:5). The primary task of theEF/ACC tool becomes tomeasure natural capital and theflows that we draw from it. However, itsuse goes well beyondthe mere measurement ofthese constraints, as discussed below. Also,it draws on a rich historyof biophysical assessments and buildson parallel concepts that measure ecological constraints.1. ASSESSING NATURALCAPITALAs noted, “strong sustainability”requires that each generation must inherit anadequateper capita stock of essential biophysicalassets no less than the stock of such assetsinherited bythe previous generation (seeSection II. C .2). Now, the question arises howthis stock of essentialbiophysical assets can bemeasured.David Pearce et a!. identify three possibleapproaches to measuring naturalcapital --physical inventory, present valuationof stocks, and market prices (income flows). Theyfmallysettle for monetary measures on groundsthat constant physical capital wouldl•.be appealing62for renewable resources, but,clearly, has little relevance to exhaustible resources since anypositive rate of use reduces the stock...”(Pearce et al. 1990:10). This view needs to bechallenged. Using money values as a measurefor natural capital depletion can be misleading,not only because money is confused withmaterial and social wealth (Vogt 1948:64), but alsofor the six following reasons:’First, biophysical scarcity is hardly reflected inmarket prices (Hall 1992:109-110). Andeven if it was, it might not be useful to assessconstancy of natural capital stocks. According toneoclassical theory, the marginal priceof increasingly scarce resource commodities shouldincrease. If this neoclassical premiseis correct, rising prices (which should indicate increasedscarcity) could hold the incomefrom a particular natural capital stock constant, whilethe stockis actually in biophysicaldecline. Thus, constant money income may fosterthe illusion ofconstant stocks while physicalinventories actually shrink. Or in contrast, prices might fall(suggesting resource abundance)while the stock is being reduced in biophysical terms asillustrated by timber or fossil fuel pricesin the last twenty years (World Resources Institute1992:242). A prominent example of interpreting suchdeclining prices with resource abundanceis Harold Barnett and Chandler Morse’sstudy (1963).However, market prices do not describeabsolute biophysical scarcity, but rather thecommodity’s scarcity on themarket.2This market scarcity is only partially determined by theWhat follows is not an argument against monetaryanalysis per Se. Monetary analysis is crucial when developingbudgets, or when deciding whether to build a school, a hospitalor a theatre. Cash-flow strategies and a number of otherbusiness decisions are unthinkable without soundmonetary analysis. The point is, however, that monetary analysisisnot suitable for analyzingthe ecological facet of sustainability.2This confusion is also well illustrated by the well-publicizedbet between Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon in whichboth committed the error of confusing biophysical andmarket scarcity (flerny 1990).63biophysical 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 impactof biophysical scarcity on market prices is still small.4 Prices are therefore not a reliableyardstick for measuring sustainability.Second, monetary analyses are systematically biased against future values -- discountingmakes 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 futureproduction potentials, monetary wealth contains little information about long-term income andecological productivity.Third, another factor that diminishes the usefulness of monetary indicators for long-termassessments are the distortions from market fluctuations. Monetary wealth is subject toDavid Pearce et a!. show a partial agreement with the position presented. In spite of citing Ozdemiroglu’s paperon Measuring Natural Resources Scarcity: A Study ofthe Price Indicator (1993) and concluding that “...marketed naturalresources do not show evidence of any scarcity...”, they say earlier that “economists like to use prices as indicators ofscarcity, although there are technical disputes about the suitability of the indicator” (1993:6). They also state that”...thosewho object to a preoccupation with sustainability also tend to be ‘resource optimists’ ... [who] tend to point to evidenceof expanding resource discoveries and to declining trends in resource prices. But this evidence relates to resources thatare marketed, and these are not the focus of concern. So, while it may be comforting (only may be, since the evidenceis not conclusive) to observe no scarcity in some resources, it is hardly reassuring...” (1993:5). In addition, I wouldargue that not only the biophysical scarcity of non-market resources (such as air, climate, biodiversity) are of concernbut also the deterioration of market resources such as witnessed with the collapse of fish stocks, deforestation, declineof fossil fuel stocks etc.For example, of the 50 cents per litre payed for gasoline at the Vancouver gas station, less than four cents gotoward 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 theprocessing 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 governmentamount to about 15 to 30 percent of the gross production’s value, depending on the quantity of oil extracted and the ageof 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 $90a year to resource royalty payments -- very little compared to the total yearly operating costs of $7,400 (CanadianAutomobile Association, reported in The Vancouver Sun, August 3, 1994).64exogenous fluctuations of world market prices, while biophysical wealth such as ecologicallyproductive land in a region represents an endogenous factor of long-term food and resourcesecurity. Money reflects the economic strength of one region as compared to that of the worldeconomy, but does not reveal the ecological integrity of the natural capital underlying thiseconomy.Fourth, monetary analysis cannot distinguish between substitutable goods andcomplementary goods.5In the monetary balance sheet, all prices are added or subtracted as ifgoods that are priced the same would be of equal importance to human life, or as if they weresubstitutable. However, many services from nature are essential and therefore not commensuratewith 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 areneeded. And, even though the fish stock might be worth the same amount of dollars as sevenRolls 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 contrastto what Herman Daly and John Cobb (1989) suggest, because human-made goods depend onnatural services, while the opposite is not the case.Fifth, the potential for growth of money seems unlimited which obscures the possibilitythat there might be biophysical limits such as a global carrying capacity. To use Herman Daly’sH. Goeller and Alvin Weinberg’s claim that resources are infinitely substitutable is discussed in Chapter II.65metaphor, monetary assessments do not recognize the boat’s Plimsoll line, an indication of themaximum loading capacity of the boat. Pareto efficiency6-- the current measure of macroeconomic health -- ensures only that the ship sinks optimally and does not counteract the sinkingitself (Daly 1992).Sixth, an even more serious objection is that monetary measures say nothing at all aboutnature’s critical stocks and processes such as hydrological cycles, the ozone layer, CO2absorption, ecological thresholds, irreversibilities, or the health of whole ecosystems for whichthere 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 stockof essential biophysical assets can be assessed meaningfully only in biophysical terms.7 Theessential natural capital needs of an economy must, therefore, be understood as the biophysicalstocks required to produce the biophysical “goods and services” that this economy consumesfrom global flows to sustain itself without compromising future production. Building on SalahEl Serafy’s monetary argument (1988), this should also include the non-renewable energy6Pareto efficiency assumes that the optimizing principle must be “utility maximization” rather than minimizinghuman 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 theneoclassical assumption that natural and human-made capital are substitutable (1993:104). They claim that “. . .an economyis 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 poorestcountries in Africa lead the list of the unsustainable economies. Apart from the authors’ fallacious assumption ofsubstitutability, they also ignore that rich countries depreciate other countries’ natural capital stock, thereby preservingtheir own as demonstrated in the case of Japan or the Netherlands. Clearly, this study becomes another illustration ofthe 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 ecologicallybased economics...” (1993:106).66resources which can be usedsustainably only if, in compensation, anentropically equivalentamount of biophysical capitalis being accumulated. In otherwords, the biophysical capital tosustain a given material standardof living can be defined as the minimum per capita stockrequired to provide all theresources and waste sinks necessary, while simultaneouslymaintaining the functional integrity andproductivity of the stocks themselves. Itfollows that,rising material standards orincreasing population levels necessarily require correspondingincreases in available aggregate natural capitalstocks, something difficult to achieve in a “full”world.2. DEFINING EF/ACCPutting the “strong sustainability” principleto work hinges on finding a meaningfulbiophysical measurement unit for aggregatingthe various biophysical stocks or carrying capacityneeds of an economy. For thispurpose, this thesis further advances an ecologicalaccountingconcept that uses land area asits biophysical measurement unit8.This approach startsfrom theassumption that every major category ofconsumption or waste discharge requires the productiveor absorptive capacity of a finite area ofland or water (ecosystems). Adding up the landrequirement of all these categories provides anaggregate or total area which we call the“Ecological Footprint” of a defined economyon Earth.9 This area represents the carryingcapacity which is “appropriated”(or occupied) by that economy for providing thetotal flow ofgoods and services. Another namefor the Ecological Footprint is, therefore, the “AppropriatedCarrying Capacity” of the economy.More formally, this concept is defined as:8See 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 humanimpact on the ecosphere, and to buildupon related concepts in planning such as the urban or infrastructurefootprints,meaning the land area directly occupied by a particularstructure. Robert Cahn also used this metaphor for his 1978 bookFootprints on the Planet: A Search for an EnvironmentalEthic.67Definition: The Ecological Footprint or the AppropriatedCarrying Capacity (EF/ACC)is defined as the aggregate land (and water) area invarious categories required by the people ina defined regiona) to provide continuouslyall the resources and services they presently consume,’° andb) to absorb continuously all thewaste they presently dischargeusing prevailing technology.1’In other words, theEF/ACC of a population is the land whichis needed to exclusively produce the natural resourcesand services it consumes and to assimilatethe waste it generates indefinitely under present managementschemes.’2It is the land thatwould be required now on this planet to support thecurrent lifestyle forever.Conventionally, carrying capacity is defined as the “...maximalpopulation size of a givenspecies that an area can supportwithout reducing its ability to support the same species in thetu” (Daily & Ehrlich 1992:762).However, it is problematic to apply this definition tohuman beings living in a global economy, becauseregions are no longer isolated -- peopleconsume resources from all over the world. Indeed,economists regard trade flows as one wayto overcome the constraints on regional carryingcapacity imposed by local resource shortages.10Consumption refers to all the goods and services consumed bya household, as well as those goods and serviceswhich were consumed by government and businesses to providethat household’s goods and services.This definition can be expanded for other sustainabiity assessments.For example, EF/ACC, analyzed from theperspective of industrial production, can reveal how much carryingcapacity a region gives up to produce the exportsthat are required to pay for the imports.encompasses the consumption of renewable resources and of fossil energy as well as thehuman impactswhich reduce biological productivity. A complete EF/ACCanalysis would therefore include the additional land (andwater) area required to compensate for the loss of biologicalproductivity 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 thattheir use and production entail.However, as explained in Chapter IV, the current approach is stillleaving out some of these functions of nature tosimplify the calculation procedure. This makes the results underestimatethe land-area actually required -- withoutcompromising the tool’s heuristic value.68Furthermore, in contrast to animals, resource consumption by people is not fixed by theirbiology. While most animals do not consume much beyond their food, the bulk of people’smaterial consumption consists of non-food items such as energy or forestry products. This leadsto individual consumption levels that can vary by many orders of magnitude: the farm helpersin rural India might represent the lower extreme of the scale, board members of transnationalcompanies the upper echelon.For these reasons, the definition of EF/ACC is based on two modifications of theconventional conception of carrying capacity. The EF/ACC concept•does not just count people. Instead, it stands for the impact on nature of the aggregateconsumption by a population. After all, it is the total ecological impact(=population*per capita ecological impact) that counts, not population alone (Hoidren & Ehrlich1974); and,•is not based on “maximum yield” of a geographically fixed resource stock, but rather on thecurrent total consumption of nature’s services by a given population.3. THE ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT AND ITS CONCEPTUALANCESTORSBiophysical assessments of human needs and human dependence on nature have a longhistory. Certainly, there must be several thousand year old oral tales about the relationshipbetween people and land. David Durham traces the concept of carrying capacity back to Plato’sLaws, Book V, where the latter stated that a:suitable total for the number of citizens cannot be fixed without considering the laud and the neighbouringstates. The land must be extensive enough to support a given number of people in modest comfort, and not afoot more is needed (in Durham 1994:4).69According to William Ophuls and Stephen Boyen, early Christian and Chinese scholarsalso worried about the destruction of habitat (1992:12-13). The first scholarly book onsustainable practice in the English language might be John Evelyn’s Sylva: A Discourse ofForestTrees 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 increasingthe 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 theproductivity of land and wealth creation is discussed. Since then, many scholars have developedconceptual approaches and accounting procedures to analyze the relationship between people andnature. Some have focused on an analysis of energy flows within the economy (e.g., Jevons1865, Podolinsky 1880, Sacher 1881, Boltzmann 1886 [the last three in Martinez-Alier 1987],Lotka 1925, Georgescu-Roegen 1971, 1980). Others have examined economies from theperspective of carrying capacity or land-use requirements (e.g., Malthus 1798, Jevons1865,13Pfaundler 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), Hedge13Apart from analyzing the role of energy in society, Jevons also described the concept underlying EF/ACC in his1865 classic The Coal Question:The plains of North America and Russia are our corn-fields; Chicago and Odessa our granaries; Canada andthe Baltic are our timber-forests; Australasia contains our sheep-farms, and in Argentina and on the westernprairies of North America are our herds of oxen; Peru sends her silver, and the gold of South Africa andAustralia flows to London; the Hindus and the Chinese grow tea for us, and our coffee, sugar and spiceplantations 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 extendedeverywhere in the warm regions of the earth (1865/1965:411).70McCoid 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), theseconcerns reentered the public debate and have not vanished since.15Today, the debate on howto make human activities sustainable is shaped by two camps: the “Limits to Growth” advocatesand the “Growth of Limits” advocates. The latter position is probably best represented by JulianSimon and Herman Kahn who claim that:.because of increases in knowledge, the earth’s “carrying capacity” has been increasing throughout the decadesand 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 SIBLINGSThere are a growing number of biophysical approaches that try to measure humanimpacts in order to understand the ecological constraints and to measure progress towardsustainability (Callenbach 1990, Herendeen 1994, Stead & Stead 1992). These assessments areincreasingly prominent in the political debate, but have not yet been able to successfullychallenge the decision-makers’ monetary focus. This section provides a brief overview of the14Agro-economist Juan Martinez-Alier (1987) provides a fascinating history of this debate spanning from 1865(Jevons’ The Coal Question) to the 1940’s.15For a discussion of the impact of this debate on social theory and political ideology see Redclift (1987:7-12,37-51) or Paehlke (1989).71nine major biophysical approaches and compares them to the EF/ACC concept.1) Human carrying capacity studies analyze the capacity of regions to support humanactivity. 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 PhilipFearnside’s probabilistic approach on ecosystem viability for supporting human activity in theAmazon forest (1986).These studies are useful to assess whether particular activities can be sustained by localecosystems. However, to understand the linkage between the global ecology and a regionaleconomy, this traditional carrying capacity concept can be misleading. An example is DavidPearce’s perspective, which attempts to analyze the relationship between economic performanceand the resource base by, similar to Daily and Ehrlich’s perspective (1992), measuring “...themaximum number of people or families that could be supported on the basis of the knownresource base...” (1987:259). However, in general, explaining the urgency and scale of aresource 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 withexceeded local carrying capacity, would be too simplistic to describe many economies.Hongkong, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, to name only a few, exceed byfar their carrying capacity, while belonging to the economically most prosperous countries onEarth.ii) Resource accounting or environmental accounting was pioneered by the Norwegiangovernment in 1974, and followed by the French government in 1978 (Pearce 1989:95, Theys721989:40-53). Resource accounts require an annual inventory and statistical analysis of a vastarray of resources including minerals, biochemical stocks, fluxes (solar radiation, hydrologicalcycles, wind) and space (Friend 1993). However, these accounts do not suggest an interpretationof the data. Also, it is not evident which aspects of nature should be included in these accountsand which are, or can be left out. On the one hand, it is not feasible (nor possible) to accountfor everything, and on the other hand, not all life-supporting functions of nature are known orunderstood. Therefore, “...the use to which these [accounts] can be put, in terms of economicanalysis 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.TOdum 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, Smil1991, 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 factthat, 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 thedependence 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 whenanalyzing potentials for CO2 emission reductions (Hofstetter 1991, Smith 1993).However, more general economic analysis based on energy might struggle with problemssimilar 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’73assumption that energy is the proper common denominator of all resource scarcity is likewiseunrealistic...” (Daly & Umafia 1980:167). Moreover, those studies that trace all energy flowback to solar radiation (as for example done “with eMergy”) focus on a factor that is not itselflimiting. The key limiting factor for human life is the biochemical energy that can beaccumulated by the (living) ecosphere, not the sun-light that falls on Earth. For example, onelittle plant that might be the only organism growing on one hectare of the Sahara desert isprobably ecologically as well as economically less “significant” than one hectare of tropicalforest, even both receive the same solar input.iv) Environmental impact assessments (ETA) evaluate whether the ecological impact ofa new project is acceptable. Over the past 20 years, ETA has grown to become the majorproactive environmental policy instrument in North America, though, it has arguably had littlesuccess in stopping environmental deterioration. This failing can be attributed to weaknessessuch as ETA’s:•one-shot, short-term structure at the end of the planning stage rather than one which monitorsor evaluates the projects on an ongoing basis;• project by project approach which generally ignores cumulative effects in a regional or globalcontext; and•fragmented and often discretionary self-assessments (that at best have followed guidelines andare now being instituted by law) as opposed to having transparent assessments conductedaccording to ecologically informed procedures by third parties (Rees 1980, 1990d).16v) State-of-Environment indicators (or sustainability indicators, as they are sometimes16For a more generous formulation of the same criticism, see David Lawrence (1994).74called) document the state and trend of various quantifiable environmental variables such as DDTaccumulation in egg yolk, amount of waste generated, or total land area protected. Indicatorsbased on scientific measurements enjoy widespread public credibility even though the pollutionstandards 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’sand 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 activitiesto the integrity of the biosphere.” Second, by providing various sets of indicators on a multitudeof aspects, they fragment the issues related to sustainability. This could weaken a morecomprehensive and systemic understanding of the sustainability Ecological efficiency refers to the ratio of services received to ecological impactcaused. This impact includes the service’s embodied resource input as well as the capacity for17The G-7 initiative to develop such indicators was put forward by Brian Mulroney at the meeting in Paris in 1989.18There are many more organizations working on sustainability indicators, including: Statistics Canada; theCanadian National Round Table; the Ontario Round Table; the World Resource Institute; the Woridwatch Institute; thefederal 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 andCobb (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 ofsocial indicators.75absorbing the corresponding waste19 accumulated over the entire life cycle. Manystudiesidentify improving ecological efficiency as a key strategy for achievingsustainability (WCED1987:215-2 16, Schmidheiny 1992:37-39, Koechlin & Muller 1992:36-39). To measureecologicalefficiency, various approaches have been developed. One is the increasingly common“life cycleanalysis” (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,Stahel1991, Suter & Hofstetter 1989, Tötsch & Polack 1992). Another approach is the “MaterialIntensity per Service Unit” (MIPS) developed by Friedrich Schmidt-Bleek atthe WuppertalInstitute (Fresenius Environmental Bulletin 1993, Schmidt-Bleek 1993, Weizsäcker 1994).Ecological efficiency is useful for comparing similar technologies on their ecologicalimpacts, but it is not sufficient for determining the sustainability of a technology perSe. Afterall, the total impact depends not only on the impact per unit but also on the number of unitsconsumed. Other wealcnesses of this method include the dependence on detailed data that becomeobsolete quickly due to fast changes in production technologies. Also, thecomparison betweenthe results of such studies can be hampered by incompatible and poorly definedanalyticalsystems boundaries (Bringezu 1993). However, these studies are helpful for informingEF/ACCanalyses.vii) Regional metabolism studies trace the stocks and flows of resources withina region.Studies include (Newcombe et al. 1978, Baccini & Brunner 1991, Wailner& Narodoslawsky1994). Ken Newcombe et al. trace the “...flow and end-use of energy and othermaterials in19Typically, 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 releaseof that product’s or service’s waste.76Hong 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 PeterBaccini and Paul Brunner’s study is primarily to better understand heavy metal cycles and theirfuture pollution potentials, while Peter Waliner and Michael Narodoslawsky developed theirstudy to facilitate the closing of material cycles within regions, thereby creating “Islands ofSustainability” (1994, 1994) Closing resource cycles would become a practical attempt to reducea 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 andconsumption patterns, and calculate trends under different scenarios. Further studies includeMesarovic and Pestel (1974), ROBBERT Associates (1990/1992), Robinson et a!. (1990-1994)and Shaw (1993). Educational software packages such as SIMCITYTMor SIMEARTHTMfromMaxis Software use similar approaches to provide players with an opportunity to experimentwith complex systems. However, these computer models’ high level of sophistication dependson large quantities of data, on a precise understanding of the mechanisms and connections, andan 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 compromiseon the model’s transparency and flexibility which are both essential to engage people and to gainthe public’s political support.ix) Ecological space studies translate ecological impacts into a land-use area, Thisapproach is closest to that of the EF/ACC concept. Some studies only focus on agricultural landappropriation (Gerster 1987:159, Thiede in Redcliff 1987:93). Others are more comprehensive,including Wouter de Groot (1992:273-282), Giampietro and Pimentel (1991), and Overby77(1985). Jim MacNeill and his colleaguesacknowledge that industrialized countries “...breath,drink, feed, and work on the ecologicalcapital of their ‘hinterland,’ which also receives theiraccumulated waste...” and call it a country’s“shadow ecology” (199 1:58).Closely related to the Ecological Footprint conceptsare 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 atindustrial processes and not at entireeconomies. Environmental Space, however, is similar toEF/ACC in its scope, but doesnot aggregate all of the human demands on nature into an oneland use area, but provides separate indicators forvarious aspects such as agricultural land andforestry, fossil energy, and non-renewableores. Also, it focuses on resource availability ratherthan on resource appropriation. And, by specifyingthe limits in resource flows, rather than inareas which are necessary to produce these flows,this Environmental Space approach might getexposed to criticism from technological optimists whoclaim a potential for increasing ecologicalproductivity.B. THE HVE RATIONALES FOR EF/ACC1. ECOLOGICAL RATIONALEA meaningful portrayal of naturalcapital must be the starting point of any tool forplanning toward sustainability. Such a tool mustadequately represent key functions of thebiosphere and their role for humanlife. The EF/ACC tool uses land area as a proxy for manyimportant forms of natural capital. As discussedbelow, land is used as it represents theecosystems and their photosynthetic productivity, andthereby the essence of natural capital. In78particular, measuring natural capital in terms of land areas is appropriateas it captures Earth’sfmite nature, and as its capacity to support photosynthesis reflects the twobasic thermodynamiclaws and other ecological principles.i) Liebig’s Law and the competing uses of nature: In any systemand process, thereare always some necessary factors in limited supply that prohibitfurther expansion orproduction. This fundamental ecological insight is called “Liebig’s Law”2°and led originallyto the use of industrial fertilizers in agriculture. For example, if plant growth is stuntedby thelack of potash, fertilizing with potash alone will boost plant growth. The crop can nowcontinueto grow and to access more of all its required nutritive substances until some otherfactorsbecome limiting; the next limiting factor for this crop might be water,so still higher productionwill need irrigation, etc.Similarly, if available supplies of one factor or service are committedto one thing, theycannot be used for something else. For example, a city that draws water from the adjacentecosystems might compromise productivity in these ecosystems, as witnessed in the conflictbetweenagricultural and residential water-use in California. Or, the effluent of a city might compromisethe fishing in that area. Air pollution can compromise the use of waterfor human consumption,as observed in Chilliwack BC. In essence, this shows that the various uses of natureare incompetition. One use of a source, or a sink, may prohibit another use of thatsource or sink.Particularly, pollution and contamination issues have demonstrated that the over-use ofnaturalcapital sinks may destroy their potential as sources.20In 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 ofvarious plantnutrients ranging from superabundant to undersupplied. He found that “it is by the minimum thatthe [growth of] cropsare governed” (Liebig 1863:207).79To 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 differenthuman uses and activities converted into land areas makes the ecological impacts of these usescomparable and permits us to add them up. This cumulative impact approach illustrates how thevarious ecological concerns add further stress onto the ecosphere, and that these concerns arelinked. In other words, all the different human uses and functions of nature -- such as: providingwater, food and fibres; maintaining biodiversity (out-crowding of species and the reduction ofwild life habitat); absorbing waste; or, providing living space for human beings -- are incompetition with each other; they are not fragmented independent activities.2’Accounting forthe 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 capacityof the globe. Other uses draw down nature’s assets. However, to the consumer of goods andservices, it is not clear whether these goods and services were produced from the interest ofnatural capital (or the natural income) or from depleting the principal. Examples are the harvestsfrom overexploited fisheries and forests, agricultural products from land that is being degradedby its use (erosion, salination, etc.), and the draw down on fossil fuels. Living on the principalcan be interpreted as living on illusionary or “phantom” carrying capacity (Catton 1980:28-21Of course, not all uses of nature are in absolute competition with each other. Many traditional agricultures havedeveloped growing systems that allowed various uses of the same space. And indeed, this is also the intention of newermanagement regimes. Clearly, the current linear approach of using land to feed people in the city, and then use anotherecosystem to absorb the corresponding human waste could be improved if the ecological cycles were closed and thehuman waste (in some sterilized form) would be brought back to the agricultural land. In fact, this would be one wayof reducing our Ecological Footprint. This shows how the EF/ACC concept also represents the difference between linearand circular ecological and material flows in the biosphere.8030,34278)•flLiving on illusionary carrying capacity could makepeople assume that nature’sproductivity is higher than it actuallyis. An example is the buffalo hunting in the NorthAmerican prairies that drove a seemingly abundantresource into sudden and unexpected near-extinction (Ponting 1992:174-175),or, more timely, the recent collapse of the East Coast codfishery.Today, less land is actually used to provide all of nature’sservices than if they wereprovided on a sustainable basis because the currentharvest of many resources exceeds thesustainable yields of the land and is based in parton natural capital liquidation. In other words,the Ecological Footprint is larger than the landthat is currently in production. However, futuregenerations (starting from right now)will have to pay dearly for the temporary transgression oflocal and global long-term carrying capacity: notonly will they have to satisfy the needs of anincreased population, but also they will be endowedwith reduced ecological productivity of theEarth’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/ACCconsistent with the first and second lawof thermodynamics. In fact, compared to energyflux (or even Odum’s solar income), land isa more appropriate indicator toreflect both energy constancy (first law), by accounting for thesolar energy income of a particular area, and energyquality (second law), by the qualitative andquantitative bioproductivity of that area. In contrast,energy accounting only encompasses energy22Catton defines “phantom carrying capacity” as “...illusoryor extremely precarious capacity of an environmentto support a life form or a way of life. [The phantom carryingcapacity refers to] that proportion of a population thatcannot be permanently supported when temporarily availableresources become unavailable...” (Catton 1980:278).23For a history of similar events see Ponting’s chapter on “TheRape of the World” (1992:161-193).81constancy.As the availability of biochemical energy has become the limiting factor for economicactivities, it must become the focus for accounting, not embodied solar energy. For example,Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain suggest that indicators for national wealthor income shouldmove 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 theenvironment...” (in Carley et a!. 1992:45, see also Agarwal & Narain 1992:72-74). Inotherwords, what counts is the solar flux onto the land multiplied by the photosynthetic net efficiencyof land, which averages about 0.3 percent (Smil1991:324).24The attributes of land, however,go even beyond the two laws of thermodynamics. Land also represents life and can be seen asa proxy for certain life-support functions such as rain collection, exchanges of gases, wasteabsorption, biogeochemical cycling, self-production and renewal, or link between and nutritionalbasis for organisms. In short, land supports photosynthesis which is the basis of all food chainsof the fauna, and thereby suspends the ecosphere, which is “...a highly improbable, far-from-equilibrium, self-producing, dynamic, steady-state system, ... [far] above thermodynamicdeath...” (Rees 1994c: 10).For this reason, airsheds are not accounted for in this calculation model because air ismainly a carrier facilitating energy and matter flows, but nota source of primary ecologicalproduction. In fact, all life in the air feeds on food chains which originatein water or land basedphotosynthesis.24Ecosystems’ photosynthetic efficiency can be anywhere between zero and 2 percent, while the peak fieldefficiency could reach as high as 5 percent (Smil 1991:324).82iii) The finiteness of the planet. In contrast to (solar)energy or money, land is finite,25and its total amount can easily be measured. Therefore,land is a good representation of planetEarth’s finite nature. Indeed, the surface of the Earth is51 billion hectares, and cannotbeexpanded.26 In total, 17 billion of them are terrestrial,only 8.9 of them being ecologicallyproductive (Wright 1991:293, World Resources Institute 1992:262).Actually, the total amountof ecologically productive land on the globe has beenin steady decline, by approximatelyonehalf percent in area since the end of the 1970’s (WorldResources 1992:262), and probablymorein productive capacity.iv) Human dependence: “no planet, no profit”. The finitecharacter of land reflectsmore realistically the biophysical wealth (or capital) onwhich humanity has to live than energyor money can. Because the EF/ACC concept providesa measure to contrast current ecologicalproduction with current economic consumption, it indicates whetherthere is ecological room foreconomic expansion, and if not, how economic expansionmight affect the natural capital stock.The concept also underscores the need foradequate stocks of renewable and replenishablenatural capital as a necessary conditionfor a humane existence; in other words, forsustainability.More particulary, EF/ACC helps to determine the ecologicalconstraints within whichsociety operates, to set political benchmarks to avoid further ecologicalovershoot, and tomonitor progress towards becoming sustainable. EF/ACCprovides a measure of current (or25With the notable exception of the Dutch. However, they have abandonedthe project. On Nevertheless, it wouldbe interesting to analyze how many years it takes for that re-claimedland with its new ecological productivity to pay backthe invested resources required to establish this land(the lost productivity of the sea should be deducted too).26The Earth’s diameter is about 12,700 [1cm] (or 40,000 [km] Ijr). Hence, its surface comes to ir*(diameter)2= 510 million [1cm2]or 51 billion hectares.83expected future) economic consumption against which to contrast current (or likely future)ecological production, thereby revealing a “sustainability gap” or the overshoot of local (andglobal) carrying capacity by industrialized societies (Rees & Wackemagel 1994).2. SOCIOECONOMIC RATIONALEThe Ecological Footprint not only represents ecological constraints but can also informon 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 socialand economic conflicts, and as a concept to link ecological and economic understanding.i) An ecological yardstick. Similar to monetary currencies, EF/ACC permits us tocompare different activities on the same scale. In fact, it provides a yardstick for measuring thenatural capital requirement of various activities, processes or technologies. This yardstick canbe applied to any level of analysis, be it a single activity, an individual, a household, a city, aregion, a country or the entire globe. However, in contrast to monetary currencies, theecological yardstick only focuses on the ecological aspects and does not provide a comparisonof ecological impacts with social or economic ones. Focusing on the ecological constraintsseparately is consistent with the “strong sustainability” interpretation which maintains that thenatural 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 naturalcapital’s income is necessary to provide a given service), and ecological dependence (how muchnatural 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 ofcurrent practices and bio-chemical flows.84EF/ACC’s yardstick can help to determine whether the decoupling of the economy frombiophysical resource throughput (or qualitative growth, how some call it) is taking place (seeChapter VII). It can also test whether economic and technological efficiency gains havedecreased or increased a particular economy’s Ecological Footprint.ii) Social and economic conflicts. Analyzing the relationship between an economy andits resource requirements from the EF/ACC perspective enables people to understand not onlyecological but also socioeconomic impacts of current economic activities, and allows them toexplore the forces and mechanisms that are threatening to liquidate global resource assets. Bydemonstrating that natural capital has become the limiting factor for resource dependent humanactivities, it shows how certain economic activities by one group preempt other group’sactivities, now or in the future. EF/ACC reveals the extent to which wealthy people andcountries have already “appropriated” the productive capacity of the ecosphere through bothcommercial trade and unaccounted demands on open access source and sink functions. Thispoints to potential conflicts between and within societies.By putting economic development in the context of ecological constraints, it alsochallenges the most basic assumptions of growth-oriented international development models asexemplified by the Hong Kong, Japanese or Swiss post-war development paths, which othercountries so desperately try to imitate. By showing that Pareto efficiency might not necessarilybe the limiting factor for future economic development, and that societies may already have runout of “elsewheres” that can compensate for their ecological deficits, EF/ACC analyses put lighton the need to shift policy priorities from economic growth to equity and quality of lifeconsiderations.85In a global economy, where exponentially increasing demandsare competing fordwindling resources, it is in the self-interest of any economy to analyze its current andfutureresource requirements and to compare them with the productivity of theresource stocks to whichit has jurisdiction or permanent access. In other words, the question iswhether the people ofan economy will be able to continue to appropriate enough carryingcapacity to satisfy theirresource needs in the future, a constraint with which any economy will haveto cope in the longrun.iii) Ecological economics. The EF/ACC concept can inform efforts to link ecologicalandeconomic understanding. Most importantly, EF/ACC highlights theecological andthermodynamic basis of economic processes. It does this not only withina theoreticalframework, but also in practical applications as is shown in Chapter V. EF/ACCrecognizesproductive natural capital as the basis or pre-condition for human-made wealth.Morespecifically, by distinguishing between available and total appropriated productivity fromnature,EF/ACC can distinguish between sustainable natural incomeand non-sustainable natural incomewhich is used as the economic input -- a distinction that conventional economic analysisdoes notprovide, but which is essential for maintaining natural capital.27 In other words, EF/ACCaddsan understanding of the functioning and throughput requirements of society’s respiratoryanddigestive system, while economic analyses of circular flows (suchas System of National Accountapproaches) only inform about society’s cardio-vascular system (Daly1993:56).27Neoclassical economist John R. Hicks provided a useful definitions of sustainableincome, saying that “thepurpose of income calculation in practical affairs is to give people an indication of the amount which theycan consumewithout impoverishing themselves” (1946:171). Economists have used this definition to determinethe maximum levelof monetary income flows that can be maintained without diminishing the monetary capital stock. Similarly, todeterminethe sustainable natural income from a “strong sustainability” perspective, Hicks’ perspective must be appliedto naturalcapital.86The EF/ACC concept is complementary to, and compatible with, manyeconomicanalyses. EF/ACC analyses can provide an account of the embodied servicesfrom nature at anystage in the circular flow of money. In other words, they estimate how much ofnature’sbiophysical productivity (or carrying capacity) is necessary to provide allthe consumed goods.Or, if the economy is analyzed from a production perspective ratherthan the consumptionperspective, it reveals how much of nature’s productivity is necessaryto generate the valueadded to pay for the consumed goods.28 EF/ACC can also cover blind spots ofmonetaryanalysis when effects of biophysical scarcity, long range discounting,unsustainable harvests, orresource dependence need to be interpreted. Thereby, EF/ACC analysispromotes the necessaryshift from unsustainable consumption of to investment in natural capital,a key requirement fordeveloping sustainability.Furthermore, EF/ACC gives economic stability a new ecological dimension:it helpspeople realize that uninterrupted access to the required “carrying capacity”(the continuity ofresource flows and waste sinks) is a precondition for anystable economy. Also, EF/ACCencourages the extension of traditional economic cost/benefitand marginal analyses to the macrolevel. Recognition of the economy’s biophysical requirementsand constraints forcesconsideration of the cumulative effects of growth, the notion of optimalscale, the ecologicalimpact of trade and particular technologies, and the implications ofecological inequities at theregional, national, and global levels.28An example would be to analyze how much bioproductivity a staple economy gives up through exports topayfor their industrial imports (which in return represent embodied bioproductivity, but of course, much lessper dollar thanstaple goods).873. POLITICAL RATIONALEThe Ecological Footprint assists political-decision making in two ways. It providesexplicit 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 meansto monitor progresstoward sustainabiity, thereby helping to build agreement on, and support for, action.i) Ethical questions. EF/ACC emphasizes the material and energy dependence of humanbeings on Earth’s “web of life.” EF/ACC shows how the human economy is inseparable fromthose 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 theexistence of biophysical limits and the realization that people’s uses of nature are competing, itraises pertinent social and economic questions. For example, it forces over-consumers to facethe otherwise hidden trade-off made between their own consumption levels and the poverty andhuman suffering that results somewhere else.By making these trade-offs visible, it questions whether the biophysical limits mean thatnot everybody in the world can have a decent life, or whether equity and redistribution shouldtake precedence over economic efficiency and expansion. By quantifying both intra- andinter-generational inequities and showing that not everyone can become as materially rich astoday’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 inbargaining for development rights, technology transfers, and other equity measures. EF/ACCassessments might therefore strengthen the case for international agreement on how to share theEarth’s productive capacity more equitably and how to use it more carefully.88Apart from the socioeconomic dilemma, the EF/ACC perspective also challenges thepredominant extensionist perspective about humanity’s right to appropriate a large percentageof nature’s bio-productivity29while being only one of several million species living on theplanet.The way that people perceive nature (i.e., their woridview or value system) influenceshow 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 thecase. In fact, in Europe, it was not until about 1100 AD that land became a commodity (Ponting1992:154). 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 thereverse. For example, in the case of the Quichua in Eastern Ecuador, the Maasai and theSamburu of Kenya, and the Tribal Filipinos, Davis Shelton summarizes the relationship of thesepeoples to the land as follows:Indigenous peoples -- in contrast to the Western economists and development planners -- do not view the landas 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 industrialmarket economy -- is that land is a substance endowed with sacred meanings, embedded in social relations andfundamental to the definition of a people’s existence and identity. Similarly, trees, plants, animals and fishwhich inhabit the land are highly personal beings (many times a “kinship” idiom is used to describe thesebeings) which form part of their social and spiritual universe. This close attachment to the land and theenvironment is the defining characteristics of indigenous peoples; it is what links together, in a philosophicaland 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 reflects29As a reminder: Peter Vitousek eta!. suggested in 1986 that human activities appropriated over 40 percent of theterrestrial Net Primary Productivity. As pointed out in Chapter V, this figure might actually be over 100 percent iffurther functions of nature are included.89these peoples’ respect for and commitment to living within local carrying capacity. However,when people think that land belongs to them, local carrying capacity constraints becomeirrelevant to their decision-malcing as they can expand their land base or can start to appropriateextraregional carrying capacity. For this task, economic purchasing power or military force isused. Many of the “great civilizations” such as Rome, the Ottoman Empire, the Europeancolonial empires, as well as today’s China (in Tibet), Morocco (West Sahara) and Indonesia (inEast Timor) -- to name a few -- are prominent examples of military based extraregionalappropriators of carrying capacity, while modem industrial countries (and past and modem citystates) rely mainly on appropriation through purchasing power.While revealing important relationships and dependences, EF/ACC’s ethical positionremains anthropocentric -- similar to the “constant natural capital” criterion (see footnote 45 inChapter 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. Eventhough some people argue for other species’ intrinsic right to exist, using this anthropocentricperspective might be more effective because it reflects the common denominator of today’sindustrial societies, thereby facilitating communication. Nevertheless, it provides for otherspecies to the extent that their maintenance reduces risks to human(e) survival.ii) A transparent and simple framework for planning toward sustainabifity. TheEF/ACC concept provides a simple framework for understanding the ecological bottom-line ofsustainability. Putting sustainability in simple and concrete terms helps to build commonunderstanding, and sets a framework for action. For example, EF/ACC gives decision-makersa physical criterion for ranking policy, project, or technology options according to their impacton ecological sustainability.90Making the sustainability challenges more transparentby providing explicit objectives,spelling out the assumptions, andproviding a reproducible method, stimulates the public debate.This shows EF/ACC’s potential as an awareness and communicationtool between people whichcould assist planning tasks and the willingness tosupport change toward sustainability. Withoutfeedback and monitoring, planning is doomed to fail.Until now, there were no clear yardsticksto measure progress in ecologicalterms when planning toward sustainability. However, theEF/ACC tool, and its procedure for assessing naturalcapital consumption, can be used as aproxy for measuring progress towards ecological integrity, apre-condition for sustainability.Furthermore, EF/ACC underscores the global imperativefor local action. It demonstratesan inter-regional ecological multipliereffect of industrial levels of consumption on the welfareof human populations and other species everywhere.By exploring the contribution of bothpopulation and material consumption to global ecological decline,EF/ACC emphasizes the needfor policies to control both, and provides a tool to assessthe success of particular technologiesto alleviating this dilemma.4. EPISTEMOLOGICAL RATIONALEThe EF/ACC concept organizes andinterprets information without getting lost ininsignificant details. As explained in the followingsections, it does this by using land as anaccounting unit, by making links between issuesrather than fragmenting them, and by providinginterpretations of the constraints rather than developing deterministicpredictions.91i) Accounting. EF/ACC provides a simple accountingmodel for ecological services. Formost accounting purposes money is used because,being fully convertible, it is the limitingfactor3°for many of people’s activities.31 Also the constancyof monetary units (i.e., they donot change spontaneously over time) allows us tokeep track of capital stocks and flows bysimply adding incomes and subtracting expenditures.However, because monetary approachesare not suitable for sustainability assessments, as discussedabove, EF/ACC uses land areas asthe accounting unit. Fortunately, in this context, land hassimilar qualities as money. In a “full”world, ecologically productive land is also a limiting factor,and land areas remain constant overtime (even though its productivity might decline or improve); andin fact, as mentioned above,for the last 45 years, approximately half a percentof the ecologically productive land area wasdegraded per year [Oldeman in Postel 1994:10]).In contrast to money, land accounts for only the ecological serviceson which human lifedepends, not for social and economicnecessities. When planning for sustainability, thislimitation might actually be interpreted as an advantage overmonetary convertibility, becausethe ecological condition for strong sustainabilitymust be met independently of the othersustainability conditions. In fact, convertibility might temptthe human mind to see prospects fortrading off one objective for another one.30This might be regarded as an application of Liebig’s Law of the Minimum totheory building. However completea theory or model purports to be, it cannot includeeverything about reality. By definition, every model is nothing buta simplification or interpretation of a more complexreality. However, to be effective at conveying the essence of reality,models must incorporate the limiting factor which determines thebehaviour of that particular reality in that particularcontext. Good theory finds a balance between inclusiveness and effective simplification.Effective models are simple toapply, but are “good enough” to capture the essence. Forexample, the human body temperature is a good variable todescribe the health of the human body. The theory that “temperatures over 36.7 Celsius are bad” is anenormoussimplification, but a highly operational one — i.e., the theory is for most cases “good enough.”31While humanity’s activities as a whole are limited by natural capital, the individual’s apparent constraintis hisor her purchasing power.92ii) Connection of issues. Land connects most of the ecological issues that humanity isfacing. Land-use conflicts and out-crowding of other species is one obvious manifestation. Butalso, pollution and contamination have an impact on land. Milder forms of pollution andcontamination make the harvest from such land less desirable for human consumption, whileheavy contamination could significantly harm any kind of life on that and adjacent land. Watershortages might lead to salination of agricultural land, wind erosion or desertification. Also,increasedUVBradiation due to ozone depletion might stunt photosynthetic productivity, whichthen would increase the EF/ACC if consumption remains constant (see Chapter IV). C02-induced climate change might lead to a flooding of productive land closeto the shore anddestroy ecosystem productivity through desertification or through rapid changes in averagetemperatures and climatic patterns. This shows why EF/ACC comprehensively covers andconnects these various threats to ecosystem health -- even cumulative impacts.The EF/ACC approach is also conservative: it underestimates the amount of nature thatis required to sustain a given lifestyle with prevailing technology. First, it assumes an industrialmode of land-use,32 and assumes that this land-use is sustainable, which it is not (see ChapterV). Second, EF/ACC leaves out many of nature’s functions, due to conceptual difficulties andlack 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 currenttrends or predict future paths of society. And it does not advocate determinism. In fact, EF/ACC32The 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 lessmeaningful when comparing, for example, a Vancouver citizen with a traditional Innuit, because their consumption stemsfrom 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.93provides a coarse ecological picture of what is happening today in light of prevailing technologyand management regimes. This means that EF/ACC is descriptive rather than prescriptive. Adescriptive approach helps to acknowledge constraints and to stimulate development of realisticoptions and choices. The tool does not predetermine whether it is possible to decouple economicactivities from ecological throughput because of improved technology. But it provides a yardstickto test the claims and asks necessary questions. This simple yardstick makes EF/ACC a heuristictool for understanding issues and their connections to other concerns. By providing a frameworkfor comparisons, it assists practitioners and activists to judge sustainability strategies and toprepare for public action.In contrast to traditional research approaches, the EF/ACC concept does not require newdata but provides a new interpretation of old data. Rather than building an understanding of thewhole by adding up detailed specificities of distinctive issues, EF/ACC starts from the macroperspective, and becomes more detailed in the further steps. Key is to frame the issues andunderstand the magnitude or scale of the concerns. EFIACC does not focus primarily on preciseestimates, but on conceptual accuracy that is measured with sufficient precision. In the firstplace, the concept should help us to think about, and conceptualize the implications of, humanimpacts rather than provide us a technical tool to manage them. By focusing on accuracy ratherthan precision, EF/ACC depicts macroscopic and systemic relationships rather than singled-outcause-effect correlations. However, whether the EFIACC concept is either too simplistic to besufficiently accurate in visualizing the magnitude of the issue and to support the heuristic valueof the tool, or too complex to be effectively utilizable, can only be concluded after testingvarious applications.945. PSYCHOLOGICAL RATIONALETo make the EF/ACC concept useful for getting people interested in sustainability andmotivating them to actively participate, it must reach out and cater to the psychological needsof the audiences and actors. This means it must stimulate active and engaging education. It mustalso be in resonance with people’s experiences and encourage inter-active communication.i) Education. A major purpose of the EF/ACC concept is to provide an educational toolto enhance people’s understanding of their fundamental dependence on nature’s services,including resources, waste absorption and life-support services. Furthermore, it underscorestemporal and spatial interdependence of all living things, adding a practical plank to theextensionist platform for granting moral standing to non-human species.By using an heuristic approach for communicating the sustainability concept, it aggregatescomplex information into a single, easily understood ecological indicator: ecologically productiveland. With land as a measurement unit, the finite reality of the biosphere can be translated intoconcrete everyday experiences, such as sizes of city blocks, football fields and parks. It can alsolink the experiences of personal consumption to more abstract concepts such as global limits.ii) Communication. Also, EF/ACC tries to bring forward the sustainability dilemmasin a non-threatening way, and much effort has been put into effective communication for variousaudiences through the use of graphics and appropriate language. Also, it should help people torealize that sustainability is first of all about one-self, not about what others should do.Certainly, much more needs to be done to make the concept even more accessible. Possiblestrategies might be to use other modes of communication (including experiential learning),develop new angles and examples of the concept, simplify the images and concepts, or present95it in an uplifting tone.In conclusion, the EF/ACC concept addresses all five facets of the sustainability crisissimultaneously and points the way to positive choices. EF/ACC is not a doomsday concept inwhich society is condemned to collapse because of ecological overshoot. On the contrary, thistool attempts to help society to avoid collapse and to move towards sustainability. EF/ACC isa tool that allows people to compare and rank development options according to their ecologicalimpact. It assists in choosing those technologies or policies which can perform a certain task (orservice) with the smallest Ecological Footprint -- or better, within the available natural capitalbudget. By contrast, prevailing analyses ignore ecological constraints, and development policydecisions are informed (at best) by cost/benefit and other monetary considerations alone. In thesecircumstances, currently introduced technologies or policies might well increase resourceconsumption per capita, rather than decrease it.961V. DEVELOPING A CALCULATIONPROCEDURE FOR ASSESSING EF/ACC OFAN ECONOMYThis chapter introduces a calculation procedure for appliedEF/ACC assessments. Thepurpose is to document the procedure, toensure reproducibility and to show why the resultsunderestimate the actually required landareas.A. ESTABLISHING AN OPERATIONALEF/ACC DEFINITIONAn economy’s EFIACC can be obtainedby calculating how much of Earth’s ecologicalservices (measured in land area)the people in that economy must appropriate to providecontinuously for their present consumptionusing prevailing technology. Clearly, if all the detailsof consumption items and ecosystemfunctions were included into the assessment, thevolumeof information and the dataprocessing required would make such venture impractical if notimpossible. Therefore, for applications,the concept is simplified:•The calculation starts from the conservativeassumption that the current industrial harvestpractices (i.e., agricultural and forestry) are sustainable,which they are not. In otherwords, current EF/ACC assessments underestimateland requirements for humanactivities.• Nature’s services that are included in the calculation encompass direct and indirectAssuming sustainable farming and forestryunderestimates the required land area for nature’s resource production.For example, agricultural soils in North America aredepleted up to 20 times faster than they can reproduce (Giampietroet a!. 1990a: 171). In otherwords, in order to compensate for the soil loss, agricultural land farmed undercurrentpractices should be left fallow for up to 20 years for eachyear of cultivation. This would increase the appropriatedareaof agricultural land by a factor of 20. Similarly, currentforestry may not be sustainable: it is questionable if the planned70 year rotation periods can be kept up for morethan two to three harvests (Diem 1992:263). Also, these assumedsustainable yield can be maintained only if the forestgrowth is not slowed down by pests or fires.The ratio of the land area, which would be requiredunder sustainable land-use and harvest practices, to thatland area, which is required today according tocurrent productivity estimates, is called “sustainability factor.” Thesefactors suggest the extent to which we presentlyoverestimate ecological long-term productivity.97appropriations of nature’s services through human activities; such as, harvest ofrenewable resources, extraction of non-renewable resources, waste absorption, paving,fresh water consumption, contamination, pollution, and ozone depletion.2• Ecological productivity is classified into eight land (or ecosystem) categories five of whichare available for human use (see Section 3 below).For the time being, the appropriated marine areas are left out of EF/ACC calculations.Cynically, one could claim that the oceans are used primarily as a dumping ground for waste,a function which cannot be translated into a well-defined appropriated area.3 On the other hand,fresh-water and marine ecosystems presently produce only a small fraction of the resources usedby the human economy. Also, it is unlikely that under current practice, the resource yield fromoceans, lakes, and rivers can be much expanded; for example, wild fish stocks, the mainrenewable resource from fresh-water and marine ecosystems, provide less than two and a halfpercent of the human food requirements,4and most fisheries are already over-harvested. FAOestimates that the global harvest of marine food approaches 90 percent of the theoreticalmaximum yield, if it has not reached it already (Hibler 1992:34, Brown 1994:179). In fact,“...the per capita seafood supply, which peaked at 19 kilograms in 1989, will be back down to2At this point, our research has focused on the ecological impact of the first four activities. We intend though toinclude the impact of the other activities in subsequent EF/ACC research. Nevertheless, leaving out some of thesefunctions underlines, once more, that this approach underestimates the human impact on nature.The currents of the oceans lead to a significant material and heat exchange between the various areas of theoceans. Therefore, it is next to impossible for most cases to determine the area that corresponds, for example, to a givenabsorptive capacity for degradable waste. Furthermore, EFIACC might not be a useful concept for illustrating theecological impact of non-degradable organic waste (such as DDT and PCBs) or non-organic waste (such as heavy metalsor radioactive substances) as this waste accumulates and is not being recycled or transformed by nature’s services. Suchnon-degradable waste might only be reflected in Ecological Footprint consideration to the extent that heavily contaminatedareas become unavailable for human consumption, thereby reducing the available carrying capacity to human beings (seealso Weber 1994:41-60).These 2.5 percent r