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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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


There is mounting evidence that the ecosystems of Earth cannot sustain current levels of economic activity, let alone increased levels. Since some consume Earth’s resources at a rate that will leave little for future generations, while others still live in debilitating poverty, the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Economic Development has called for development that is sustainable. The purpose of this thesis is to further develop and test a planning tool that can assist in translating the concern about the sustainability crisis into public action. The research advances the concept of “Ecological Footprint” or “Appropriated Carrying Capacity” (EF/ACC) as a planning tool for conceptualizing and developing sustainability. To meet this purpose, I document the development of the EF/ACC concept, explore its potential use in public decision-making towards sustainability, apply the concept in a real world context, and finally, empirically analyze its usefulness to actors in the public domain. The research shows that the EF/ACC concept can link global social and ecological concerns to individual and institutional decision-making. Though the tool needs further refinement to make it readily applicable to the planning practitioners’ everyday decisions, it has proved useful as a conceptual tool for framing the sustainability challenges. More than 20 EF/ACC applications, by others and by me, range from environmental outdoor education for children to policy and project assessments for municipalities and regions. With these examples, EF/ACC has contributed to translating sustainability into concrete terms and to providing direction for planning toward sustainability.

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