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Mathis Wackernagel (2015)

Mathis Wackernagel is a Swiss-born sustainability advocate. He is President of Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think tank with offices in Oakland, California; Brussels, Belgium, and Geneva, Switzerland. The think-tank is a non-profit that focuses on developing and promoting metrics for sustainability. After earning a degree in mechanical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, he completed his Ph.D. in community and regional planning at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada in 1994. There, as his doctoral dissertation under Professor William Rees, he created with Professor Rees the ecological footprint concept and developed the methodology. He has worked on sustainability issues for organizations in Europe, Latin America, North America, Asia and Australia. Wackernagel previously served as the director of the Sustainability Program at Redefining Progress in Oakland, California, and directed the Centre for Sustainability Studies / Centro de Estudios para la Sustentabilidad in Mexico. In 2004, he was also an adjunct faculty at SAGE of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In 2010, he was appointed Frank H. T.

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About the Mathis Wackernagel Interview

Hello Redditors!

I am Mathis Wackernagel, the co-inventor of the Ecological Footprint and the co-founder of Global Footprint Network. I am from Switzerland originally, but now live in California.

Our calculations show that we are using the natural resources equivalent to 1.6 planets. In other words, humanity’s demand on the planet is 60 percent larger than what the planet can renew. It is like spending 60 percent more than what we are earning. As a consequence we are using up Earth’s savings.

August 13 is Earth Overshoot Day, the date when we have exhausted the planet’s ecological budget for 2015. The date fell in October back in 2000.We calculate those dates through our Ecological Footprint accounts. They track how much biologically productive space we have in the world, in the US, or in California. And then we can compare this to how much biologically productive space is needed for all that we consume—food, fiber, timber—and also to absorb our waste, particularly CO2 from fossil fuel burning.

You may want to test the results and visit overshootday.org for more information.

The silver lining is that the carbon footprint currently makes up more than half of the Ecological Footprint worldwide. Reducing carbon emissions by phasing out of fossil fuels would be among the most effective ways to shrink the Ecological Footprint.

There is much more to this, but I am most eager to hear your questions. Please ask away and remember: there are no indiscreet questions, only indiscreet answers!



Redditors, we depend on you. We would love to hear your input. We would love to work with you in spreading these ideas far and wide, and particularly get the young generation engaged. The power of rolling your eyes, whether at life or a screen, is more far-reaching than you may believe. How can we work together to engage more people? We have curriculums on our website. We can help you challenge your professors, who still think “old-school.” We can show you a few tricks here and there. For example, anytime anyone says “developing countries” or “developed countries,” you could say, “What do you mean? I don’t understand. What do Zimbabwe and the United Arab Emirates have in common? Can you explain? What’s the difference between Brazil and Canada? Are there really two classes of people? Isn’t physics more universal? Isn’t it for every country to understand 'What’s my resource situation? What are my best choices?'”

There are a few ways you can raise issues and help conversations go on a new track. Somehow, we seem to be stuck. Everybody says, “Oh, we can’t do anything,” when in reality, we have a lot of choices open. Your voice matters.

Mathis Wackernagel Aug 12, 2015