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Political Science
Political Science 2137
Nancy Vamvakas

Yvonne Ho May 24, 2013 Political Science 2137 Assignment 1 How is sustainable development linked to ecological footprint? According to the Brundtland Report, sustainable development is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In this definition, two challenges are worth noting: meeting the needs of world’s poor, as well as the environmental limitations brought about by technological advancements and social organizations.According to Ruzevicius (2010), “a country’s social and economic development should be oriented such that the satisfaction of our present day needs would not affect the opportunities for satisfying the needs of future generations”. In the Brundtland Commission’s 1987 report called “Our Common Future”, it emphasizes that public organizations, enterprises, and governmental organizations should combine efforts to solve pressing environmental concerns, since they pose such a huge risk to the existence of society today. Presently, ecological footprint is one of the indices used to measure the progress of sustainable development. It is preferred since it is simple to use, straightforward to explain, and a great didactic tool to convey concepts of ecological deficit and environmental degradation. However, like many other indicators of sustainable development, it has its shortcomings and should not be relied on as an integral indicator of sustainability. Sustainable development can be divided into three interconnected components— environmental, economical and sociopolitical sustainability. These are known as the three pillars of sustainable development. Therefore, sustainable development does not just focus on environmental quality, it gives equal priority to economic prosperity and social equity as well. Many indices are used to track progress in these 3 areas; an example is ecological footprint. Ecological footprint is a partial, not integral, indicator of sustainable development because it covers mainly the environmental sustainability aspect, but neglects the economic and sociopolitical components. Ecological footprint is defined as “the land area necessary to sustain humanity’s resource consumption and waste discharge” ( It measures the speed at which we consume natural resources and generate waste, and compares it to the speed at which nature assimilates our waste and produces new resources ( It also highlights the fact that humanity continues to exploit nature to achieve growth, while acting as if our existence is not at all connected to the well being of the environment. Even though a decrease in resource consumption is one of the requirements of sustainable development, it seems that ecological footprint is not the ideal metric for sustainable development.A low ecological footprint is a positive sign, but it does not necessarily translate into economic prosperity or social equity. Ecological footprint does not address the importance of fulfilling basic human needs, nor does it account for many important qualitative aspects of resource harvest and management, such as the slash and burn of rainforests or the killing of dolphins due to by- catch. Since sustainable development is a three- pillar system, ecological footprint must be combined with other indices to give us a more comprehensive picture of sustainable development progress. Individual wellbeing, economic progress and social equality sometimes cannot be evaluated accurately since it cannot be converted into ecological footprint’s unit of measurement-- global hectares. To date, there are no indicator sets that are globally accepted, supported by compelling evidence, and influential in policy- making. This is due to the ambiguity surrounding sustainable development, the plurality of purpose in measuring sustainable development, and the confusion of terminology and measurements (Parris, 2003).Afew indicators that could be coupled with ecological footprint to form a more inclusive measurement include Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), Wellbeing Index, and Living Planet Index. GPI is a measure of economic performance that takes into account the economic contributions of volunteer and household work, while removing negative factors like environmental degradation, crime and family breakdowns (Parris, 2003). GPI is a measure of sustainable economic welfare, not just economic activity. Arise in GPI indicates a rise in stocks of natural and social capital on which all goods and services flow (Talberth, 2006). Living Planet Index measures the change in state of global biodiversity over time, including populations of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species (Loh et al, 2005). The Wellbeing Index has two components: human and ecosystem. The human Wellbeing Index is composed of indices for health, wealth, knowledge and equity. The ecosystem Wellbeing Index has indices for water, air, land, species and resource use (Parris, 2003).All these indicators could be used complementarily as a more integrated way of tracking sustainable development. Even though ecological footprint is not a comprehensive measurement of sustainable development, it is a great indicator or “warning system” for any improvements needed in the pursuit of sustainable development. Ecological footprint is known as a negative ecological i
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