Saturday 9 October 2010

Whole solutions

Dear Elena,

Last year you asked me what is the difference between an ecological footprint and a carbon footprint. I said I would need to think about how to explain this and would get back to you. At the time this struck me as a rather strange answer, because on the surface it's very easy to explain the difference: a carbon footprint converts all greenhouse gas emissions to a carbon equivalent and an ecological footprint converts all consumption to the land area that would be needed to support it and absorb its waste. Then last week David Gershon, in his wonderful book Social Change 2.0, told me why I thought this answer is incomplete: I think ecological footprints are a much more useful tool than a carbon footprint because they give whole solutions. If we stopped emitting greenhouse gases and changed nothing else our world would still go to pot, but when we achieve a one planet ecological footprint we'll have a whole solution. I say when not if, because the choice is between that or human extinction. As I tried to explain in April, if we keep exceeding the carrying capacity of the Earth, mortality will go up. I would call this the first law of ecology: exceeding carrying capacity equals increased mortality. In addition, David Gershon says you need a whole solution to engage people wholeheartedly. More on this tomorrow.

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