How Much Nature Do We Have? How Much Do We Use? Mathis Wackernagel | TEDxSanFrancisco

I just want to mention two: One from foggy, cold London, and the other one from hot and dry Abu Dhabi.

The one in London, is driven by an organization called Bioregional. They said we need to find out how we can have one-planet living. And they started the development for about 40 households where people could have better lives than the UK on average, and at the same time, would fit within what one planet can provide.

And they succeeded with having great lives, people love to live there. It’s called BedZED. Their footprint is substantially lower than what the UK uses, but not yet at 1.7. And so they’re now trying with 10 more communities around the world, one in Sonoma county, quite an interesting initiative.

Another one in Abu Dhabi called Masdar. There, it’s actually government sponsored; they know in the long run, somehow we have to live on this planet. They said we have to look at the city’s scale. Can we build an entire city that operates on few resources, and people can have a great life, even in a harsh climate like in Abu Dhabi?

And they have started first elements of the city, and it’s still far away from their goal. But they also have coupled it with one of the most prestigious research institutions in Abu Dhabi to really find out: can they get there?

And if these two experiments haven’t really gotten there, it’s not really their problem, it’s really our problem that we have been able to do that worldwide because as a worldwide average, can we move ourselves into this box?

Having the metric, what’s the conclusion for us? And I would like to give you just three.

The first one, very simple: measure. There’s an old saying: you can manage what you measure. Now we can measure sustainable development. If you don’t know how much footprint you use compared to how much biocapacity you have, it’s a bit like flying a plane without a fuel gauge – gets a bit dangerous after a few hours in the air.

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Second point: having a measure, you gain a voice. You can say what you want; you can tell where we need to get; and you can keep accountability where they actually move in this direction. Having the metrics, you can ask your mayor, your city council, your representatives, your president, your national leaders to build a sustainable future, and track whether we’re moving in this direction.

What does that mean? How do we need to refurbish our cities? How do we need to change our transportation systems? How do we need to shift our power system to a solar power system possibly, very rapidly?

Do we need to empower women more? Do we need to encourage smaller families, perhaps? All that we can measure and find out, is it moving in this direction.

Third thing: your life. Does it help you to design your own life? Sweat the big things.

What are the big things? Through the metrics you can think, how do you want to invest? Where do you want to live? How do you want to live? How resource-dependent do you want to be?

What projects do you want to be engaged in? Do you want to be in projects that will be the long-term winners as they gain value in a world of resources constraints? Or, are you investing your life in stranded assets?

So what I hope is that through this metric, what I gave you is a compass. But in the end, the path is yours.

Thank you very much.


Recommended Book/Course for Further Reading:

Green Giants: How Smart Companies Turn Sustainability into Billion-Dollar Businesses

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