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Sustainability begins by talking about it: Wackernagel

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Everything we consume affects the future of the planet.

This may be such a profound thought that it puts you off thinking about it.

But don’t.

Sooner or later the world’s population is going to have to face-up to the fact that we are using resources more quickly than nature can renew them.

Dr. Mathis Wackernagel helps people all over the world learn about how they affect the Earth and how they must change the way they live if the planet is to survive.

On Sunday, Jan. 13 he will share his thoughts and lessons at a free lecture at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, starting at 6:30 p.m.

"I will be talking about the ‘Ecological Footprint’ which is a way of accounting in nature," said Wackernagel from his Oakland California office.

"In the same way we count money we can count nature and how much we use.

"If we don’t balance our books we run a deficit. The way we run our world now is that we just rip apart all the receipts and believe therefore that all the debts are gone, but they are not."

Wackernagel is co-founder of the "Ecological Footprint" a concept that is used as a measurement of environmental sustainability world-wide. He developed the concept while completing his doctoral dissertation at the University of B.C.

He has authored or contributed to over two dozen academic articles and co-authored various books that focus on the question of embracing limits and developing indicators to assess sustainability.

It is estimated that our footprint may be over 30 per cent larger than the world can sustain.

Nature provides an average of 5 acres of bioproductive space for every person in the world. With a projected global population of 10 billion in the year 2050 the available space will be reduced to 3 acres.

The average Canadian uses a 20-acre foot print – that’s 20 football fields put together.

Still its better than the U.S., where the average American’s ecological footprint is about 27 acres.

There is a global budget for what’s available so if we use this much someone else has to use less to make up for our excess, said Wackernagel.

"In order to have a sane world which is safe and thriving for all, we need to make sure that we live within the budget of nature," he said.

"There is only so much nature and only one planet so the question is how can we use it best and first we need accounts to find out how much we have as compared to how much we use."

The most important thing people can do to move toward a sustainable system is to talk abut it.

"If you ask me what is the most effective thing people can do, it is to be able to start talking about these issues," said Wackernagel.

"The biggest limitation to a sustainable world is the taboo around the issues of continued expansion. We cannot bring these big topics into our small talk.

"We are not able to face in our conversations the reality of living on one planet and that is what sustainability is all about, one planet.

"It is absent from our decision-making processes and so our decision does not reflect the reality that we live in."

Dr Wackernagel’s presentation is the third in a series of world-renowned speakers presented by the Early Adopters of the Natural Step framework.

It is part of the Leadership Through Sustainable Innovation speaker series. This series is presenting Whistler’s own sustainability initiative , Whistler. Its Our Nature , to the community.

To check out what your Ecological Footprint is visit Wackernagel’s Web site at www.rprogress.org .

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