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The Ecological Footprint
Accounting for a Small Planet

Dr. Mathis Wackernagel introduces the Ecological Footprint, a resource accounting tool that measures human demand on the Earth.

A printer-friendly version of this page 30 minutes
Closed Captioned

Directed by Patsy Northcutt
Produced by Northcutt Productions for Global Footprint Network
Host/writer: Mathis Wackernagel

"Unmatched as an introduction to understanding mankind's use of global resources...highly recommended." Educational Media Reviews Online
Humans are the most successful species on the planet. But our growing economy is placing unprecedented demand on the planet's limited ecological resources. How can we assure our future well-being?

"We can choose to live on a depleted planet or we can choose to live on a rich, biologically diverse, more stable planet" proposes Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, co-creator of the Ecological Footprint. He suggests that an essential step in avoiding depletion is to track ecological assets, allowing us to make more informed choices.

In the film, Wackernagel introduces the Ecological Footprint, a resource accounting tool that measures human demand on the Earth. Footprint accounts work like a bank statement, documenting whether we are living within our ecological budget or consuming nature's resources faster than the planet can renew them.

In just thirty minutes, the film paints a picture of our current global situation: for the first time, humanity is in "ecological overshoot" with annual demand on resources exceeding what Earth can regenerate each year. Most countries are running ecological deficits, with Footprints larger than their own biological capacity. Wackernagel explores the implications of these ecological deficits, and provides examples of how governments, communities and businesses are using the Footprint to help improve their ecological performance.

For Wackernagel, "Sustainability boils down to how we can all live well, how we can all have great lives, within the means of one small planet." He concludes on a hopeful note, showing how a new organization, Global Footprint Network, is partnering with government agencies, businesses, universities and NGOs to support the use of the Ecological Footprint and to help turn this vision of a sustainable future into reality.

Grade Level: 10-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2005     Copyright Date: 2005
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-292-0     VHS ISBN: 1-59458-291-2

"Flows smoothly with an engaging is unmatched as an introduction to understanding mankind's use of global resources, and the effect thereof. As such, The Ecological Footprint is highly recommended and should be considered required viewing for any course dealing with environmental concerns or global affairs. The depth of the idea coupled with the short length of the presentation makes it conductive to classroom use, and the film would work well for comparison or use with other environmental/conservation documentaries."
Jeremy Linden, State University of New York College at Fredonia, Educational Media Reviews Online

"The documentary makes no claims or suggestions about how to solve this planet-wide issue, but rather strives to provide a set of unified terms that can result in participatory dialogue. This open-ended approach lends itself well to curriculum planning, in-class discussion, and prompts for group work/homework assignments...This film would be of use in environmental and global studies classes, as well as for science and math instruction."
School Library Journal

About the concept:
"The Ecological Footprint is one of the most important environmental concepts in currency today, with virtually unlimited educational and practical implications."
E.O. Wilson, Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

"There is one measure, and one measure only, describing the capacity and relationship between human society and living systems: ecological footprinting. It is the only standard by which we may calibrate our collective impact upon the planet, and assess the viability of our future. It is 'true north' when it comes to sustainability; no report about the environment is complete without it."
Paul Hawken, Author Natural Capitalism

"It helps to look into the truth mirror. But what can we do to stop exporting footprints that devastate the outside world? Well, technologies and habits are available to reduce the size of our Footprints by a factor of two or even four without jeopardising the quality of our European life."
Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Chairman, Bundestag Environment Committee, Author Factor Four

"The Footprinting methodology is the most ingenious way of communicating unsustainability to the general public - it goes directly to the point and through intuition it allows also laypeople to 'get it'."
Prof. Karl-Henrik Robèrt, Founder of the Natural Step

Select your institution type

DVD Features
Includes both the U.S. Version (in acres) and the World Version (in hectares). Both can be accessed by chapter. DVD-ROM portion of the disc includes three Footprint Reports and two flyers.

Global Footprint Network web site

Awards and Festivals
Seattle Environmental Film Festival
"Stories from the Field" United Nations Documentary Film Festival
Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival
Global Justice Film Festival

Climate Change/Global Warming
Environmental Ethics
Global Issues
Natural Resources

Urban and Regional Planning

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