TABLE OF CONTENTS
| ecological handprints |
Foreword Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
In his Foreword, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and global ambassador of goodwill Desmond Tutu describes how Ecological Handprints “offer successful approaches to environmental and humanitarian problems that have plagued the world for decades — the profound need for greater human and ecological well-being.”
Today we are living on a globalized, interconnected, and environmentally compromised planet where far too many people still live in poverty. Two-thirds of the world population live on less than $10 per day. And every tenth person lives in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 per day. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 41 percent of the population is living in extreme poverty.
Unfortunately, many pathways to prosperity for the poor are both expensive and highly polluting. This chapter poses the question: how can more people affordably improve their standard of living without significant negative impacts on an already damaged biosphere?
Chapter One | Beyond the Footprint
Why is it crucial to find and promote integrated solutions – Ecological Handprints – to the humanitarian and ecological conditions we face today and in the days ahead? Just take a look at the data.
Chapter Two | Five Key Ingredients
A wide range of Ecological Handprints are already thriving all over the developing world. These practical, sustainable programs are models for how to move humanity forward in the ecologically challenging days ahead. This chapter highlights how triumphant programs typically contain vital keys to success.
Chapter Three | Handprints Around the World
For the last decade I’ve been on an international search for highly successful, low-cost, and ecologically sound pathways to prosperity. What I discovered were hundreds of ground-breaking efforts that both lift humanity and lower our ecological footprint.
Chapter Four | Lighting Done Right
Today, in this modern, high-tech world, approximately one billion people are still living without any access to electricity. Fortunately, a wide range of financially attractive and technologically brilliant alternatives are now bringing safe and clean light to those beyond the grid.
Chapter Five | What Works for Water — Access and Treatment
Almost one third of the people on the planet today still struggle to obtain affordable, clean water. As part of a worldwide renaissance of awareness and action addressing water access and treatment, Ecological Handprints offer low cost, low carbon and yet highly effective options to address one of our most significant human health challenges.
Chapter Six | Cleaner, Safer Cooking
Almost 40% of the people living today cook with biofuels. Cooking over an open fire might seem romantic to some of us, but it actually has huge negative impacts on health, safety and biodiversity. There are, however, wonderful examples of clean cooking alternatives rapidly emerging in communities around the world.
Chapter Seven | Taking the Next Step
Ecological Handprints have great perspective, practice, and promise. What can we do to advance and expand these empowering innovations for the future of humanity? Here are the next steps!
Chapter Eight | Links to Leaders
In this final chapter you’ll find internet links to an array of outstanding efforts and organizations that help lift humanity from poverty in ecologically sound, affordable, and innovative ways.
| ecological handprints |
Is it not amazing how so frequently when someone hits on a solution for something that has bothered us for many years we remark “now why did it take us so long to discover something that in a way was so obvious?” Just think of how long we used to stagger around carrying our heavy suitcases until someone hit on the clever idea to “put the luggage on wheels” — and presto! Here we have an elegant solution to a generations old problem. Why did it take us so long?
The same could be said for our myopic and one-sided views on how to reduce poverty or protect the environment. In the past we’ve all too often treated helping the poor and helping the environment as two separate issues, when the reality is that they are inextricable. Additionally, we’ve relied on big governments and organizations to provide the answers, with mixed results.
Yet now we have Ecological Handprints — affordable, locally-driven and market-based solutions that lift humanity out of poverty while also lowering our ecological footprint. Brilliant! Ecological Handprints are a low-impact hand up from poverty and squalor that enhances the dignity and self-image of the beneficiaries. The psychological underpinning of this way of doing things is superb.
Like wheels on a suitcase, this approach offers successful remedies to a problem that has plagued us all for decades — the profound need for greater human and ecological well-being. By highlighting a wonderful array of integrated solutions that are rolling out all over the developing world, this book helps us understand why this perspective is so critical, what inspirational efforts are already underway, how it is they actually succeed, and what lessons they offer us all.
TODAY we are living on a globalized, interconnected, and environmentally compromised planet. In spite of recent economic advances, the World Bank estimates almost half of the world's population still struggles to meet basic needs, primarily in rural areas of the developing world. Unfortunately, many pathways to prosperity for the poor are both expensive and highly polluting. So how can more people affordably improve their standard of living without significant negative impacts on an already damaged biosphere?
National Geographic Magazine stated that the future of humanity pivots on the answer to one simple question:
“How can we share and sustain the planet while lifting even more people into a better life?”
This insightful query highlights the twin mega-challenges we face in our globalized, interconnected and environmentally compromised world: how do we 1) lower our ecological footprint on planetary support systems such as atmosphere, fresh water, soil, forests, and fisheries, while 2) also fighting poverty and meeting the basic human needs of an ever growing world population? Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, expressed this same question as a course of action, saying succinctly, “We need to promote development that does not destroy our environment.”
Can we actually do this? Are there affordable, market-driven means to ecologically combat poverty? Is it already happening? If so, who has succeeded and what are their keys to success? What models exist that can be rapidly scaled up where they are, or adapted to other locales?
In the last decade I’ve been on a personal and professional journey to discover answers to these critical questions by seeking out effective model projects and programs that “share and sustain the planet while lifting even more people into a better life.” What I’ve discovered along the way are hundreds of success stories that I now call Ecological Handprints. Ecological because they lower our collective ecological footprint. Handprints because they touch the lives of local communities through improved human health and well-being.
These empowering stories illustrate how disadvantaged and disenfranchised people from around the developing world are finding solutions to poverty and addressing local needs through a blend of entrepreneurship, creative financing, high tech digital tools, and clean, green technologies.
KEY data about human population, well-being, and ecological impact demonstrate why it is crucial to find and promote integrated solutions to the humanitarian and ecological conditions facing us today — and in the days ahead.
We are living in an era that Dutch chemist Paul Crutzen has labeled the “Anthropocene” — a new geologic epoch defined by our own massive impact on the planet. The path of the Anthropocene has been paved in large part by resource-intensive, fossil fuel-dominated, and highly polluting patterns of consumption. It has risen steeply and rapidly from the time of the industrial revolution to the present day, at least for those of us in highly developed economies. Today, however, this old path — based on false assumptions of cheap energy and unlimited nature — ultimately leads us all to a dead end of greater human suffering and conflict, along with further weakening and depletion of the natural systems that support all life on the planet.
Now we face the daunting task of successfully navigating the rest of the Anthropocene. The journey will require a fresh perspective, with a high level of innovation, commitment and creativity. In the days ahead, as billions continue struggling to meet basic human needs, we must look beyond merely lowering our Ecological Footprint to create a richer, deeper, and more relevant paradigm that brings people not only closer to the planet, but also closer to each other.
What is an Ecological Footprint? The Ecological Footprint is a measurement of human demands upon nature, and as such it represents an essential accounting of our escalating impacts on local and global ecosystems. It measures and tracks the amount of biologically-productive land and water area a human population uses to sustain itself and its lifestyle. This includes, for example, the energy and other resources the population consumes, the space it needs for buildings and roads, and the ecosystems it requires for absorbing its waste emissions such as carbon dioxide.
The Ecological Footprint has justifiably emerged as a premier measure of humanity’s demand on nature and a leading indicator in the field of sustainability. Nevertheless, the Footprint is a limited accounting tool. It only quantifies our impact on natural systems and natural capital. It is not designed to encompass or measure our related impact on human development or humanitarian issues such as poverty, human rights, and social justice. In other words, while the concept of Ecological Footprints is a key piece of the equation, it’s missing an important component – the human touch.
Ecological Handprints expands upon the Ecological Footprint by linking together the interrelated goals of sustaining the biological integrity of the planet and ensuring sustenance for those in need. The interrelationship between these two goals is crucial, but is often overlooked when we focus on solving one issue or the other.
As we seek creative responses to a more complex and compromised planetary village, Ecological Handprints represent a nexus-based approach to problem solving in the challenging days ahead — an approach built on a wide range of innovative efforts that improve human well-being while also having a low-footprint.
Three basic questions about the state of our global village help set the context for why an Ecological Handprints perspective is so important:
1. Where are most of the people in the world living now and in the foreseeable future?
2. What is the nature of their daily existence?
3. What is their current and future level of ecological impact?
We know that there are almost eight billion of us on the planet now — but exactly where does everyone live? The map below helps us visualize the distribution of humanity by reducing world population to a village of 100 people. When displayed in this manner it’s easy to see that the vast majority of humanity — about 75% of the people in the world — live in Asia and Africa.
In the days ahead, how many more people do we expect to live on our planet? Most experts forecast that earth’s population will add around two billion people by the end of the century — leveling out at a whopping 10 billion. Again, the less developed regions of Asia and Africa, as well as Latin America, dominate these projections. Africa, by far the world’s poorest region, will record the largest population growth between now and 2050. In fact, Africa’s population is expected to more than double, rising to at least 2.4 billion by 2050 — and nearly all of that growth is projected to occur in the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Asia, already home to 60 percent of the world’s inhabitants, will likely experience a much smaller proportional increase than Africa, but will still add almost one billion people by 2050. Latin America will also continue to experience significant population growth.
What is the nature of daily existence in these high population regions of the world? Although each region is complex and unique, it’s fair to say that for far too many, the dominant daily issues have more to do with physical survival than ecological sustainability. Today, one billion people in the world still live in extreme poverty with little certainty where they will get their next meal. Another 1.5 billion live above subsistence, but are still subject to life-threatening problems such as inadequate sanitation, unclean drinking water, and lack of adequate energy access. Sadly, these two groups together account for one-third of humanity — the vast majority of which are young people living in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Clearly, for billions of the world’s poor, greater well-being revolves around a different set of concerns than those faced by most people in industrialized nations. They’re not worried about what sort of light bulb to buy — they just need light. They don’t worry if water in plastic bottles is a long-term disposal issue — they just need water that won’t make them sick. They’re not thinking about greening their school’s curriculum, they just need access to education. In other words, because their most basic human needs are far from assured on a day-to-day basis, their primary concern is not the sustainability of the planet, but simply how they might sustain their lives for the immediate future.
Finally, what about the current and future ecological impact of the billions of people living in poverty in the developing world? These emerging, high-population regions have historically used relatively small amounts of natural resources such as oil, coal, timber, and minerals, so their per capita Ecological Footprints have been relatively low — but will they stay that way in the years ahead?
What if all of the individuals currently living in these highly populated and developing nations instantly raised their standard of living (and the size of their footprints) via the same expensive, resource-intensive and carbon-based approaches used in the past?
We would need three to five planets!
Then add to that sobering revelation the additional demands of three billion people who are scheduled to arrive before the end of this century — in just one generation’s time.
You can begin to see that at a global level, the path to a more sustainable future can’t just be about a massive greening of the already industrialized, developed world. Yes, transforming current industrial economies to greater eco-efficiency is critical. Thankfully there are many marvelous organizations and individuals working to address this challenge, but the massive ecological re-engineering of the industrialized world alone won’t save us — not even close.
To be sustainable as a global village — to be able to keep all of our human and ecological systems healthy — we also need to aggressively identify and bring to market a wide range of affordable, ecologically-sound development strategies in the highly-populated, emerging nations.
It’s said that ‘you have to go there to know there.’ I’ve been to many of these high-population, high-poverty places through my international consulting and teaching. When you walk the favelas in Brazil, the townships in South Africa, and the slums in India — or the ever-growing rings of makeshift communities surrounding the perimeter of virtually every major city in the developing world — it’s abundantly clear that we need a bold, new path to sustainable well-being for all.
But this new path will have to cost less and have less impact on the environment than the old paradigm. Otherwise, as noted by Robert Shapiro, former CEO of Monsanto, “If emerging economies have to relive the entire industrial revolution with all its waste, its energy use, and its pollution, I think it’s all over.”
TWO CRISES, ONE SET OF SOLUTIONS
A major academic text on global sustainability entitled Understanding the Social Dimensions of Sustainability, notes “At this moment, we are caught between the twin imperatives to raise the living standard of the world’s poor...and to live within environmental limits, exemplified by the current concern over global warming.”
I first encountered this sense of being “caught between the twin imperatives” almost two decades ago when I served as a consultant and facilitator in the Middle East Peace Process. I was charged with facilitating a needs assessment and a proposal-development process with three high level delegations from Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian National Authority. Our goal, consistent with the Oslo Accords, was to develop a “Regional Water Education Program for Youth.”
We spent the first few days asking the same set of questions to each delegation. Before we formally brought the teams together for the first time, we needed to understand why they felt they were there and what they hoped to achieve. What I soon discovered was that for some delegations, the greatest need was primarily ecological – for water efficiency and habitat protection – while others prioritized humanitarian needs such as social justice and secure access to healthy water. Admittedly, the weeklong process was a complex political negotiation that ended with mixed results, but along the way we discovered some interesting opportunities to address everyone’s priorities. For example, we agreed that improving and promoting water efficiency in Israel (one key goal) would make more water available in coastal and mountain aquifers relied upon by Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank (another key goal). We saw how habitat restoration along Jordan River waterways could save and improve the quality of water for Palestinians, Israelis, and Jordanians. And we all agreed that improved health from clean, affordable and reliable water would ease tensions throughout the region. Although we came from very different perspectives, we eventually realized that by focusing on the intersection of our distinct concerns, we could find solutions that address everyone’s objectives — be they humanitarian or ecological.
This experience was the first time I really grasped a dramatically new take on a long-standing quagmire. Many humanitarian and environmental problems are inextricable and often appear – at least on the surface – to be fundamentally at odds with each other. Yet when viewed another way, I’ve come to realize that this linkage also presents a unique opportunity: to find and share creative efforts that respond to both imperatives — simultaneously. We don’t have time to argue about which is more important or which to do first. Fortunately, we don’t have to.
In the years that followed this epiphany, I’ve turned this awakening into a global search for solutions that emerge from the middle — solutions I’m now calling “Ecological Handprints.” Collectively, they present a promising picture of what’s already happening in the world today as well as highlighting a nexus point to focus our efforts during the challenging days ahead.
Rocky Rohwedder, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Department of Environmental Studies and Planning at Sonoma State University, located in Northern California. Over the past decade Dr. Rohwedder has taught and conducted research in over forty countries all over the world. For more than thirty years he has been a university professor of environmental science as well as an international consultant and keynote speaker. He has also served as a professor on multiple voyages with Semester at Sea.
Dr. Rohwedder’s consulting clients have included the US Agency for International Development and the US Peace Corps, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Lexicon of Sustainability, and the George Lucas Education Foundation. He currently serves on the Education Caucus of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development and the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Environmental Education and Communication.
“Dr. Rocky Rohwedder is a very practically-minded, generous, and knowledgeable humanitarian. He has been all over the world in search of positive examples and in turn has become a champion for splendid grassroots efforts with international potential. His important message and the stories in this book boost the morale of conscientious, dedicated indigenous women and men who want to lead full and healthy lives and are eager for the same for their families. They have found a principled and dedicated coworker in this splendid and committed academic.” — Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
For speaking engagements, feedback on this book, or other inquiries please email email@example.com
I owe a debt of gratitude to far more people than I can acknowledge here. That said, I want to first extend my heartfelt thanks to the pioneering and empowering people all over the world whose Ecological Handprints fill the pages of this book. In a world that at times can feel filled with despair, their efforts help light a positive pathway forward for so many in the developing world — with extra benefits for all. By sharing these examples, I acknowledge their important work. I also hope to inspire others to support what they are doing. Perhaps even follow in their footsteps.
A special note of thanks to . . .
Sonoma State University and Semester at Sea for allowing me to integrate my field research, scholarship and teaching; Editor Fran Slayton for turning professor speak into more coherent prose; some amazing photographers — Annie Griffiths, Sameer Halai, Esther Havens, Lynn Johnson, Mark Katzman, and Ami Vitale — who generously shared their powerful images; and a team of dedicated practitioners and academics from around the world who have provided important feedback and insights on core content.
- Paula Hammett, Librarian, Sonoma State University
- Michelle Kreger, Chair of the Board, Potential Energy
- Daniele Susan Lantagne, Assistant Professor, Tufts University
- Evan Mills, Senior Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories
- Ervand Peterson, Professor Emeritus, Sonoma State University
- Cathy Rogers, Vice President of Global Opportunities, IBM
- Pramod K. Sharma, Program Coordinator, Center for Environmental Education
- Daniel Soto, Assistant Professor, Sonoma State University
- James C. Stewart, Professor Emeritus, Sonoma State University and Associate, Global Footprint Network
- Robert Wilkinson, Adjunct Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara