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Measuring Wealth in Footsteps

Many people consider the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the best way to measure a country’s wealth. The GDP, which is the market value of goods and services produced within a country during a period of time, is said to be an indicator of a country’s standard of living. The problem is the GDP doesn’t create a full picture of a country’s wealth and assets because it leaves out a country’s ecological wealth.

A country with a growing GDP may have dwindling ecological wealth because many economic activities deplete natural resources. GDP see’s these economic activities solely as income rather than a liquidation of assets. Therefore, countries relying on the GDP will blindly spend their ecological resources without consideration putting.

In 2003 the Global Footprint Network (GFN) was established in response to this problem and  to help countries and businesses measure their impact and as a result live more sustainably. By helping countries discover their ecologic impact GFN can help countries better plan for a sustainable future.

To help countries understand their wealth/debts GFN created an “Ecological Footprint”. “Ecological Footprint” is a resource accounting tool that measures availability and consumption of resources. “Ecological Footprint” reveals how much water and land a population needs in order to produce resources and absorb waste, while also measuring the country’s biocapacity. By comparing the country’s footprint to its biocapacity a country can better understand what it needs to do in order to maintain natural wealth and improve economic resilience.

GFN uses statistics from the United Nations to come up with each “Ecological Footprint” and uses approximately 6,000 data points per country.

GFN works with a network of over 90 partners. Since 2003 11 countries have officially adopted GFN’s “Ecological Footprint”, including the Philippines, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Costa Rica, and Switzerland.

The continued adoption of GFN’s “Ecological Footprint” will promote sustainability and help countries better manage their resources and wealth. There is more to wealth then just the GDP, wealth is also in nature, and until people understand that, we will continue to consume our resources at rates that can only lead to disaster.

Foot Print via Shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

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