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Mathis Wackernagel: Is Sustainability Too Expensive? How to invest in the age of ecological constraints
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
4:00pm – 5:00pm EST
Sage Hall Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, United States
Event Details
Nature provides a continuous flow of ecological services upon which all human activities depend. Today, human demand worldwide outstrips what nature provides, just as some people spend more money than they earn. What are the costs of running ever larger ecological deficits? And how does it affect every project decision? As implementers, business people, or public budget allocators, on what kind of projects should we bet? To secure success in the age of growing ecological constraints, decision-makers need tools to help them evaluate, whether their choices put them at risk, or make them more robust and resilient. Every investment, whether private or public, faces two driving questions. First: what’s in it for the investor, because if the project does not produce more than what it costs, it destroys wealth and cannot persist. But to evaluate whether a project generates or destroys wealth, one needs to understand how this investment performs in an ecologically constrained world. And second: What are the benefits generated to society? Even for a private investor, if the project does not generate a social benefit, it will meet a shrinking market or face regulatory pressures. Hence projects also need to be analyzed from the perspective of how much social benefit they generate. The lecture addresses how these two dimensions can be assessed as well as when it makes sense to choose the sustainable option.
More information about Mathis Wackernagel:

Mathis Wackernagel, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Global Ecological Footprint Network
Mathis is co-creator of the Ecological Footprint and has worked on sustainability issues for organizations in Europe, Latin America, North America, Asia and Australia, and has lectured for community groups, governments and their agencies, NGOs, and academic audiences at more than 100 universities around the world. Mathis previously served as the director of the Sustainability Program at Redefining Progress in Oakland, California, and directed the Centre for Sustainability Studies / Centro de Estudios para la Sustentabilidad in Mexico, which he still advises. He is also an adjunct faculty at SAGE at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mathis has authored or contributed to over 50 peer-reviewed papers, numerous articles and reports and various books on sustainability that focus on the question of embracing limits and developing metrics for sustainability, including Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth; Sharing Nature’s Interest; and WWF International’s Living Planet Report. After earning a degree in mechanical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, he completed his Ph.D. in community and regional planning at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. There, as his doctoral dissertation with Professor William Rees, he created the Ecological Footprint concept. Mathis’ awards include an honorary doctorate from the University of Berne in 2007, a 2007 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, a 2006 WWF Award for Conservation Merit and the 2005 Herman Daly Award of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics.
The Ecological Footprint is a science-based tool that tracks both the planet's available ecological resources and human demand on those resources. By measuring the amount of nature we have versus the amount we use, the Footprint 1) reveals Earth's ecological limits, 2) communicates the risk of boundless resource consumption, and 3) facilitates the sustainable management and preservation of Earth's natural resources for the well-being of humankind. Over the past several years it has emerged as a leading sustainability indicator.

More about the Global Ecological Footprint Network:

Some recent publications:
Moran, DD; Wackernagel, M; Kitzes, JA; et al. 2008. Measuring sustainable development - Nation by nation. ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS, 64 (3): 470-474.
Kitzes, J; Wackernagel, M; Loh, J; et al. Shrink and share: humanity's present and future Ecological Footprint 2008. PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, 363 (1491): 467-475.
Wackernagel, M; Kitzes, J; Moran, D; et al. 2006. The Ecological Footprint of cities and regions: comparing resource availability with resource demand ENVIRONMENT AND URBANIZATION, 18 (1): 103-112.
Wackernagel, M; Schulz, NB; Deumling, D; et al. 2002. Tracking the ecological overshoot of the human economy. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 99 (14): 9266-9271.

Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of 1956 Professorship
The professorship is intended to enhance the undergraduate experience by bringing to Cornell individuals from every walk of life who represent excellence of achievement. Professorships will be awarded for a period of three years (with an option to renew for two additional years) to those at the pinnacle of their careers in scholarship, public life, government, international affairs, health, nutrition, agriculture, business and industry, the professions, the arts, communication or any comparable field.
Individuals chosen to be Frank H. T. Rhodes Class of 1956 Professors will visit Ithaca for one week during each year that they serve. While on campus they will be invited to reside in one of the West Campus houses where they will spend much of their time with the resident undergraduates. They will give lectures or performances in already scheduled classes as well as for the Cornell community at large. They also will be involved in meetings and discussions with members of the house in which they reside.
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Where & When

Sage Hall Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, United States

Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 4:00pm – 5:00pm

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Hosted By
Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise (CSGE)

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