While still under development, the following represents a chapter by chapter overview of the book. Click on any chapter title to reveal a more detailed description.
During the thirty years since the United Nation's creation of the World Commission on Environment and Development, many impressive reports and books have been written about the fuzzy yet popular concepts of sustainability and sustainable development. Dozens of so-called 'principles of sustainability' have been developed, and numerous distinguished commissions and roundtables have been established. The result of all of these efforts has apparently had little impact on global trends, while the mass marketing of sustainability has so diluted its meaning that today you'll find it as a selling point for everything from deodorant to automobiles.
The Ecological Footprint represents an essential accounting of our escalating demands on global ecosystems. It has justifiably emerged as the leading indicator in the sustainability field. From national leaders to college campuses to the evening news, everyone is talking and tracking footprints. Nevertheless, the Footprint is a limited communications and accounting tool because it is not designed to include the related conditions of human development — issues such as poverty, literacy, access to education, and other aspects of human rights and social justice.
Gandhi was quoted as saying "poverty is the biggest polluter." John Holdren, past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has also called for a broader rethinking of sustainability, emphasizing the humanitarian as well as ecological dimensions. In his presidential address he called for "sustainable well-being" — achieving well-being where it is now most conspicuously absent. He also called for converting to a sustainable basis the maintenance and expansion of well-being where it already exists but is being provided by unsustainable means.
As a paradigm, the Ecological Handprint reframes the notion of sustainability. It expands on the Footprint by bringing together the interrelated goals of sustaining the biological integrity of the planet and insuring sustenance for those in need.
The Ecological Handprint underscores that problems related to human well-being as well as those related to nature's well-being are inextricable. It reminds us that restoring social justice and restoring ecosystems are fundamentally interrelated, and that these problems can often best be solved by interrelated approaches.
Once you start looking for Handprints, whether existing or potential, you'll find that they abound. Regardless of their scale or location, all over the world there are Ecological Handprints that provide powerful new models for the human species. They demonstrate a vision for our world that embraces human dignity and biological integrity, where we are both lifting humanity and lowering our footprint.
Jared Diamond, author of Collapse, noted the potential of the digital revolution in shifting the discourse of humanity when he wrote "for the first time in history, we face the risk of a global decline. But we also are the first to enjoy the opportunity of learning quickly from developments in societies anywhere else in the world today." From Facebook to YouTube to Twitter and beyond, Social Networks and other forms of digital media offer powerful new tools that can serve as fundamental catalysts in promoting both the global vision and local implementation of Ecological Handprints.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been instrumental in highlighting for the world community the wisdom of an elegantly simple truth, known in his homeland as Ubuntu — I am because we are. There is no "them." They are us. What I do to you, I do to myself. What I do for you, I do for myself. Ubuntu reminds us that there is no difference between healing our planet and healing humanity, between restoring justice and restoring ecosystems. If there is hope for a truly sustainable world, then this hope must embrace the fullest vision of who we are, extending beyond nationality, race, culture and religion. While today's questions of planetary sustainability and the future of all species understandably tend to focus on science, technology and statistics, the best place to begin looking for answers may well be within our heart.
This section will feature organizations, web links and other digital resources that promote and exemplify Ecological Handprints.