No Small Feet: How to invite decision-makers to address ecological overshoot? Lessons from Global Footprint Network’s successes and failures

Since the 1970s, symptoms of ecological overshoot have led to calls for sustainable development. These symptoms, from deforestation, to loss of biodiversity, greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere, water and air pollution, or fisheries collapses are all consequences of human demand overwhelming the biosphere. Given those trends and their threat to human development, overshoot has become an indisputable challenge.

Even though these negative trends have given rise to the global sustainability movement, which is also embraced by the UN since its 1972 Conference on the Human Environment, actual responses have been limited. Overshoot, the underlying driver, still lacks to be fully recognized in mainstream policy debates, and rarely appears in sustainability discourses. All this and more, makes overshoot a complex topic to address.

Given the significance of overshoot, Ecological Footprint accounting and, subsequently, Global Footprint Network were established. Their purpose is to help decision-makers address ecological overshoot. What have been the strategies behind their communication efforts and underlying narratives? What can participants in the sustainability transformation learn from those successes and failures?

With support from MAVA via a call for proposals for Learning and Sharing Grants aimed at encouraging collective knowledge and at sharing lessons learnt, Global Footprint Network revisited its strategies to extract key lessons from their work. These lessons will help not only Global Footprint Network find better ways to make ecological overshoot more recognized, relevant, and empowering, but also inform others intrigued by, and committed to, this topic.

The lessons are available here.

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