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By Robert Rapier on Jun 4, 2010 with 7 responses

Footprint Forum 2010

During the week starting June 6th I will be in Siena, Italy to participate in Footprint Forum 2010, put together by the Global Footprint Network. In fact, when this post goes up I will be already on my way to Italy. The week after that I will be in Germany and Belgium. My ability to respond to e-mails and comments will be limited during those two weeks, but I have left essays in the queue that will be published during my travels.

For those unfamiliar with Global Footprint Network, here is a partial description of their mission from their website:

“In 2003, Global Footprint Network was established to enable a sustainable future where all people have the opportunity to live satisfying lives within the means of one planet.

An essential step in creating a one-planet future is measuring human impact on the Earth so we can make more informed choices.

That is why our work aims to accelerate the use of the Ecological Footprint — a resource accounting tool that measures how much nature we have, how much we use, and who uses what.

The Ecological Footprint is a data-driven metric that tells us how close we are to the goal of sustainable living. Footprint accounts work like bank statements, documenting whether we are living within our ecological budget or consuming nature’s resources faster than the planet can renew them.

Our efforts are fueled by a future vision in which human demand on nature is monitored as closely as the stock market. A time when designers are shaping products, buildings, and cities that have one-planet Footprints. A world where all humans prosper and development succeeds because we are finally recognizing ecological constraints and using innovation to advance more than just the economic bottom line.”

I will play two roles at the forum. One will be to give a talk on the potential implications of peak oil, and then participate in a round table discussion over peak oil issues. My second role will be to give a short talk on the barriers that cities and infrastructure will face as oil supplies contract. The sessions will be filmed, so hopefully I can share some video here at some point. (Bios of the participants can be found here).

I can appreciate that some will find irony in the fact that people are flying in from all over the world to discuss how to lower our collective carbon footprint, so I will address that. The objective of this conference is to facilitate organizational change. If we all chose to stay home, then our personal carbon footprints would indeed be lower, but we will have missed our opportunity to educate, collaborate, and motivate people to help drive organizational change. Success in that area can make a far greater impact on regional or global carbon footprints than the energy I could save by staying home with my family, where I would rather be.

I have criticized Al Gore in the past when it was revealed that his home in Tennessee consumed the energy equivalent of more than 20 average U.S. homes. I believe that in his personal life he should be setting the example he urges others to follow. (And in fairness, some argued that the higher usage was because his home was his office). However, I have defended him when others criticized him for flying around the world to lecture the world about reducing their energy consumption. In fact, I defended him on that count in the same essay. If Al Gore travels halfway around the world and inspires a number of people to reduce their energy consumption – or better yet convinces organizations to make changes to lower energy consumption – then the net of his travels may be to lower overall energy consumption.

That has always been my view on these things. If I urge you to drive a fuel efficient car, or to walk or bike more – you can bet that I am doing the same. I would never suggest that others do things I myself am not willing to do. I strive to practice what I preach. But sometimes you have to travel to preach, even if that’s something I would often rather not do. My youngest son asked me – with tears in his eyes – why I had to go. I tried to explain to him that I only go because I have made it my mission in life to make sure he inherits a world that hasn’t been ruined by those of us who came before him. I promised him that some day he would understand.

  1. By Nick de Cusa on June 5, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Belgium! If you find yourself in Brussels or Antwerp with a spare (half) hour on your hands and would like to shake hands with a very loyal reader -although one who doesn’t buy AGW based on a little bit of reading, like I guess thousands of pages by now- I would be beyond delighted. You’ve got my email address. In any case, have a wondeful trip.

  2. By russ-finley on June 5, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Al had a wife to keep happy. Thomas Friedman has a similar problem with the castle he lives in. We are all part of a larger social network.

    In the fictional part of my book the characters in the think tank always interacted via teleconferences. This should become more of a reality, although truth be told, many people enjoy the travel part of these exercises. Meetings for most people are an excuse to get out or work  although in RR’s case, maybe not so much ; )

  3. By Kit P on June 5, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    I do not see anything new in the
    concept of ‘footprint’.


    As I have stated before, I think
    sustainability issues are better local and regional conferences like
    Harvesting Clean Energy:



  4. By russ on June 6, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Got to admit though Kit – Kennewick, WA is not the most exciting place to visit at any time!

    At least in February it would only be cold and miserable rather than hot and miserable like summer time – that is like being in a pressure cooker. 

  5. By Kit P on June 6, 2010 at 11:33 am

    To each their own Russ. The Colombia
    basin has a great climate as does most of the PNW. It is where we
    intend on retiring. Plenty of excitement too. One of the best
    classic car shows COOL DESERT NIGHTS. Then there is the hydroplane


    In the summer, we rarely needed to run
    the AC because of the cool nights and low humidity. Winters are mild
    and sunny. With only 8” of rain a years, there is not many rainy
    days. The mountains protect the region from the worst. Rarely is
    there an arctic blast. I keep my boat in the water year round.


  6. By Hehee on June 7, 2010 at 3:17 am

    I must admit that I completely understand all the logic regarding travelling and why we should be using teleconferencing, SecondLife and other 3D virtual realities for interactions, etc. And I completely understand that there are people who would rather stay at home than travel. I completely understand all that and completely agree. But honestly, I like to travel. ;) I like it when my work takes me to other places. And I much rather meet physical people than voices over telecom or virtual personas in Secondlife.
    So although I completely share the thinking that wasteful travel is something that we should no longer tolerate, I really hope that there will be ways to make travel efficient, economic, resource-efficient and all that. All the best,


  7. By ledard nicolas on August 26, 2010 at 3:44 am

    Hello, my english is not that correct to tell you : Wen will start a world war for the last resourses du to a economical competition and domination by overpopulation. If we want to save what is left we have to start first by controling our proliferation. Humanity need to understand that our morality is no more hold by religion and their stupide books of indoctrination but by raison and nature protection. The GREEN ARMY will soon rise to save human kind from those that thinks that their power reside in their number. Human kind is the virus of earth to control now with no moral limitation because the only way to stop masse procreation is to force 90% of the world population to contraseption and forced selection and if religions are against this affirmation they will be the first one that the GREEN ARMY will combat in this new war against obscurantism stupidity and superstitions to save our planet from total annihilation predicted by religions as a resulte of their unmoral education.

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