The Ecological Footprint

The Ecological Footprint

New Developments in Policy and Practice

Andrea Collins and Andrew Flynn

The ecological footprint is one of the most prominent tools used to measure environmental sustainability, and its rise in academic and policy debates since the early 1990s has been remarkable. Drawing upon research and examples from around the world, the authors critically examine the claims made of the ecological footprint and how it has been applied in practice. This important book provides a unique insight into the ways in which environmental knowledge is used within organisations, and how it is able to carry authority in policy making processes.

Chapter 2: Government and the Ecological Footprint

Andrea Collins and Andrew Flynn

Subjects: environment, environmental politics and policy, environmental sociology, geography, environmental geography


In this chapter we explore two key themes. First, we examine how the Ecological Footprint has contributed to policy development. We concentrate our analysis on Wales and its capital city Cardiff. The Welsh Government has shown itself to be an innovative institution in the way in which it seeks to tackle sustainability, and was an early adopter of the Ecological Footprint as one of its headline indicators for sustainability. Meanwhile, Cardiff Council was also early to engage in debates on the Ecological Footprint and participated in a major Footprint study (see Chapter 3). Cardiff Council also adopted a systematic effort to promote the Footprint within the organisation, which has since been promoted as a model of good practice (Ross 2006). Through a detailed examination of the fate of the Ecological Footprint in organisational settings, particularly that of Cardiff Council, we are able to throw light on how policy tools to promote environmental management fare. In the second theme of the chapter, we explore the use of the Ecological Footprint as a sustainability indicator in Wales. In our brief review of Kingdon’s (1984) model of policy change in Chapter 1, we explained how the rise of the Ecological Footprint fitted into a window of opportunity, or policy window. Policy entrepreneurs are able to link together problems and solutions, and gather momentum for change.

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