July-August 2013 editorial

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? 

Some time ago I remember reading a sombre cartoon that had as its caption: “Unfortunately, due to the on-going economic recession, the light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off”. 

Fortunately, working for a solutions-based organization like WWF, I believe there still is light at the end of the tunnel, however I do worry about the lack of urgency and the apparent unwillingness by many of our political and business leaders to heed the signs and lessons learned that have been around for a long time.

Some of these signs were presented in stark detail in October last year, when concerned citizens from all over the Mediterranean region met in Venice, Italy, for the launch of the Mediterranean Ecological Footprint Report. The report, produced by the Global Footprint Network in collaboration with WWF’s Mediterranean Programme, Plan Bleu, UNESCO and the MAVA Foundation, is sobering reading – providing startling evidence of the long-term trends that have helped bring the region to its economic, environmental, and in many ways, social knees.

The declining economic trends of the current, on-going crisis being faced by countries all around the Mediterranean are mirrored in the report by data reflecting resource constraints and overconsumption; on diminishing biocapacity and increasing Ecological Footprints. The environmental implications of the latter two indices are apparent – both domestically and in the foreign countries that are making-up for domestic resource scarcity – with biodiversity loss and habitat destruction or degradation the most apparent.

According to the report, over the past five decades, “the Mediterranean’s per capita Ecological Footprint increased by 52 per cent, while per capita biocapacity decreased 16 per cent”. There is nothing sustainable about these two figures ... which are sure to become even worse over the coming decades if we continue to manage our natural resources and environment with a “business as usual” mentality, and essential natural resources become increasingly more difficult to obtain. Put simply, the Mediterranean can’t afford to have ecological deficits in a time of economic crisis. Ecology underpins economy!

Fortunately there is light at the end of the tunnel. For there are sustainable development options available, under which Mediterranean countries can adopt green economy solutions to lead out of the current crisis and provide sustainable options for the future of the environment, the economy and the people who live in this incredible region.

I would encourage everyone to have a look at the Mediterranean Ecological Footprint Report – which can be downloaded from the Global Footprint network website at:

The site also contains lots of information from the study about individual countries and the important trends in biocapacity and Ecological Footprint that have led them to their current state. It also reinforces the urgency and the message that “to achieve lasting development success, governments, institutions, businesses and individuals must work with the reality that human well-being – prosperity – depends on our natural capital.” 

We can make sure that light “at the end of the tunnel” stays on, and indeed gets brighter, in the years ahead.

Richard McLellan

Director, Footprint

WWF International

Last modified onFriday, 05 May 2017 11:30
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