Sustainability Basics

Natural Resource Accounting

To achieve true sustainability, government officials need a clearer understanding of the extent to which human development is approaching or exceeding nature’s limits. If policymakers don’t know whether current and projected resource demands are sustainable, they cannot make informed decisions about sustainability and the policy changes needed to achieve it.

Fortunately, the science of ecological accounting, waste assimilation, fuel reserve estimation and ecosystem dynamics are advancing rapidly. We can now determine, with increasing accuracy, greenhouse gas emission limits, energy supply peaks, and the extent of anthropogenic demands on nature. Better yet, we can use these metrics to put real mathematical substance to the critical global issue of living within the means of Planet Earth.

Natural resource accounting is a governance practice that uses scientific metrics to determine whether natural systems can support our demands on a sustainable basis and to inform our development plans. Each nation must embrace the broad concept of true sustainability and commit to actionable programs dedicated to macro-level improvements in managing its Ecological Footprint. These programs will require baseline assessments, periodic reporting, and adoption of national policies that respect the Earth’s finite capacity. Natural resource accounting will play a key role in bridging the gap between science and policy on sustainability.