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Sustainability beyond city limits: can “greener” beef lighten a city’s Ecological Footprint?


Chapman, Mollie; LaValle, Alicia; Furey, George; Chan, Kai M A (2017). Sustainability beyond city limits: can “greener” beef lighten a city’s Ecological Footprint? Sustainability Science, 12(4):597-610.

Abstract

For cities seeking sustainability, the Ecological Footprint seems to be an excellent metric, potentially catalyzing actions directed outwards, at environmental problems beyond city limits. But does this metric actually guide cities down sustainable pathways? Through a case study of the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan, we ask what barriers and side effects accompany a city’s application of a specific metric to measure achievement towards sustainability goals. Our case study began by examining a particular approach to achieving EF reduction (proposed by the City: local beef). Through a triple-loop learning approach, we broadened our analysis to include additional policy options not originally on the table. For each of four policy options (1. local beef, 2. grass-fed beef, 3. payments for ecosystem services, and 4. using a proxy metric focused on individual and community leadership), we evaluate their ability to meet the Ecological Footprint metric, consider their potential to address the broader goal and discuss their feasibility as policy options for the city. Our analysis showed the ways the Ecological Footprint metric: (a) focused attention on non-actionable policy areas, (b) was non-responsive to promising policy options and (c) limited the types of policy options considered. In this case we demonstrate how the choice of the Ecological Footprint as a metric and goal had unintended consequences and instead shifted attention and policy inwards. By avoiding this ‘metric trap’, cities might contribute importantly to regional and global sustainability.

Abstract

For cities seeking sustainability, the Ecological Footprint seems to be an excellent metric, potentially catalyzing actions directed outwards, at environmental problems beyond city limits. But does this metric actually guide cities down sustainable pathways? Through a case study of the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan, we ask what barriers and side effects accompany a city’s application of a specific metric to measure achievement towards sustainability goals. Our case study began by examining a particular approach to achieving EF reduction (proposed by the City: local beef). Through a triple-loop learning approach, we broadened our analysis to include additional policy options not originally on the table. For each of four policy options (1. local beef, 2. grass-fed beef, 3. payments for ecosystem services, and 4. using a proxy metric focused on individual and community leadership), we evaluate their ability to meet the Ecological Footprint metric, consider their potential to address the broader goal and discuss their feasibility as policy options for the city. Our analysis showed the ways the Ecological Footprint metric: (a) focused attention on non-actionable policy areas, (b) was non-responsive to promising policy options and (c) limited the types of policy options considered. In this case we demonstrate how the choice of the Ecological Footprint as a metric and goal had unintended consequences and instead shifted attention and policy inwards. By avoiding this ‘metric trap’, cities might contribute importantly to regional and global sustainability.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Physical Sciences > Global and Planetary Change
Social Sciences & Humanities > Health (social science)
Social Sciences & Humanities > Geography, Planning and Development
Physical Sciences > Ecology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Political Science
Physical Sciences > Nature and Landscape Conservation
Physical Sciences > Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
Uncontrolled Keywords:Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law, Nature and Landscape Conservation, Sociology and Political Science, Ecology, Geography, Planning and Development, Health(social science), Global and Planetary Change
Language:English
Date:1 July 2017
Deposited On:10 Nov 2021 13:22
Last Modified:26 Jun 2024 01:43
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1862-4057
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-017-0423-7
Project Information:
  • : FunderCanada Research Chairs (CA)
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title