Mathis Wackernagel is co-creator of the Ecological Footprint and President of Global Footprint Network. In 1994, he completed a Ph.D. in community and regional planning with Professor William Rees at the University of British Columbia, where his doctoral dissertation developed the Ecological Footprint concept. Mathis also earned a mechanical engineering degree from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
In 2003, he co-founded Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think-tank with main offices in Oakland (California); also legally established in Switzerland. This international think-tank focuses on bringing about a sustainable human economy in which all thrive within the means of our one planet. It recognizes that qualitative improvement, such as biodiversity preservation, cannot be meaningfully scaled up as long as basic quantitative conditions for sustainability are not met, such as the need for humanity to live within the regenerative budget of Earth.
Given that the only long-term option for humanity is to live off the planet′s regeneration (rather than its liquidation), Global Footprint Network uses Ecological Footprint accounting as a key metric to influence decision-making. These accounts compare all the competing demands on nature′s regeneration with the amount nature can renew.
Mathis has worked on sustainability with governments, corporations and international NGOs on six continents and has lectured at more than a hundred universities. He previously served as director of the Sustainability Program at Redefining Progress in Oakland, California, and ran the Centro de Estudios para la Sustentabilidad at Anáhuac University in Xalapa, Mexico. Mathis has authored and contributed to more than 100 peer-reviewed papers, numerous articles, reports and various books on sustainability that focus on embracing resource limits and developing metrics for sustainability, including Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth; Sharing Nature′s Interest; Der Footprint: Die Welt neu vermessen; Ecological Footprint: Managing Our Biocapacity Budget; and WWF International′s Living Planet Report.
Mathis′ awards include the 2018 World Sustainability Award, the 2015 IAIA Global Environment Award, being a 2014 ISSP Sustainability Hall of Fame Inductee, the 2013 Prix Nature Swisscanto, 2012 Blue Planet Prize, 2012 Binding Prize for Nature Conservation, the 2012 Kenneth E. Boulding Memorial Award of the International Society for Ecological Economics, the 2011 Zayed International Prize for the Environment (jointly awarded with UNEP), an honorary doctorate from the University of Berne in 2007, a 2007 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, 2006 WWF Award for Conservation Merit and 2005 Herman Daly Award of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics. He was also selected as number 19 on the en(rich) list identifying the 100 top inspirational individuals whose contributions enrich paths to sustainable futures (www.enrichlist.org). John Elkington identified Mathis among the “Zeronaut 50” Roll of Honor, i.e., leading pioneers who are driving the world′s most significant problems to zero. From 2011 to 2015, Mathis was also the Frank H. T. Rhodes Class of 1956 Visiting Professor at Cornell University.