Professor Emeritus Dr. William Rees


We do not have an ecological crisis. The ecosphere has a human crisis. Our ‘story’ about our place in the scheme of things has somehow gone awry in the industrial age. Human societies as temporally and spatially far-flung as the Mesopotamians, Mayans, and Easter Islanders likely came to ruin by expanding beyond the capacity of their environments to sustain them.

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Human Ecologist & Ecological Economist

William Rees, is a professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia and former director of the School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) at UBC. Rees has taught at the University of British Columbia since 1969-70. His primary interest is in public policy and planning relating to global environmental trends and the ecological conditions for sustainable socioeconomic development. He is the originator of the “ecological footprint” concept and co-developer of the method. William Rees received his PhD degree in population ecology from the University of Toronto. He founded SCARP’s ‘”Environment and Resource Planning” concentration and from 1994 to 1999 served as director of the School. Rees’ book on ecological footprint analysis, Our Ecological Footprint, was published in 1996 and is now available in English, Chinese, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Latvian, and Spanish. Much of Rees’ work is in the realm of ecological economics and human ecology. The ecological footprint is a quantitative tool that estimates humanity’s ecological impact on the ecosphere in terms of appropriated ecosystem (land and water) area. This research reveals the fundamental incompatibility between continued material economic growth and ecological security, and has helped to reopen debate on human carrying capacity as a consideration in sustainable development. Rees is a founding member and recent past-President of the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics and a founding Director of the One Earth Initiative. He is also a Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and a co-investigator in the “Global Integrity Project,” aimed at defining the ecological and political requirements for biodiversity preservation.

His present book project examines factors that seem to drive the repeating cycle of human societal collapse. A dynamic speaker, Rees has been invited to lecture on areas of his expertise across Canada and the US, as well as in Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, the former Soviet Union, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden and the UK. Rees also presently serves on the National Board of Advisors of the Carrying Capacity Network, an organization that advocates immigration reduction to achieve U.S. population stabilization and resource conservation, and calls for “national revitalization attained through fostering education, family, community self-reliance, tradition, and national unity. Rees was awarded the 2007 Trudeau Fellowship Prize, an annual prize awarded by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and in 2006 was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC). Rees was a member of the winning team receiving the City of Barcelona 2004 Award (Multimedia Category) for the exhibition Inhabiting the World. In 2000, The Vancouver Sun recognized him as one of British Columbia’s top “public intellectuals.” In 1997, UBC awarded William Rees a Senior Killam Research Prize in acknowledgment of his research achievements. In 2012, Prof Rees received an Honorary Doctorate from Laval University, the Boulding Prize in Ecological Economics and a Blue Planet Prize (jointly with Dr Wackernagel). He was elected a full member of the Club of Rome in 2014.