Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 547–560 | Cite as

Exporting natural capital: the foreign eco-footprint on Costa Rica and implications for sustainability

  • Meidad Kissinger
  • William E. Rees


As the world economy ‘globalizes’, trade has become a major mechanism by which much of the human population supports its needs. While trade in resource commodities (natural income) can increase the well-being of people in both exporting and importing countries, it can also lead to depletion of natural capital and the loss of ecosystems integrity. In recent years, various researchers have attempted to address this problem using a consumption-based perspective on ecological change. Their work shows that the loss of ecosystem integrity in almost any region of the world can be attributed to both local and international consumer demand. This paper illustrates the utility of modified eco-footprint analysis in assessing export-related ecological change in Costa Rica. We quantify ecological footprint of consumers around the world on the productive ecosystems of Costa Rica, document the changing character of this footprint and highlight some of the linkages between production for export in Costa Rica and ecological degradation. We then discuss the implications of the increasing trade-based entanglement of nations for ecosystems and global sustainability.


Globalization Consumption Trade Ecological sustainability Ecological footprint analysis 



The authors would like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for their support of this research through Grant #410-2004-0786 to William Rees.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Community and Regional PlanningUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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