William E. Rees, PhD, FRSC


William Rees is a bio-ecologist, ecological economist, former Director and Professor Emeritus of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning. His early research focused on environmental assessment but gradually extended to the biophysical requirements for sustainability and the socio-cultural implications of global ecological trends. Along the way, he developed a special interest in modern cities as ‘dissipative structures’ and therefore as particularly vulnerable components of the total human ecosystem.

Rees is perhaps best known as the originator and co-developer (with his graduate students) of ecological footprint analysis—the expanding human eco-footprint is arguably the world’s best-known indicator of global (un)sustainability, including egregious social inequity. His book on eco-footprinting (co-authored with his former PhD student, Mathis Wackernagel) has been published in eight languages, including Chinese. Rees is also author of over 150 peer reviewed papers and numerous popular articles on sustainability science and policy. (And sometimes the lack of policy—his recent writing focuses on biological, neuro-cognitive and socially-constructed barriers to progress.)

Prof Rees’ academic work has been widely recognized. He has served on numerous advisory committees and lectured by invitation in 30 countries around the world. Rees is a founding member and former President of the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics; a founding Director of the One Earth Initiative; and a Fellow of the Post-Carbon Institute. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2006 and in 2007 was awarded a prestigious Trudeau Foundation Fellowship. 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; in 2015 he received the 2015 Herman Daly Award (US Society for Ecological Economics) and in 2016 was awarded the Dean’s Medal of Distinction from UBC’s Faculty of Applied Science.

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