On the 20th August 2013 (last Tuesday) the planet reached a yearly milestone. Unfortunately not a birthday or something else traditionally celebrated with cake but rather the day when we have used as much nature as our planet can regenerate this year. We are overdrawn, so to speak, when it comes to Earth’s natural resources and now we are living in ‘ecological overdraft’.
The Global Footprint Network calculates demand for the Earth’s ecological resources such as food provisions, raw materials and carbon dioxide absorption, also known as its Ecological Footprint, against the planet’s ability to replenish those resources and absorb waste.
The evidence of this overshoot is clear to see: the accumulation of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, biodiversity loss, fisheries collapse and the loss of tropical rainforests, to name a few. Our overconsumption of what should be renewable resources impacts human wellbeing and economic development. Two billion people lack access to resources to meet their basic needs.
Consumption is also increasing and will continue to increase with population growth unless an understanding of the limits to the world’s resources and the hardships competing for such resources will cause is at the heart of policy making.
While the planet as a whole is ‘overshooting’ the limits of resources, not all countries are. Here is an interactive map that shows which countries are ecological creditors such as Australia, Russia and Brazil, and which are ecological debtors, USA, UK and China.
In 1993, Earth Overshoot Day fell on 21st October. In 2003, it was on 22nd September. This year it is on 20th August. Earth Overshoot Day arrives a few days earlier each year. If each decade Earth overshoot day is one month earlier then by 2093 we will constantly be in overshoot, a pretty scary thought.