It has taken humanity less than nine months to exhaust its ecological budget for the year, according to Global Footprint Network calculations.
Tomorrow, August 21, we will reach Earth Overshoot Day: the day of the year in which human demand on the biosphere exceeds what it can regenerate. As of that day, humanity will have demanded all the ecological services – from filtering CO2 to producing the raw materials for food – that nature can regenerate this year. For the rest of the year, we will meet our ecological demand by depleting resource stocks and accumulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
“If you spent your entire annual income in nine months, you would probably be extremely concerned,” said Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel. “The situation is no less dire when it comes to our ecological budget. Climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, water and food shortages are all clear signs: We can no longer finance our consumption on credit. Nature is foreclosing.”
Earth Overshoot Day Occurring Earlier Than Ever
Last year, Earth Overshoot Day was observed on September 25, 2009. This year, the day is estimated to come more than a month earlier in the year. This is not due to a sudden surge in human demand, but rather to improvements in the calculation methodology that enable us to more adequately capture the extent of overshoot. For example, our latest data show we have less grazing land than previously estimated. As a result, the ratio of how much we use as compared to how much we have has increased.
Watch a video on overshoot.
Earth Overshoot Day, a concept devised by UK-based new economics foundation, is calculated by comparing our demand (as calculated by the Ecological Footprint) against nature's supply (as calculated by biocapacity.) This ratio shows that in just 233 days, we demand the amount of biocapacity that the planet will generate in 12 months. The 233rd day of the year is August 21.
"We would expect our estimates of overshoot to be, if anything, conservative." Wackernagel said. "We know we are far from living within the means of one planet. The good news is, much of the technology we have to begin to address this problem is available and it is open source: things like compact urban design, energy-efficient housing, ecological tax reform, removal of resource subsidies, safe and affordable family planning, bicycles, low-meat diets, and life-cycle costing."
(Click here to calculate your own Ecological Footprint and learn what you can do to reduce it.)
The 2010 figure is derived from preliminary assessments of 2007 data, and projections based on historical rates of change for biocapacity and Ecological Footprint, as well as the historical link between world GDP and resource demand. (Click here for more information.)
These calculations show pressure on ecological resources continuing to rise, even in the face of a worldwide economic slowdown. This is due in part to continued population growth and in part to the fact that, globally, per capita consumption is continuing to increase even if, in certain countries, it may have declined as a result of the recession.
Living Within Our Means
Global Footprint Network and its international partner network are dedicated to addressing the problem of overshoot by making ecological limits central to decision-making at all levels.
You can work to end overshoot by making changes in your own life, supporting organizations that are working to reduce human demand on the biosphere (including greenhouse gas emissions) and challenging your leaders to take the actions necessary to maintain natural capital and enable us to live within our means.