Fellow humans, it’s time we start living like we’re in a natural resources recession.
According to a new report by the Global Footprint Network (GFN), the Earth is in ecological debt, as we’ve already used up our year’s supply of natural resources. And there’s still four months left in 2015.
August 13 marked this year’s “Earth Overshoot Day,” which the GFN defines as “when humanity’s annual demand for the goods and service that our land and seas can provide—fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cloth for clothing, and carbon dioxide absorption—exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can renew in a year.”
For you math whizzes, the equation is:
(Planet’s Biocapacity / Humanity’s Ecological Footprint) x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day.
When we’re in “ecological debt,” we’re living off of the Earth’s principal, rather than drawing from what we can regenerate.
In an interview with The Guardian, Mathias Wackernagel, the president the GFN, said, “The big problem is not that our deficit is getting bigger, it is that it cannot be maintained in the long run.”
“Even though we are in a deficit equation we are not taking measures to take us in the right direction. The problem is psychological—somehow we are missing this basic physical law. It is obvious to children, but for 98 percent of economic planners it is a minor risk not worth our attention.”
Since the 1970s, the Earth has been slipping into ecological debt, but Overshoot Day has been falling increasingly earlier in the calendar year. For instance, in the 1970s, Overshoot Day typically occurred in December, while in the 1980s it occurred in November. By the 2000s, it had crept into September. This year, it arrived six days earlier than in 2014.
In a statement, Wackernagel suggested that there is hope. “We are encouraged by the recent developments on the front line of renewable energy, which have been accelerating worldwide, and by increasing awareness of the finance industry that a low-carbon economy is the way of the future.”
Canada has one of the world’s biggest ecological footprints—behind United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Denmark, Belgium, the United States and Estonia—but because of our country’s natural resources, we are not in ecological debt.
That being said, if everyone in the world lived like we do in Canada, we would need 3.7 planets to support our demand.