Today, 20 August 2013, marks Earth Overshoot Day for 2013 – an annual event that marks the day in history when global demand on natural resources exceeds what Earth can renew in a year. In other words, it’s the day when we start operating in ecological overdraft – according to data from Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think tank.
Global Footprint Network tracks global demand on Earth’s ecological resources (such as food provisions, raw materials and carbon dioxide absorption) — its Ecological Footprint — against nature’s ability to replenish those resources and absorb waste. Global Footprint Network’s data show that, in less than eight months, we have used as much nature as our planet can regenerate this year. The rest of the year corresponds to living in ecological overdraft – or overshoot. Operating in overshoot means that natural resources will be depleted and wastes such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans will accumulate. As our level of consumption, or “spending,” grows, the interest we are paying on this mounting ecological debt — shrinking forests, biodiversity loss, fisheries collapse, food shortages, degraded land productivity and the build-up of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and oceans — not only burdens the environment but also undermines our economies.
Climate change, which is a result of greenhouse gases being emitted faster than they can be absorbed by forests and oceans, is an example of the impact of ecological overspending. “Facing such constraints has direct impacts on people. Lower-income populations have a hard time competing with the rest of the world for resources,” said Mathis Wackernagel, President of Global Footprint Network and the co-creator of the Ecological Footprint resource accounting metric.
According to the Global Footprint Network, despite the global recession, consumption rates continues to rise and current resource trends are already unable to meet the needs of the planet’s 7 billion people, while about two billion people lack access to the resources required to meet their basic needs. Today, more than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries that use more than their own ecosystems can renew. To avoid economic, social and environmental hardship – resource limits and resource efficiency must be at the core of decision-making.