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The Ecological Footprint
August 22nd Is Earth Overshoot Day: Humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year
(Global Footprint Network, Oakland, CA, 8-22-12) Humanity has surpassed nature’s budget for the year, and is now operating in overdraft, according to data from Global Footprint Network, an international research organization with offices in California and Europe.
Earth Overshoot Day (from a concept devised by the UK think tank new economics foundation) helps conceptualize the gap between what nature can regenerate, and how much is required to support human
activities. Similar to the way a bank statement tracks income against expenditures, Global Footprint Network tracks humanity’s demand for, and supply of, natural resources and ecological services. Global Footprint Network’s calculations show that in just over eight months, we have used up the resources and CO2 sequestration that the planet can sustainably provide this year.
For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by depleting resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
“Nations around the world, and particularly in the south of Europe, have started to painfully experience what it means to spend more money than what they earn,” said Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, President of Global Footprint Network. “The resource pressure is similar to such financial overspending, and can become devastating. As resource deficits get larger, and resource prices remain high, the costs to nations become unbearable.”
Our ecological overspending has become a vicious cycle, in which we draw down more and more principal at the same time our level of consumption, or “spending,” grows. The social and economic costs could be staggering.
“From soaring fossil fuel prices to crippling national debts partly due to rising natural resource prices, our economies are now confronting the reality of years of spending beyond our means,” Dr. Wackernagel said. “If we are to maintain stable societies and productive lives, we can no longer sustain a widening budget gap between what nature is able to provide and how much our infrastructure, economies and lifestyles require.”
For most of human history, humanity has used nature’s services—to build cities and roads, provide food and create products, and absorb the CO2 generated by human activities—at a rate that was well within Earth’s budget. But sometime in the 1970s, we crossed a critical threshold. Human demand began outstripping what the planet could renewably produce, and we went into ecological overshoot.
What is Ecological Overshoot? The video is made available courtesy of the Pachamama Alliance and its Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Symposium.
Global Footprint Network
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