Earth Overshoot Day falls ever earlier

Posted: 23 September 2008

According to Global Footprint calculations, today (September 23, 2008) is Earth Overshoot Day: the day our demand surpasses nature's budget, the day when humanity will have consumed all the new resources the planet will produce this year.

For the rest of 2008, we will be in the ecological equivalent of deficit spending, drawing down our resource stocks - in essence, borrowing from the future - if Global Footprint calculations are correct.

Population Overshoot Day 2008
Population Overshoot Day 2008
"The recent bank failures in the United States have shown what happens when debt and spending get out of control. We are seeing signs of similarly disastrous consequences from our ecological overspending", it says. "Climate change, shrinking forests, declining biodiversity and current world food shortages are all results of the fact that we are demanding more from nature than it can supply".

The Global Footprint Network, with headquarters in California nnd branches in several European countries, works internationally with 70 partner non-government agencies.ires, In a statement today it said: "Humans now require the resources of 1.4 planets. Just like any company nature has a budget - it can only produce so many resources and absorb so much waste each year. Globally, we now demand the biological capacity of 1.4 planets... but, of course, we only have one".

More people

Earth Overshoot Day (also known as Ecological Debt Day) was a concept devised by Global Footprint Network partner, the New Economics Foundation, (NEF). Each year, the Network calculates humanity's demand on cropland, pasture, forests and fisheries), and compares this with the amount of resources the world's lands and seas generate. Their data shows that in less than 10 months we consume what it takes the planet 12 months to produce.

"Earth Overshoot Day creeps earlier every year. Humanity has been in overshoot since the mid-1980s, when the first Earth Overshoot Day fell on December 31, 1986. By 1995 it was more than a month earlier, arriving on November 21. Ten years later it had moved another six weeks earlier, to October 2, 2005" the organiastion says.

"What contributes to our increasing demand? Part of the story is that there are simply more people on the planet requiring nature's services. In some areas of the world - most notably in high income regions like the United States and Europe, as well as industrializing nations like China - per capita resource consumption has also been increasing. In other areas of the world, however, including India and parts of Africa, per capita Ecological Footprints have actually declined, likely as a result of there being less resources available per person.

"Carbon is also a big part of the story, as it is the greatest contributor to ecological overshoot. Humanity is emitting carbon faster than the planet can re-absorb it. Our carbon Footprint has increased more than 700 per cent since 1961."

Two planets

It says that UN 'business-as-usual projections' show humanity requiring the equivalent of two planets by 2050. By then Overshoot Day would fall on July 1, meaning that it would take two years for the planet to regenerate what we use in one year. Reaching this level of ecological deficit spending may be physically impossible.

The Global Footprint Network and its international partner network works with businesses and government leaders around the world to make ecological limits a central part of decision-making everywhere.

"Citizens can take action to get out of overshoot in their own lives: eating less meat, driving and flying less, and using less energy in the home. They can also encourage government and business leaders to build communities with smart infrastructure planning and best-practice green technology. With international commitment to end overshoot, Earth Overshoot Day can become history instead of news."

The Living Planet Report 2006, produced by WWF in association with the Global Footprint Network, provides more information on the planet's carrying capacity and what can be done to reduce our personal footprint. You can download this here. The Living Planet Report 2008 will be available from the website next month.

For more on Earth Overshoot Day, go here.