Ecological debt

Most of us have heard of Earth Day, but what about Earth Overshoot day?

Earth Overshoot day occurred on September 23 this year. According to FootPrintNetwork, it was the day we started going into ecological debt for the year by burning through resources at a rate faster than what the planet can regenerate in a calendar year.

According to the organization, humanity now requires the equivalent of 1.4 planets to support our lifestyles. The great shame of it all is that much of the population isn’t to blame for it. People in many developing countries still don’t use more than what the planet can give. It’s us in richer countries who do, so much so that it still averages out across the entire population to be more than our planet can sustain.

It seems that we started going into ecological debt just over 20 years ago, in 1986. By 1996, we were consuming 15 percent more resources in a year than the planet could supply. At that point, Earth Overshoot Day fell in November. This year we are demanding resources at a rate of 40 percent faster than the planet can supply.

Nature is allowing us to tap into a slush fund currently – after all, she is bountiful; but this can’t go on forever. We can’t keep cutting down trees faster than they grow or decimating other resources faster than they can be replenished. Fossil fuels are a classic example; i.e. the issue of peak oil. Fossil fuel is a double whammy in that we’re not only flying headlong into an energy crisis as a result of our reliance, but poisoning ourselves as we do so.

It’s rather frightening how much ecological debt we’ve incurred and how quickly. We’re certainly starting to see late payment penalties in the form of phenomenon such as climate change and it makes you wonder how long it will be before our lender forecloses on us altogether.

You can learn more about ecological debt and Earth Overshoot Day here, check out some sobering consumption statistics here and a must-see is the Story of Stuff, which explains how marketers got us into this mess.