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We've exceeded Earth's budget for the year. (Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

This Year's 'Ecological Debt' Has Begun

We've hit this year's Earth Overshooot Day; humanity has used up nature's resources for the year

Andrea Germanos

It's time for humanity to get out a pen to make out its annual IOU to the Earth.

That's because Tuesday marks Earth Overshoot Day, the day humanity has used up the carbon storing abilities and all the planet's natural resources that Earth can provide in the year.

Tracking this somber milestone is the nonprofit organization Global Footprint Network, which notes that "in the mid-1970s, we crossed a critical threshold: Human consumption began outstripping what the planet could reproduce." We would now need 1.5 Earths to meet our resource demands.

This "ecological debt" marker is a date the world has been reaching sooner each year for more than a decade, the organization states. Compared to this year's August milestone, Overshoot Day came in early October in 2000.

"It is both an ecological and an economic problem,” stated Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network and the co-creator, along with William Rees, of the Footprint metric.

Humanity reaps the effects of this overshoot in rising CO2 emissions fueling climate change, as well as declines in biodiversity, deforestation and collapse of some ecosystems. Additionally, the resource debt "contributes to resource conflicts and wars, mass migrations, famine, disease and other human tragedies—and tends to have a disproportionate impact on the poor, who cannot buy their way out of the problem by getting resources from somewhere else," Global Footprint Network states.

Yet "even high-income countries that have had the financial advantage to shield themselves from the most direct impacts of resource dependence need to realize that a long-term solution requires addressing such dependencies before they turn into a significant economic stress," Wackernagel stated.

Reining in the problem means, foremost, awareness off the ecological limits we face, and using that awareness to find new ways to live--both individually and collectively--the group states.

To find out your individual footprint and see how you can reduce it, you can take this quiz.

To hear more about the measurement and the ecological debt, watch this video from the organization:


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

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