Posts Tagged ‘Biodiversity and Ecosystems’

Earth’s Overdraft Notice

16 Aug

The Global Footprint Network has announced that Earth Overshoot Day is fast approaching:

This Saturday, we will reach Earth Overshoot Day: the day when human demand on nature surpasses what nature can renewably of August 21st, humanity will have demanded an amount of ecological resources equivalent to what it takes nature 12 months to produce.

From now until the end of the year, we will meet our needs by liquidating stocks and accumulating greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

According to the Global Footprint Network humanity crossed a threshold three decades ago when we stopped being able to live off of nature's interest -- "consuming resources and producing carbon dioxide at a rate lower than what the planet was able to regenerate and reabsorb each year" -- and started living beyond nature's capacity. They call this gap between human demand and nature's supply "ecological overshoot" (a concept that was devised by the UK-based new economics foundation).

The pace of this overshoot has grown each year (see links for 2007 and 2008 in the Worldchanging archives). Now the most recent data shows that "it takes one year and five months to regenerate the ecological services (production of resources and absorption of CO2) that humanity requires in one year." While this year's overshoot day comes about a month earlier than last year's, this is not due to a sudden change in human demand, but rather to improvements in the calculation methodology that have enabled the Global Footprint Network to more adequately capture the extent of overshoot. As an example, they report that the world has less biocapacity available, primarily in the area of grazing land, than previously estimated.

2010 Global Ecological Deficit (via "Global Footprint Network, National Footprint Accounts, 2009 edition. Available at

To learn more about how the Earth Overshoot Day is calculated, click here. Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel had this to say of the calculations:

"We would expect our estimates of overshoot to be, if anything, conservative. We know we are far from living within the means of one planet. The good news is, much of the technology we have to begin to address this problem is available and it is open source: things like compact urban design, energy-efficient housing, ecological tax reform, removal of resource subsidies, safe and affordable family planning, bicycles, low-meat diets, and life-cycle costing."

We couldn't agree more.

Some strategies for addressing the problem in the archives:

Related stories in the archives:

  • The Emergence of a Biosphere Economy | John Elkington and Alejandro Litovsky, 28 Jun 10
  • Ecological Footprint 2.0 | Alex Lowe, 17 Jun 07
  • Principle 2: Ecological Footprints and One Planet Thinking | WorldChanging Team, 8 May 07
  • The Future is Climate Neutral | Alex Steffen and Sarah Rich, 22 Jan 07
  • Europe 2005: The Ecological Footprint | Jon Lebkowsky, 2 Dec 05
  • Help us change the world - DONATE NOW!

    (Posted by Amanda Reed in Biodiversity and Ecosystems at 4:30 PM)