October 6 was Ecological Debt Day
Globally, we are demanding 1.3 planets to support our lifestyles this year, and yet we only have one planet earth.
Ecological Debt Day marks the day when we begin living beyond our ecological means. Ecological Footprint accounting shows that, as of October 6, 2007, humanity has consumed the total amount of new resources that our planet can produce this year.
Each year Global Footprint Network calculates humanity's Ecological Footprint (its demand on cropland, pasture, forests and fisheries) and compares it with global biocapacity (the ability of these ecosystems to generate resources and absorb wastes). Ecological Footprint accounting can be used to determine the exact date we, as a global community, go into ecological overshoot, using more than the planet can regenerate in a year. On Ecological Debt Day, we go into global overshoot for a given year and begin contributing to our global ecological debt, which has been accumulating since we first went into overshoot in the 1980s.
As humanity's consumption of resources increases, Ecological Debt Day creeps earlier on the calendar. According to current calculations, humanity's first Ecological Debt Day was December 19, 1987. By 1995 it had jumped back a month to 21 November. In 2007, with Ecological Debt on October 6, humanity’s Ecological Footprint is almost thirty per cent larger than the planet's productivity this year. In other words, it now takes more than one year and three months for the Earth to regenerate what we use in a single year.
Please contact Brooking Gatewood if you are interested in learning more about this year’s Ecological Debt Day.
Today, humanity uses about 30% more in one year than nature can regenerate in that same year. This is called "overshoot". An ecological overshoot of 30% means that it takes over one year and three months for the Earth to regenerate what is being used by people in one year. This overshoot accumulates over time to create a global ecological debt.
We currently maintain this overshoot by liquidating the planet's natural resources. For example we can cut trees faster than they re-grow, and catch fish at a rate faster than they repopulate. While this can be done for a short while, overshoot ultimately leads to the depletion of resources on which our economy depends.
Overshoot is like ecological overspending. Just as any business that does not keep financial books will go bankrupt over time, we must document whether we're living within our ecological budget or running an ecological debt that will eventually deplete our renewable assets.
Overshoot could be the biggest issue you've never heard of, yet its causes and effects are as simple as they are significant. For example, in any given year if we cut down trees faster than the forests can grow them back or catch more fish than the oceans can replenish, we begin liquidating the planet's assets. The consequences of our annual overshoot is an accumulating ecological debt, with consequences including global climate change, species extinction, insecure energy supplies, water shortages, and crop failure. Below are some facts about the effects of humanity’s ecological debt.
For source information for the above statistics, click here.
[ world biocapacity / world Ecological Footprint ] x 365 = Ecological Debt Day
Put simply, Ecological Debt Day shows the day on which our total Ecological Footprint (measured in global hectares) is equal to the biocapacity (also measured in global hectares) that nature can regenerate in that year. For the rest of the year, we are accumulating debt by depleting our natural capital and letting waste accumulate.
The day of the year on which humanity enters into overshoot and begins adding to our ecological debt is calculated by calculating the ratio of global available biocapacity to global Ecological Footprint and multiplying by 365. From this, we find the number of days of demand that the biosphere could supply, and the number of days we operate in overshoot.
This ratio shows that in 2007, in just 279 days, we demanded the biosphere's entire capacity for the year. The 279th day of the year was October 6.
If you have further questions about the Ecological Footprint and overshoot calculations, there are a number of resources available through our website to learn more: See the Living Planet Report and the Ecological Debt Day Media Backgrounder for definitions, data and further information about overshoot. You can also read our methodology paper for a more technical overview of our calculation methods, and visit our glossary page for definitions of terms. If you have further inquiries about Ecological Debt Day please contact Brooking Gatewood.