September 25th marks ‘Earth Overshoot Day’
Earth’s green overshoot ‘starts today’: NGO
Published: Friday 25 September 2009
Today (25 September) marks ‘Earth Overshoot Day’, after which date humanity begins to live beyond its ecological means for 2009, according to the Global Footprint Network, an NGO. As of tomorrow, the world will be living at an ecological deficit, consuming natural resources more quickly than the planet can regenerate them over 365 days.
This year, the world used nature’s entire capacity for 2009 in less than ten months, surpassing the limit today. "For the rest of the year, we are accumulating debt by depleting our natural capital and letting waste accumulate," according to the Global Footprint Network.
This year, the world is using 40% more resources than the Earth can regenerate itself, and 1.4 planets would be required to support our current lifestyles.
Developed by a UK foundation, Earth Overshoot Day marks the day when the world’s total ecological footprint equals the biocapacity that nature can regenerate in that year.
Examples of overshooting include cutting down trees more quickly than they can re-grow, catching fish at a faster rate than they reproduce and releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere than the planet can absorb.
First overshoot in 1986
While overshooting is manageable for a short while, repeated overshoots deplete the resources upon which our economy depends and add to the Earth’s ‘ecological debt’.
According to the Global Footprint Network, humanity first went into overshoot in 1986. Before, we "consumed resources and produced carbon dioxide at a rate consistent with what the planet could produce and reabsorb".
By 1996, the Earth Overshoot Day was falling November, indicating 15% overuse of nature’s capacity.
Two planets needed by 2030
The biannual Living Planet Report by the Global Footprint Network, WWF and the Zoological Society of London, published late last year, indicated that growing populations are putting so much pressure on the Earth’s natural resources that two planets will be required by the early 2030s if current lifestyles are to be maintained.
Considering the uneven distribution of natural resources, the report’s findings suggest that most people now live in nations which are ecological debtors, covering their excess demand by importing resources from other countries.
In the EU, the total ecological footprint is twice the size of the region’s biocapacity, with the UK and Spain, for example, running an ecological deficit greater than 150%.
- Commission: Sustainable Use of Natural Resources
- European Environment Agency: The National Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts (2005)
- Global Footprint Network: Earth Overshoot Day (25 September 2009)
- Global Footprint Network: Earth Overshoot Day Media Backgrounder (25 September 2009)
- WWF, Global Footprint Network and Zoological Society of London: Living Planet Report 2008 (29 October 2008)
Other related news:
- World forum calls for natural resource tax
- London offers guide to steer business onto greener path
- German industry warns of ‘raw materials gap’
- EU launches reflection on future green policies
- 19 ideas to make life in the UK more sustainable
"Regulating by carbon trading is like fiddling as Rome burns. Governments and the UN should impose a carbon tax on corporations, both for production – wherever their facilities are located – and for transport, which the Kyoto Protocol does not account for directly. Incentives for renewable energy are also essential. We face a stark choice: we can destroy the conditions for human life on the planet by clinging to ‘free-market’ fundamentalism, or we can secure our future by bringing commerce within the laws of ecological sustainability and social justice ."
Vandana Shiva, leading author and activist in India, member of the Policy Advisory Board of the Organic Consumers Association