Earth Overshoot Day

by: Heather on 09/22/2009

This coming Friday, September 25th, the planet will "celebrate" Earth Overshoot Day - the day humanity uses up all the resources nature will generate this year. According to the Global Footprint Network, Earth Overshoot Day marks the day on which our total ecological footprint is equal to the biocapacity that nature can regenerate in that year.

The ecological footprint is a concept developed by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees and explained in great detail in Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth. This book is one which we at New Society are very proud of - it has become a classic of the sustainability movement and the ecological footprint concept is widely recognized as a critical tool in assessing and hopefully reversing humanity's growing impact on the planet's shrinking resources.

Our Ecological Footprint


Here's some more detail on Earth Overshoot Day from the Global Footprint Network's press release:

We all know nature doesn't do bailouts. Yet, on Sept. 25th, humanity will have demanded all the ecological services - from filtering CO2 to producing the raw materials for food - that nature can produce this year, according to data from Global Footprint Network, a research organization that measures how much nature we have, how much we use, and who uses what. From now until the end of the year, we will meet our ecological demand by depleting resource stocks and accumulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Since the mid 1980s, humanity has been demanding ecological services faster than the planet can regenerate them, a condition known as ecological overshoot. We now use in less than 10 months the amount of resources it takes 12 months for nature to generate, according to Global Footprint Network data.

"It's a simple case of income versus expenditures," said Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel. "For years, our demand on nature has exceeded, by an increasingly greater margin, the budget of what nature can produce. The urgent threats we are seeing now - most notably climate change, but also biodiversity loss, shrinking forests, declining fisheries, soil erosion and freshwater stress - are all clear signs: Nature is running out of credit to extend."

The good news (if you can call it that) is that this year's Overshoot Day is two days later than last year's, which was Sept. 23rd. It's still a long way from December 31st though!


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