image: Footprint Network
Last year it was October 6th. In 2008, September 23rd is Earth Overshoot Day according to the calculations of the Global Footprint Network. That means that for the rest of the year more resources will be consumed globally than can be provided for on a sustainable basis by the Earth’s ecosystems. Basically, today is the day humanity starts running up ecological credit card debt. As the Footprint Network describes it,Nature’s Budget is Busted
In 2008, humanity used about 40% more in one year than nature can regenerate that same year. That means it takes over a year and three months for the Earth to regenerate what humanity is using in one year. This problem — using resources faster than they can regenerate and creating waste faster than it can be absorbed — is called ecological overshoot.
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.
In fact, overshoot is at the root of the most pressing environmental problems we face today: climate change, declining biodiversity, shrinking forests, fisheries collapse and several of the factors contributing to soaring world food prices.
There’s Only One Earth But We’re Using 1.4 Of Them
Globally, we now now require the equivalent of 1.4 planets to support our lifestyles. But of course, we only have one Earth. The result is that our supply of natural resources -- like trees and fish -- continues to shrink, while our waste, primarily carbon dioxide, accumulates.
That 1.4 planets is for the consumption of all human beings: That ‘our lifestyles’ is not the lifestyle taken for granted in the developed world, but humanity's collective lifestyle. This graph shows how it breaks down by region:
image: Footprint Network
How Big is Your Footprint?
The first step in assessing any problem is determining its scale. In terms of your environmental footprint, you can get a quick run-down of some of the popular eco-footprint calculators over at Planet Green. From there you can begin determining what steps you can take to reduce your personal planetary impact.
For more on how the Global Footprint Network determines the exact day when the Earth goes into enviro-debt each year, visit their :: Ecological Debt Day website.