Earth has ‘overspent’ its sustainable budget for the year – already. Throughout most of history, humanity has used nature’s resources to build cities and roads, to provide food and create products, and in passing to release carbon dioxide, at a rate that was well within Earth’s budget. But by the early 1970s, that critical threshold had been crossed: Human consumption began outstripping what the planet could reproduce. That is the basis upon which the New Economics Foundation sister organisation Global Footprint Network calculates Earth Overshoot Day.
This year, Earth Overshoot Day fell on 8 August. For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We will be operating in overshoot; or, if you like our current account has moved into overdraft.
In 1987, Earth Overshoot Day was calculated at December 19th, so we overran the earth’s capacity to survive for twelve days ; by 2000, it had moved to November 1st. By 2010 we were in overdraft by August 21st; and now in 2016 we have reached the point where we went overdrawn yesterday, August 8th, having exhausted our sustainable budget well within eight months; put another way, we need one and a half earths at this rate to survive.
David Attenborough put it succinctly: “anyone who thinks you can go on expanding in a finite world is either mad or an economist”. Yet we are still wedded to Growth, to buying more, earning more, wasting more, producing more. Something has to give.
For more information about Earth Overshoot day, including ideas about what you can do to help put the brakes on, visit the Earth Overshoot Day website. Alternatively, join the dinosaurs..