Unhappy day. September 23rd, marked yet another unfortunate milestone: As of yesterday, humanity is estimated to have consumed all the new resources the planet will produce this year, according to the Global Footprint Network . For the rest of 2008, they conclude, “we will be in the ecological equivalent of deficit spending, drawing down our resource stocks – in essence, borrowing from the future.”
They continue to say: “The recent bank failures in the United States have shown what happens when debt and spending get out of control. We are seeing signs of similarly disastrous consequences from our ecological overspending. Climate change, shrinking forests, declining biodiversity and current world food shortages are all results of the fact that we are demanding more from nature than it can supply.”
Globally, we now use the biological capacity of 1.4 planets, according to Global Footprint Network data. Earth Overshoot Day (also known as Ecological Debt Day) was devised by Global Footprint Network partner NEF (New Economics Foundation). Each year, GFNcalculates humanity’s Ecological Footprint (its demand on cropland, pasture, forests and fisheries), and compares this with the amount of resources the world’s lands and seas generate. In 2008, the calculations now suggest that in less than 10 months we consume what it takes the planet 12 months to produce. “Humanity has been in overshoot since the mid 1980s,” GFN notes, “when the first Earth Overshoot Day fell on December 31, 1986. By 1995 it was more than a month earlier, arriving on November 21. Ten years later it had moved another six weeks earlier, to October 2, 2005.”
One key metric for the success of the movements and communities of which Volans is part will therefore be to start the clock hand moving back towards December 31 – and, eventually, showing a building process of regeneration. But with billions of new people expected on Earth by mid-century, coupled with the spread of consumerist lifestyles, the likelihood, however hard we work, is that our ecological debt will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.