Ecological debt: Humanity exhausts earth’s resources for 2016 in less than 8 months

The Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year.

Less than eight months into 2016, the record date for the year was on Monday, August 8, indicating that our demand for ecological resources have exceeded what the planet can replenish this year.

Previously known as the Ecological Debt Day, it serves as a reminder of the enormous toll we take on the earth. With four months still to go until the year ends, we have already consumed an entire year’s worth of the world’s resources.

With this year’s Overshoot Day happening earlier than ever before, the Global Footprint Network (GFN) estimates that approximately every eight months, we demand more renewable resources and C02 sequestration than what the planet can provide for an entire year.

In 1971, Overshoot Day fell on December 24. 10 years later, it had moved ahead by a month to mid-November. In 1993, the day fell on October 21, in 2003 on September 22 and last year on August 13.

According to GFN, humankind in 1961 used only about three-quarters of earth’s annual resource allotment, but by the 1970s, economic and population growth sent earth into annual overshoot.

“From Monday, August 8, we will be living on credit because in eight months we would have consumed the natural capital that our planet can renew in a year.

“This is possible because we emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than our oceans and forests can absorb, and we deplete fisheries and harvest forests more quickly than they can reproduce and regrow,” the network said in a statement.

To calculate the date for Earth Overshoot Day, the group crunches United Nations’ data on thousands of economic sectors such as fisheries, forestry, transport and energy production.

Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions, it said, are now the fastest-growing contributor to ecological overshoot, making up 60 per cent of humanity’s demands on nature, what is called the ecological footprint.

According to the UN, the number of people on earth is forecast to grow from 7.3 billion today to 11.2 billion by the end of the century, piling further pressure on our planet and its finite resources.

For the rest of 2016, we’ll be “living on resources borrowed from future generations,” the World Wildlife Fund pointed out when we failed last year.

However, concerted efforts by individuals, institutions and nations worldwide to reduce humanity’s ecological footprint could profoundly alter this dire picture. If the global community reduced carbon emissions by 30 per cent before 2030, for instance, Overshoot Day could be pushed back an entire month.

“Globally, the longer we go on pretending that natural resources are unlimited, the faster we are jeopardising the very capacity of our planet to provide us with the renewable resources that we need to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves.

“Balancing how much renewable natural resources we use with how much is generated is paramount if mankind is to thrive on our beautiful planet. Each of us has the opportunity to participate: the choices we make every day as consumers and as citizens actively contribute to the world that we will leave future generations,” GFN spokesman, Sebastian Winkler told The Huffington Post.