Tag Archives: Earth Overshoot Day: today’s Ecological Debt Day

September 27 is the Ecological Debt Day, aka “Earth Overshoot Day”. From today on, the total resources consumed by humanity exceed the capacity for the Earth to generate those resources for 2011. From today until the end of the year, we are consuming way more than we should. We are “borrowing” from 2012 and, unless in 2012 we cut consuption enough to compensate for our debt so far, we are burning the resources which belong to future generations. We are stealing from people who are not even born yet!

The Ecological Debt Day – Earth Overshoot Day is calculated each-year, taking the world biocapacity (natural resources generated by the earth that year) and dividing them by the world Ecological Footprint (humanity’s consumption of the Earth’s natural resources for that year), then multiplying by 365.

Ecological Debt Day is founded upon two scientific measures; humanity’s Ecological Footprint and the Earth’s biocapacity.

Humanity’s Ecological Footprint for the specific calendar year is an important component of both calculating Ecological Debt for that year and for the general idea behind Ecological Debt Day. One’s Ecological Footprint, be it of the world, a nation, a town, or of an individual represents the impact that entity made on the Earth that year by consuming a set amount of the Earth’s resources. The general Ecological Debt of each year is calculated by factoring in the world’s Ecological Footprint, however, each nation’s individual date on which it will reach Ecological Debt can be calculated by substituting that nation’s Ecological Footprint for a specific year in place of that of the world’s.

The other leading factor in determining date on which Ecological Debt occurs for a given year is the biocapacity of the Earth for that year. By engaging in activities that diminish the production cycles of natural resources, which can be the resources themselves, such as depleting forests for timber, humanity lessens the Earth’s biocapacity so that the number of resources able to be produced that year will be less than that of the year before. When viewed in terms of monetary debt, this idea can seen as compounding interest on an unpaid loan. Due to this factor, humanity’s over-consumption of the Earth’s natural resources is shown to be unsustainable as the Earth’s biocapacity will eventually collapse should this behavior continue. The Global Footprint Network, a partner of NEF, has calculated that humanity used 40% more resources in 2008 than the Earth was able to produce that year.

When viewed through an economic perspective, Ecological Debt Day/Earth Overshoot Day represents the day in which humanity enters deficit spending, scientifically termed “overshoot”. In recent years this issue has gained notoriety as it appears to represent a trend rather than a freak occurrence