“ecological overshoot”

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Earth Has a Budget Too

Earth Has a Budget Too

There are only so many fossil and renewable resources on this planet to sustain our expanding population.  Last year, for example, humanity exhausted the earth’s resource budget for 2013 in just 8 months!

This ecological overshoot is marked each year by the Global Footprint Network’s Earth Overshoot Day, the day we begin to live beyond our ecological means in that year. From that date on, we live in a planetary ‘overdraft’, maintaining our ecological ‘deficit’ by ‘drawing down’ local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Last year, Earth Overshoot Day was August 20.  The trouble is, we continue to deplete our resources faster every year. Keeping with past trends, we can expect to reach ecological overshoot in 2014 some time mid-August or before:

  • 2014:    ??
  • 2012:    August 23
  • 2008:    September 23
  • 2005:    October 20
  • 1995:    November 21
  • 1980:    November 8

It’s true. Throughout most of our history, humans have relied upon nature’s resources to build cities and roads; to provide food and create products; and to absorb our carbon dioxide at a rate that was well within our planet’s budget.  So what changed?  In the mid-1970s our consumption began outstripping what the planet could reproduce.

Today that deficit stands at over 50%. We are now using 1.5 planets each year to sustain our (over)consumption.

If we continue current patterns of overconsumption, we will need more than 3 planets to support an estimated 9 billion of us by 2050.  But … we have just one.

The fact that we are using, or “spending,” our natural capital faster than it can replenish is similar to having household expenditures that continuously exceed income.  But these planetary costs manifest themselves in climate change (the result of greenhouse gases being emitted faster than they can be absorbed by forests and oceans); shrinking forests; species loss; fisheries collapse; higher commodity prices; and civil unrest.

Call to Action

While Earth Overshoot Day is a sad reminder of our unsustainable way of life, it also can be seen as a wake-up call to live more connected with our planet and with one another.  We know what we need to do, and there are plenty of resources available to help us track and reduce our individual footprints; our country’s footprint; and the world’s footprint.  The Global Footprint Network is a terrific first start.

Eco-Justice Collaborative is compiling a list of resources that can be used by individuals and households; and communities: Suggested Websites • Books • Videos

If you have resources you would like to see us incorporate, email us and well add yours to our lists.

Ecological Destruction or Earth Community?

Ecological Destruction or Earth Community?

How do we see our relationship with our planet?  Do we yet understand that destroying the rich, biodiversity of our planet means the ultimate destruction of our own species?

Since the 1980s, humanity has been in ecological overshoot, using resources faster than they can be regenerated and putting carbon into the air faster than it can be reabsorbed. Globally, we now demand the biological capacity of 1.4 planets. Our patterns of consumption in the U.S. require nearly five planets.   This means that our supply of natural resources – like trees and fish – continues to shrink, while our waste – primarily carbon dioxide – accumulates.

According to the latest data from the Global Footprint Network, on September 23, 2010 humanity will have used up all the resources nature will provide this year. From now until the end of the year, we’re dipping into our ecological reserves, borrowing from the future. This can go on for a short time, but ultimately it leads to a build up of waste and the depletion of the very resources on which human life depends.

We are at a crossroads in human history, never experienced before.  Knowing our earth community is in crisis, are we ready to change systems that require growth and expansion to those that value all life, fostering regeneration and rebirth?

E.O. Wilson of Harvard University tells us:  “In the end it will all come down to a decision of ethics, how we value the natural world in which we have evolved and now – increasingly – how we regard our status as individuals (Thomas Berry. 1999. The Great Work. p. 102).

Watch the video reflecting on Thomas Berry and the Earth Community and tell us what you think…..