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Earth's Overdraft Notice
Amanda Reed, 16 Aug 10

The Global Footprint Network has announced that Earth Overshoot Day is fast approaching:

This Saturday, we will reach Earth Overshoot Day: the day when human demand on nature surpasses what nature can renewably of August 21st, humanity will have demanded an amount of ecological resources equivalent to what it takes nature 12 months to produce.

From now until the end of the year, we will meet our needs by liquidating stocks and accumulating greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

According to the Global Footprint Network humanity crossed a threshold three decades ago when we stopped being able to live off of nature's interest -- "consuming resources and producing carbon dioxide at a rate lower than what the planet was able to regenerate and reabsorb each year" -- and started living beyond nature's capacity. They call this gap between human demand and nature's supply "ecological overshoot" (a concept that was devised by the UK-based new economics foundation).

The pace of this overshoot has grown each year (see links for 2007 and 2008 in the Worldchanging archives). Now the most recent data shows that "it takes one year and five months to regenerate the ecological services (production of resources and absorption of CO2) that humanity requires in one year." While this year's overshoot day comes about a month earlier than last year's, this is not due to a sudden change in human demand, but rather to improvements in the calculation methodology that have enabled the Global Footprint Network to more adequately capture the extent of overshoot. As an example, they report that the world has less biocapacity available, primarily in the area of grazing land, than previously estimated.

2010 Global Ecological Deficit (via "Global Footprint Network, National Footprint Accounts, 2009 edition. Available at

To learn more about how the Earth Overshoot Day is calculated, click here. Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel had this to say of the calculations:

"We would expect our estimates of overshoot to be, if anything, conservative. We know we are far from living within the means of one planet. The good news is, much of the technology we have to begin to address this problem is available and it is open source: things like compact urban design, energy-efficient housing, ecological tax reform, removal of resource subsidies, safe and affordable family planning, bicycles, low-meat diets, and life-cycle costing."

We couldn't agree more.

Some strategies for addressing the problem in the archives:

Related stories in the archives:

  • The Emergence of a Biosphere Economy | John Elkington and Alejandro Litovsky, 28 Jun 10
  • Ecological Footprint 2.0 | Alex Lowe, 17 Jun 07
  • Principle 2: Ecological Footprints and One Planet Thinking | WorldChanging Team, 8 May 07
  • The Future is Climate Neutral | Alex Steffen and Sarah Rich, 22 Jan 07
  • Europe 2005: The Ecological Footprint | Jon Lebkowsky, 2 Dec 05

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    Coincidentally, Australia votes this Saturday. Neither Labor nor Liberals have a believable policy on climate, and it is not considered an election issue.

    I think they might be in for a shock.

    Posted by: Tony Fisk on 16 Aug 10

    The plan is easy, all it takes is a 'spark' to set off a domino effect. First of all recycling, should be paid for by all governments and should be mandatory by law (who the hell doesn't want to save the world in their own little way?). We all know whats good for the world, it's just hard to avoid our animal instincts... and yes i mean the population crisis. Either we have to become comfortable with eating cloned foods (which we probably are already doing) OR only allowed to have one child per house hold: practicing abstinence;using contraceptives- DURRR. Humanities third largest task is finding a way to take all our waste and turning it ALL into reusable houses,cars,you name it. Why worry about going to space NASA when we can't even survive on our own planet?? The issues are on going but if you magnify the problems, they are all truly simple. People may be judgmental sometimes and choose the sides that compliment there living the best but I am 99.9% positive that somewhere in every persons heart they love this earth and will do whats needed. Being human is great and having a thinking mind is phenomenal, but if we cannot overcome our animal instincts to over indulge, we will surely fail. The time is now. I am ready, are you?

    Posted by: TheComingGeneration on 17 Aug 10

    this is a shocking news ..humans capacity of consuming the resources have increased alot that our planet is now failling to give!!! and in coming years we ll see lot more shocks i guess!!!

    Posted by: satish on 18 Aug 10

    Tell it to the Asians! Americans do less damage than you think! They are controlled by the price of oil and even their breeding practices are premised on a good cheap supply of oil!
    This unnatural governor set on all progress in America by world market prices, keeps us from superseding places like China who use Solar, Wave, Wind, Hydro, Tidal, Geothermal and Nuclear sources of electrical power as well as oil!
    Food! the biggest factor is grown easily in the U.S. - only if given a lot of oil as a lever of production!
    Asians will find the lowest common denominator in the balance between food/population, if they have not already done so!
    My question is: Why the enormous body size between Asians and Americans?

    Posted by: Uncle B on 18 Aug 10

    This does not surprise me. If we in the West and now the developing world want to live a consumer-based life where everything is cheap and has a short life, then life, nature and our environment becomes devalued. Change can only be made when we, the people, have to pay for the use of free resources in the commons whether that is water, the air we pollute or the earth itself; if it remains free, then these common resources ultimately have no value, so destroying and taking more from the planet than we need becomes the only natural consequence. Unfortunately, while some of us may try to minimise our impact on the earth, most will not, because in the end what genuine incentive or alternative is there, and OverShoot Day will just get earlier and earlier.

    Posted by: Axel Steenberg on 18 Aug 10

    The 5 easy steps to being green, creating local jobs, and adverting the worst effects of climate change and peak oil.

    1) Stop SprawL!!!
    2) R.R.Recycle!
    3) VeganLife!! / ReForest / FoodForest! / VirginForest!!
    4) Wind! / GeoThermal Exchange!! / Solar
    5) Electric &OpenSource: Trains!! / Cars / Media!! / Medicine

    Posted by: CitizenPlusPlus on 19 Aug 10

    What have we here, a Malthusian!? I am all for environmental conservation but you can't deny that our ability to produce resources can increase along with our demand to consume resources.

    Posted by: Sam on 21 Aug 10

    This is truly disturbing. Hope people could work hand-in-hand to protect the planet and every living things on it.

    Posted by: SarahMendez on 24 Aug 10

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