August 20th: Earth Overshoot Day 2013

| August 20, 2013 | Leave a Comment

Earth Overshoot 2013

August 20 was Earth Overshoot Day, the approximate date humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can renew in a year. In just 7 months and 20 days, we have demanded a level of ecological resources and services — from food and raw materials to sequestering carbon dioxide from fossil fuel emissions — equivalent to what Earth can regenerate for all of 2013. Humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year.
We are now operating in overshoot. We will maintain our ecological deficit by depleting stocks of fish, trees and other resources, and accumulating waste such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans. As our level of consumption, or “spending,” grows, the interest we are paying on this mounting ecological debt — shrinking forests, biodiversity loss, fisheries collapse, food shortages, degraded land productivity and the build-up of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and oceans — not only burdens the environment but also undermines our economies. Climate change — a result of greenhouse gases being emitted faster than they can be absorbed by forests and oceans — is the most widespread impact of ecological overspending.
In 1961, humanity used only about two-thirds of Earth’s available ecological resources. Back then, most countries had ecological reserves. Yet both global demand and population are increasing.  In the early 1970s, increased carbon emissions and human demand for resources began outstripping what the planet could renewably produce. We went into ecological overshoot. Global Footprint Network’s 2012 National Footprint Accounts show humanity is now using ecological resources and services at a rate it would take just over 1.5 Earths to renew. We are on track to require the resources of two Earths well before mid-century.
Today, more than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries that use more than the ecosystems within their own borders can renew. These “ecological debtor” countries either deplete their own ecological resources or get them from elsewhere. Japan’s residents consume the ecological resources of 7.1 Japans. It would take four Italys to support Italy. Egypt uses the ecological resources of 2.4 Egypts.
Not all countries demand more than their ecosystems can provide, but even the reserves of such “ecological creditors” like Brazil, Indonesia, and Sweden are shrinking over time. We can no longer sustain a widening budget gap between what nature is able to provide and how much our infrastructure, economies and lifestyles require.
It is possible to turn the tide. Ecological debtors have an incentive to reduce their resource dependence, while creditors have the economic, political and strategic motive for preserving their ecological capital. Global Footprint Network and its network of partners are working with organizations, governments and financial institutions around the globe to make decisions aligned with ecological reality. Rather than liquidating resources, it is wiser to treat them as an ongoing source of wealth.

To learn more please follow the link to the Global Footprint Network’s announcement.


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The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • The Global Footprint Network does not properly calculate the foot print. They admit this on their own website.

    At the bottom of they say:

    “An alternative method would be to calculate the consumption of fossil fuels according to the productive area required to regenerate them, which would result in a carbon Footprint many hundreds of times higher than the current calculation.”

    In short, their “foot print” is utterly pointless.

    We do not know how to keep 7 billion humans alive without destroying fossil fuels. We determine the size of the next generation by how many children we average and we are destroying the resources that to the best of our knowledge they will need to keep those numbers alive.

  • James Singmaster, III, Ph.D. Environmental Chemist, Ret.

    Just one action will save humanity from being cooked and/or poisoned off earth by 2050 or so, WE HAVE TO MAKE THE SUN OUR SOLE ENERGY SOURCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I have posted comments on many blogs outlining what actions can be taken to achieve complete elimination of fossil fuel and nuclear energy to be rid of all the worsening problems from trying to somehow make those energies work. BUT WHY BOTHER?????? IF WE MAKE THE SUN OUR SOLE ENERGY SOURCE, WE CAN CLEAN UP THE MESSES FROM THOSE ENERGIES AS WELL AS GET ALL OUR ENERGY CLEANLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Yeah and we’ll give everyone some candy and a hug while we’re at it. We will not make this transition willingly. We ignored warnings from scientists and policy makers in the 1970s, and instead, continued on our current path, as we will continue to do until it’s no longer possible. Humanity is in for a crash in the 21st century. We will likely see a large drop in human population soon, and it’s even possible we’ll go extinct. I think we should be talking like this, and not act as if we’re likely to make a transition. We’re headed towards a brick wall, and most people are in denial and will continue to be until it’s too late.