We’re broke! Earth runs out of annual resources earlier than ever

14 Aug 2015

Earth Overshoot Day is a holiday you may not have heard of, but it’s important, grim and getting earlier every year. It marks the date when our ecological footprint reaches a depth that our planet cannot support, we now need one-and-a-half Earths to satisfy demand.

Earth Overshoot Day marks the day when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year — for the rest of the year we will maintain our ecological deficit by dipping into local resource stocks (essentially our savings) and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Worse still, if this isn’t addressed satisfactorily, we’ll actually need two Earths to create the resources we consume as early as 2030. Given that Earth 2.0 will still be impossible to reach at that stage, we should be worried.

Figures from the Global Footprint Network (GFN) show major states like the US, China, the UK, Germany, Poland, France, Spain, Italy, South Africa and even Ireland running at a loss.

It’s up to Russia, Australia, Canada, South America and other smaller states to take up the shortfall , but it’s not enough.

Earth overshoot day

Last year, Earth Overshoot Day came on August 19, this year it came yesterday, August 13.

Quite the carbon footprint

“The big problem is not that our deficit is getting bigger, it is that it cannot be maintained in the long-run,” said Mathis Wackernagel, president of the GFN.

“Even though we are in a deficit equation we are not taking measures to take us in the right direction.”

Those measures will be discussed at a major international summit in Paris later this year where, Wackernagel hopes, changes will be made.

Earth's biocapacity

Projections from the GFN show Earth’s biocapacity reserve shrinking by the year ever since the 1970s, just as our carbon consumption started to skyrocket.

The effects can be seen everywhere: deforestation, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss and the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is affecting all states, to varying degrees.

The carbon dioxide build-up will exacerbate all other issues according to current climate models, with the world’s carbon footprint doubling in the last 45 years.

Things can be improved

Amid the doom and gloom, a global shift towards renewable energy has, to a degree, helped things, however, it’s not even nearly enough.

“Going forward, we cannot stress enough the vital importance of reducing the carbon footprint, as nations are slated to commit to in Paris,” said Wackernagel.

“It is not just good for the world, but increasingly becoming an economic necessity for each nation.

“We all know that the climate depends on it, but that is not the full story: Sustainability requires that everyone live well, within the means of one planet.”

Main image via Shutterstock, graphs via GFN

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic