Today is not a day to be celebrated, but it is a day which deserves to be noticed and (hopefully) acted upon.
It is the day in which the Earth goes into "overshoot."
Earth Overshoot day is the day calculated by the Global Footprint Network
(GFN) on which the earth goes into debt, or more specifically we go in debt to the earth. Every year the Earth is capable of producing a finite amount of natural resources -- trees and wetlands to absorb carbon, agricultural lands to raise produce and livestock, trees to make paper, and so on.
When we use more than the naturally replenishable allotment of resources, we are forced to deplete the resource stocks which will produce next year's crops and carbon banks.
It's pretty easy to figure out the downward spiral here.
The more we tap into those foundational resources the less we are able to produce the following year. And then add to that steadily increasing consumption in countries like India and China... you get the picture.
Unless we have a radical intervention, we are headed for a collision course of epic proportions that can have only one of two results -- the increasing scarcity (and costs) of resources resulting in a breakdown of the economic system and an end to the cycle of ever-expanding consumption. Or worse, the complete collapse of the complex natural systems that (until 1986) actually met all of our annual resource needs.
1986 was the year we first went into overshoot. It was a relatively modest overshoot.. a couple of days perhaps. But every year subsequently that Earth Overshoot Day has crept forward an average of 2-5 days each year (with an explosive increase in the mid 90's to mid 00's).
Currently the human population on earth requires about 1.4 planet's worth of resources. But the demand which pushes us into overshoot is not evenly distributed. The United States is one of the biggest culprits, consuming close to what would be 4 planets worth of resources (if everyone in the world consumed as much as the US).
One unexpected and unsettling finding by the GFN is that while the recession has slowed CO2 emissions, the overall environmental footprint (which includes CO2, water and land resources) has barely been dented by the economic slow down.
What can we do?
Well for starters we need to wake up to the facts. Global warming is not the only problem we have to worry about. Though it is important, the geopolitical and economic repercussions of a world in which essential resources like water and food are unavailable, could very well be worse than monster hurricanes.
Post wake-up, all of us US consumers really need to go on a low-carbon diet. I'll be blogging quite a bit about this in the next few weeks. Look for some exciting announcements to come...
And if you want to see what your own environmental footprint is you can take the Footprint quiz.