In less than 9 months, humankind will have used more natural resources than nature is capable of replenishing in a year. According to researchers at the California-based Global Footprint Network, by 2030 this pace will require a second globe to store all the crap we’re leaving behind, and to replenish all we are taking out unsustainably.
The population – the one most likely to reach 9 billion by 2050 – is using more clean water, eating more fish and cutting down more trees than nature can replace. To add fuel to the fire, we’re emitting more pollutants, and using more chemical fertilizer products than can be absorbed by the soil and oceans without severely affecting ecosystems.
“Earth Overshoot Day” is said to be the day when human activity goes into overdraft on its ecological budget each year. The day is calculated according to how much we consume, how much nature can produce, absorb and replenish, and according to the rapidly growing global population.
This date has receded by about 3 days every year since 2001. The point of non-sustainability apparently happened sometime in the 1970s, and this year, researchers estimate that our resource quota will max out on September 27.
Imagine running out of your annual salary in September and thriving off savings to get you through the rest. Each year you’re going to depend on your savings more and more, and over time, those savings will be used up, gone.
The United States is the largest spender of this ecological debt, and according to the study, if the entire population adopted the lifestyle lived by the average American (huge, energy-sucking house and multiple cars), we’d need FIVE Earths just to keep up with all the waste. On the other hand, if everyone matched the lifestyle of the average person in India, we would use less than half of the planet’s carrying capacity.
Even more unsettling is the fact that, in terms of consumption, many industrializing countries are working to adopt a more “Western” consumer lifestyle, when that’s the very lifestyle putting the Earth into this situation. If more of the population made choices based on ecological footprint rather than the cost (although us Westerners are known for being poor decision makers on that front as well), we may be able to slow down this downward spiral and mayyybe even find a solution.
Image by NASA Earth Observatory: Earth from Space