This Year's 'Ecological Debt' Has Begun

It’s time for humanity to get out a pen to make out its annual IOU to the Earth.

That’s because Tuesday marks Earth Overshoot Day, the day humanity has used up the carbon storing abilities and all the planet’s natural resources that Earth can provide in the year.

Tracking this somber milestone is the nonprofit organization Global Footprint Network, which notes that “in the mid-1970s, we crossed a critical threshold: Human consumption began outstripping what the planet could reproduce.” We would now need 1.5 Earths to meet our resource demands.

This “ecological debt” marker is a date the world has been reaching sooner each year for more than a decade, the organization states. Compared to this year’s August milestone, Overshoot Day came in early October in 2000.

“It is both an ecological and an economic problem,” stated Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network and the co-creator, along with William Rees, of the Footprint metric.

Humanity reaps the effects of this overshoot in rising CO2 emissions fueling climate change, as well as declines in biodiversity, deforestation and collapse of some ecosystems. Additionally, the resource debt “contributes to resource conflicts and wars, mass migrations, famine, disease and other human tragedies—and tends to have a disproportionate impact on the poor, who cannot buy their way out of the problem by getting resources from somewhere else,” Global Footprint Network states.

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