October 9, 2006
Today is Thanksgiving here in Canada, Columbus Day in the U.S. For everyone on the planet it's also World Overshoot Day. That is the day each year on which mankind has consumed the earth's total renewable resources for the entire year.
Here's how Global Footprint Network describes World Overshoot Day:
"Overshoot has been called ‘the biggest issue you’ve never heard of.’ Yet despite its lack of publicity, its causes and effects are as simple as they are significant.In any given year, if trees are cut down faster than they grow back, then forests become smaller than the year before. If more fish are caught each year than spawn, there will be fewer fish in the sea. The consequences of our accumulating ecological debt also include global climate change, species extinction, insecure energy supplies, water shortages, and crop failure.
"As humanity’s consumption of resources increases, World Overshoot Day creeps earlier on the calendar. Humanity’s first Overshoot Day was December 19, 1987. By 1995 it had jumped back a month to 21 November. Today, with Overshoot Day on October 9, humanity's Ecological Footprint is almost thirty per cent larger than the planet’s biocapacity this year. In other words, it now takes more than one year and three months for the Earth to regenerate what we use in a single year.
"What is Overshoot?
"Today, humanity uses about 30% more in one year than nature can regenerate in that same year. This is called “overshoot”. An ecological overshoot of 30% means that it takes one year and about three months for the Earth to regenerate what is being used by people in one year, creating an ecological deficit.
"We currently maintain this overshoot by liquidating the planet’s natural resources. For example we can cut trees faster than they re-grow, and catch fish at a rate faster than they repopulate. While this can be done for a short while, overshoot ultimately leads to the depletion of resources on which our economy depends.
"Overshoot is like ecological overspending. Just as any business that does not keep financial books will go bankrupt over time, we must document whether we’re living within our ecological budget or running an ecological deficit that will eventually deplete our renewable assets."
World Overshoot Day may not be something to be thankful for but it's sure something we could do well to start thinking about.
GFN also assesses nations to determine whether they run an environmental deficit or are in an environmental credit position. Here Canadians can thump their chests. Because we have such a large country and a relatively small population, we're in the plus column. Here's the map:
In this map, green is "good", red is "less than good" - oh, okay, it's bad. It's no coincidence that the green areas tend to be the underpopulated regions of the planet while the red parts represent the most densely populated areas. Our apologies to Alasaka - you're really green but you don't get a break because you belong with the guys in the south.