Group warns that ecological debt is growing, but who pays the bill?

According to the Global Footprint Network, today August 21st is Earth Overshoot Day: “…the day of the year in which human demand on the biosphere exceeds what it can regenerate.” From here on, we are in the red, creating more CO2, extracting more raw materials and generally living beyond the means of our natural capital and the earth’s ability to regenerate it.

Debt – ecological or otherwise – isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you invest the capital well or use it to spread expense over the useful life of an item. But borrowing against the future simply to fund a lavish lifestyle or operate beyond ones means is seldom a good idea, and that’s what the GFN folks believe we are doing. As they say “For the rest of the year, we will meet our ecological demand by depleting resource stocks and accumulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere…Climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, water and food shortages are all clear signs: We can no longer finance our consumption on credit. Nature is foreclosing.”

Apparently we were living under the collective global budget until the 1980′s, which makes returning to a balanced ecological checkbook seem well within reach. Maybe we should just roll back….I thought the 80′s were a pretty cool time, although their are those who point to big hair, excessive shoulder pads, Rick Astley, and Culture Club and respectfully disagree.  

But GFN released a video which shows where this over-consumption occurs. If everone lived like Americans, we would need 5 earths, and in the U.S. overshoot day actually occurred somewhere around St. Patrick’s day in March. In Europe, they only make it into May. The US and Europe would have to roll back a lot further to get into balance.
 
Even though many in the West are starting to hit the eco-brakes, the video makes the underlying problem clear. The environmental ‘spending gap’ between the West and India and China is huge, and standards of living in the Global South and East are bound to rise faster than consumption of natural capital falls elsewhere. In fact as consumption slows in the West, corporations and governments are targeting developing markets for growth, and enthusiastically encouraging the increased consumption that comes with it. 
 
Some innovative and holistic solutions are needed. “The good news”, GPN’s Mathis Wackernagel points out, “is, much of the technology we have to begin to address this problem is available and it is open source: things like compact urban design, energy-efficient housing, ecological tax reform, removal of resource subsidies, safe and affordable family planning, bicycles, low-meat diets, and life-cycle costing.”

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82 comments

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

Barb F.
Barb F6 years ago

TY, much to ponder

Sarah C.
Sarah C6 years ago

If we all work together and to get the word around, too, there's still hope for the future. This is one great way the web can be of good use.

Ineke de Wild
Ineke de Wild6 years ago

The globe is in average too cold!

For a real good progress it's best to stop with the use of all animal products and there will plenty food and water, health and sanity in people, To create meat and other animal products we need from 3 up to 20 times more vegetable food, and 50 to 200 times more drinking water, Plants need CO2 there are just not enough plants because of the drought. the globe is in average to cold (14C/57F) and out of balance, (from -80C/ up to 60C), which is of no use to anyone, the globe needs to warm up and balance, more evaporation=more rain, (the good greenhouse effect) even with dissolved permafrost we will need all te land to grow crops for mineral oil replacements and food for the people, and all the water to create good sanitations world wide. with animal product that will never be possible.Try to stimulate the creation and availability of meat and other animal products replacements, and try to start with vegan agriculture.
see: www.meatlessmonday.
com http://www.veganorganic.net/
www.plentyfood.nl
www.vegfam.com

Garret McCarty
Garret McCarty6 years ago

We all will pay the bill.

carole a.
.6 years ago

Taxpayers have been hoodwinked. End corporate welfare. Congress is giving our money and land to the corporate world. America is politically corrupt. Capitalism does not benefit the poor. Nations thrive when prople work for the good of all. Socialism is not a bad word. We are literally paying for this destruction.