A measure of the quantity of natural resources that humans have used so far this year in comparison to what the earth actually provides has revealed that we’ve maxed out the budget in just eight months. Experts are calling it “Earth Overshoot Day”– the point at which we are now using more natural resources than what’s being replenished, plunging the earth into ecological debt.
Land, trees and food are all now being consumed at rates that exceed what the earth can supply in a year, and it is only August. This means that, for the rest of the year, we will be consuming more than the earth can actually handle, which if things continue at this rate in the coming years could lead to massive ecological ruin.
Experts say the earth simply can’t sustain the level of human use that is now occurring, specifically in terms of its ability to absorb and mitigate waste. It also can’t sustain the amount of food being grown — especially when that food is grown with chemicals that strip soils of their nutrients — nor the amount of wood being chopped, fish being harvested and land being developed.
Back in 2000, Earth Overshoot Day occurred in early October, which still represents a deficit but a much lesser one. In 2014, that date has shifted about two months back to August 19, suggesting that things like population growth and improper resource use are rapidly accelerating the rate of Earth’s depletion.
Compare this to resource use back in 1961, which experts say represented only about 75 percent of the earth’s total capacity. In other words, humans back then could have used about 25 percent more resources than they were and still break even in terms of total resource capacity. But quite a bit has changed since that time.
Today, roughly 86 percent of the world’s total population lives in countries that are using far more resources than the land and oceans can sustain. At the current rate of resource use, it would take about 1.5 earths to produce enough renewable natural resources to keep up with present demand, a scenario that is simply not possible.
“Global overshoot is becoming a defining challenge of the 21st century,” said Mathis Wackernagel, president of the Global Footprint Network, which made the calculations. “It is both an ecological and economic problem.”
Poorer countries hit hardest by global overshoot, but eventually everyone will suffer
According to Wackernagel, poorer countries are sustaining the most damage, while richer countries aren’t really seeing the consequences of this growing deficit firsthand. This is because many of the richer countries are extracting resources from the poorer ones to overcome their own deficits, but even this has its limits.
“Countries with resource deficits and low incomes are exceptionally vulnerable,” he stated to the Daily Mail. “Even high-income countries that have had a financial advantage to shield themselves from the most direct impacts of resource dependence need to realise that a long-term solution requires addressing such dependencies before they turn into a significant economic stress.”
More government intervention, as you may have guessed, is the proposed solution to the problem. But just like with global warming, this option threatens to strip people of more freedom and increase their dependence on Big Brother — and in the end may not even have the beneficial effects promised.
Instead, multinational corporations like Monsanto and their Earth-raping model of biotech agriculture, which is destroying the planet in and of itself, need to be reined in for their crimes against humanity. And a little bit more conservationism on an individual scale would surely help, too.
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