The world has already consumed its nature “budget”for the entire year, and Australia has been identified as the worst offending country among major economies. If everyone lived like the average Australian, the world’s nature budget for the year would have been consumed in early March.
A California-based research organisation called the Global Footprint Network says that August 2 marked the day that the world used the last of “nature’s “budget” for the year. “Earth Overshoot Day” marks the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year.
The world started consuming more than it can regenerate in the early 1970s, the organisation said, and this year is the earliest “overshoot” date yet.
“In other words, humanity is currently using nature 1.7 times faster than ecosystems can regenerate,” the organisation says. “This is akin to using 1.7 Earths.”
Global Footprint Network says the costs of this global ecological overspending are becoming increasingly evident around the world, in the form of deforestation, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss, and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Australia, see table to the right, is the worst offender, consuming the equivalent of 5.2 worlds
GFN says its target is to move Earth Overshoot Day back 4.5 days every year. If this occurred, then the world would return to using the resources of one planet by 2050.
It suggests it can do this by cutting food waste by 50 per cent, which would move the date by 11 days; or reducing the carbon component by 50 per cent, which would move the date of Overshoot Day by 89 days.
This requires systemic change, but there are encouraging signs, Global Footprint Network says.
Over the same period, US per capita GDP grew about 20 per cent, making the US a compelling case of decoupling (with economic growth and natural resource consumption following opposite trends).
And despite the current US national government’s backtracking on climate protection, many US cities, states and large businesses are redoubling their commitments.
To calculate individual Overshoot Day and Ecological Footprint, go to: www.footprintcalculator.org