Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Happy Earth Overshoot Day!

Today, August 2nd, is the day in the year when we, as a planet, have officially used a year's worth of the planet's natural resources, hence the label Earth Overshoot Day.
Through overfishing, overharvesting of forests, and the generation of more carbon dioxide than the forests can naturally absorb, we are currently using about 170% of the earth's natural output (i.e. the extent to which it can renew or regenerate), a clearly unsustainable situation.
Yes, this is a slightly artificial and arbitrary measurement of our ecological footprint, one developed by the NGO Global Footprint Network. But it does provide us with a salient reminder of our actions, and all the more so when we look at the trend over the years: 10 years ago we used up 144% of the planet's biocapacity each year; going back to 1963, we only used about 78%. In fact, the tipping point came in about 1970, the last time the earth as a whole was in a more or less sustainable position, and since then our ecological footprint has been accelerating out of control. Currently as much as 60% of this excessive footprint is as a result of our carbon emissions. Cutting our carbon emissions in half would have the effect of pushing back Earth Overshoot Day by as much as three months.
Another interesting graphic produced as part of this report, shows the number of times the ecological footprint of individual countries exceeds the earth's biocapacity. Australia heads this table of shame with a score of 5.2, the USA 5.0, South Korea and Russia 3.4, with Germany, Switzerland, France, UK and Japan all at around 3.0, etc. Canada is not listed but it would probably be somewhere around Australia and the USA. When looked at in terms of their own individual biocapacities, though, South Korea and Japan are far and away the worst offenders, followed by Switzerland, Italy, UK and China, while the USA, Germany and France (and presumably Canada) are much lower down the list.
Anyway, it's an interesting metric, even if not definitive, and kudos to the Global Footprint Network for getting it into the mainstream media.

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