Researchers say this year's ecological footprint has already been exceeded

Air pollution, level 9. London, April 2014. [David Holt/Flickr]

Although there's four months left of 2014, humans have already exhausted the ecological space for this year. This means that there has been more consumption of resources than the planet can handle, and over-consumption is only getting worse, according to researchers.

Demand for renewable ecological resources and the services they provide is now equivalent to that of more than 1.5 Earths. This is the conclusion drawn by the researchers from the think tank Global Footprint Network, who calculated how much of the ecological resources have been spent. It's about things like soils, fish, forests, clean water and climate change.

"For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We will be operating in overshoot," the think tank said in a statement.

Until the mid-1970s, humans did not transgress such ecological boundaries. But, over the last four decades, their ecological footprint has been larger than the Earth can handle. Growing population and increased consumption means that Overshoot Day, as it is called, comes earlier every year.

The date, which has been set at 19 August, is an approximation the researchers say, but this year it falls on a day earlier than last year. This is due to the fact that the per capita consumption and greenhouse gas emissions are increasing every year. By mid-century, humans will need three globes.

"We need to stop eroding natural capital and, above all, stop storing more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through unsustainable consumption of resources and fossil fuels," Carina Borgström-Hansson, an expert on ecological footprint at World Wide Fund for nature (WWF) told Swedish broadcaster SVT.

May not be possible to fix

Finland, Canada and Australia are some of the countries that produce more ecological resources than they use, but most of the industrialised countries are living beyond their means.

"If we really get off on the transition to a resource-efficient and sustainable society, it is possible to reduce the waste of resources of the earth before the damage is incalculable, and impossible or extremely costly to fix," said Håkan Wirtén, secretary general of the WWF.

  • 19 Aug.: Earth Overshoot Day 2014
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Mike Parr's picture

Just a general observation - the content of this article has very serious implications - & yet is has raised no comments and apparently little concern. - with most attention focused on Russia, the Kippers etc etc. The EU/EC warble on about "sustainability" but most of their actions could be broadly classed as tokenism.

wish we all cared's picture

I so much agree with you. The world is more and more distancing itself from the most important issues that we are facing. What's worse is looking at this picture under the headline. WOW!! How is it that everyone can just ignore this? I can't! I have for several years now tried to be more aware of the foot print I am leaving, and in doing so, hope others will follow

Bob Armstrong's picture

So the planet has been exceeding its capacity for 44 years , yet lifespan is greater , hunger is rarer , and prosperous countries are much cleaner and pollution free .

Something does not compute . --- And it's the chronic watermelon predictions of apocalypse and their attack on individual freedom .